University of New Mexico Honors College MSC06 3890 1 University of New Mexico Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131 Email: email@example.com Website: scribendi.unm.edu Printed by Starline Printing Company, Albuquerque, New Mexico Cover design by Megan Kornreich Fonts: Lucida Bright, Futura PT, Cambria (Russian, Vietnamese) Magazine design by Flannery Cowan, Alex Dickey, Megan Kornreich, Sierra Martinez, Zoe Perls, Victoria Trujillo, Spenser Willden Staff photos processed by Flannery Cowan Printed with PANTONE 1505 U Copyright © 2021 University of New Mexico Honors College All rights revert to contributors upon publication
TO THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
SCRI•BÉN•DI skribéndee participle (nom., pl., masc., gerundive / future passive part. of scribo, scribere—3rd conj.—“to write”) LATIN. Those which must be written. Scribendi is an annual nonprofit literature and fine art magazine produced and published at the University of New Mexico Honors College by students, for students. Scribendi staff members work tirelessly throughout the year to produce the work of art you are holding in your hands, doing everything from soliciting submissions to selecting works, from copyediting to typesetting, from designing to producing the magazine. Scribendi uses a blind-jury process to select creative works from nearly nine hundred Western Regional Honors Council (wrhc) and National Collegiate Honors Council (nchc) schools. Scribendi publishes creative nonfiction, foreign language, open media—a category limited only by the imagination—photography, poetry, short fiction, and visual art. The wrhc gives annual awards and $250 prizes to wrhc students. In past years, Scribendi has welcomed visiting staff members from wrhc school through the National Student Exchange. The staff takes pride in providing a forum for fellow undergraduate honors students to publish their creative works.
Amaris Ketcham Faculty Advisor
Leslie Donovan Faculty Advisor
Stefanie Stearns Office Manager
SCRIBENDI 2021 STAFF Alex Dickey
Zoe Perls Managing Editor
Megan Kornreich Editor in Chief
FOREWORD Megan Kornreich, Editor in Chief
or many artists, the most inspirational work can often also be the most terrifying. There is nothing quite like seeing an artist in their prime: beautifully expressive writing, immaculate paintings, cathartic dancing, deeply moving films, mesmerizing photography. I so often find myself basking in the exquisite delight of being inspired, of finding immense joy in some artist’s work, consuming every aspect of it like my life depends on it. Almost just as easily, I find myself profoundly intimidated: “How could I ever do something like that?” What is so easy to forget is the simple fact that, often, the art that is put out into the world—the art that we, the audience, have the privilege of consuming—is the final draft. We so rarely get to see the first draft: the scratched-out writing, the scrapped paintings, the awkward dancing, the deleted scenes, the blurry photos. As consumers of art, we miss out on the context of creation, but we must remember that the final draft could not exist without every mistake, blunder, and learning experience that came before it. The journey of creating, with its bursts of inspiration, frustration, perseverance, and catharsis, is one that every artist has gone through with the purpose of finding the elusive and forever-imperfect final draft. Every creator featured in this magazine has proven to us and to themselves that they have made it past the intimidation, through the journey, and landed squarely on something worth sharing. We’ve dedicated this magazine to the cutting room floor: to every unseen rough draft by the 2021 Scribendi staff, by every single contributor featured in this issue, and by the hundreds of artists who submit their work to us, all in hopes of celebrating the artistic choices that will never be seen. We recieved almost five hundred submissions this year, and everyone who sent us their final drafts managed to bring art into the world in the midst of the most unusual of life circumstances. Whether or not your work appears in this issue, I and the rest of the staff are grateful for you. The creation of Scribendi could not exist without your willingness to create and share. You inspire me. Everyone I have met through Scribendi has been someone I’ve had the privilege of not only working with, but learning from. To Amaris, whose unwavering belief in the potential and abilities of every staff member is nothing short of life-giving. Your encouragement and support mean the world, and every day I aspire to go, be young, and be free, with varying degrees of success. To Leslie, whose understanding, insight, and uncanny ability to see through insecurities helped uplift and guide us through the endlessly demanding publication process. You changed my life by convincing me to apply to Scribendi, and taught me that the future always holds something worth looking forward to. To Zoe, whose hilariously juxtaposed warm lightheartedness and dismal nihilism never ceases to make me laugh. You are the morale of this staff and every onion I see will forever make me think of you. Your patience and graciousness do not go unnoticed, and I cannot express how thankful I am to have gone through this journey together. I can’t imagine withering away in the Scribendi office with anyone else. To our wonderful staff, whose wholesome comradery and ability to talk about the smallest decisions at length and in extensive detail is something I will never forget. Your determination this year has been unbelievable, and I am blown away by what you have managed to achieve, both personally and professionally, despite not once being in the same room. I find all of you absolutely spectacular. I want to thank the friends and family of every staff member and contributor. You are the invisible support system—the ones who see the rough drafts and graciously lend your opinions and encouragement through our creative journeys. This issue of Scribendi would not exist without your love and support. To all of our lovely readers: I hope at least one of the fifty-four final drafts presented in this magazine finds you at just the right moment, sparking that beautiful glow of inspiration and the joy of finding art that speaks to you. Welcome to the warm, orangey world of Scribendi 2021! We hope you enjoy your stay.
TABLE OF CONTENTS CREATIVE NONFICTION SEAMS OF GOLD
SINCERELY, A CLIMATE SCIENCE UNDERGRAD WRHC AWARD WINNER
I’M THINKING I SHOULD BUY FLOWERS
IF YOU WANT ME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU, MAKE ME OATMEAL
THE PART I CAN SEE STAFF CHOICE AWARD
THE BALANCING ACT
WHEN THE SOON COMES RUNNING
AGAIN! BUT THIS TIME WITH FEELING!
HOW TO ETHICALLY STEAL A PIG
THE EYE OF A COVER WRHC AWARD WINNER
THE SEVENTH DAY OF RAIN
POETRY CLAY BOY EDITORS CHOICE AWARD
AN ODE TO MENTAL STASIS
WARMTH IS A BLANKET OF IGNORANCE
JEMISON DID NOT GO TO THE MOON AND BACK FOR YOU
LIVING IS NEVER EASY
PORTMANTEAU TO TAKE ALONG
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
DIASPORA WRHC AWARD WINNER
TO BE ALIVE
THE NEXT SIX MONTHS
FOREIGN LANGUAGE МОЯ ЗАШИТА
LE SECRET DES ÉTOILES
UN DÍA PRONTO LLEGARÉ
34 52 82
THE GARDEN BED
BRACING THE WIND
CANDY-WRAPPED STAFF CHOICE AWARD
LUZ DE LA LUNA WRHC AWARD WINNER
PENGUINS AND THE EVIL EYE
ALESSANDRA C. PARK
THE FRIENDLY CAMPUS GHOST
MARIE ADELE “M’ADELE” LITTLE
OPEN MEDIA EL MALPAIS: A DINÉ COLLECTION OF POMES WRHC AWARD WINNER
VISUAL ART PRICKLY PHANTASM
HARVESTED SELFHOOD WRHC AWARD WINNER
THE MAN FROM BUTON
WHAT IS FREEDOM?
DYLAN FRANCISCO DECASTRO
THE BALLAD OF ME ‘N JIM EDITORS CHOICE AWARD
“BUT I AM”
United States Air Force Academy
SEAMS OF GOLD
warm as I walk, Ohio clouds heavy and hazy overhead. Humidity curls stray hairs. I feel a thin glean of sweat form on my forehead, young saplings scratching at my ankles below. The switchgrass and foxtails sway while bushes of jewelweed bud farther behind me. Summer’s air in Athens is thick, dewy, and dense, pressing up against me. Unapologetic as it hums, it embalms my skin. And I let it.
Most days of late are forest days—have been ever since Mason and I split—and so I continue. Cutting through the path, I duck under overgrowth and watch for roots quick to trip me the minute I look away. Bursts of yellow and orange, almost neon, paint the leaves below. Tulip poplars. I gaze up, searching for the source. But all I can see are oak and pine, a couple of buckeye trees. It’s a miracle I can tell any of these species apart really, their unique leaves and seeds lost on me in a collective collage. I pause, leaning up against the trunk of a nearby giant, its bark ridged and grating beneath my skin. Specifics don’t matter much to me. A tree is a tree, and I’m all the happier for seeing it. Especially during these months, with too many of my hours lost to the indoors. Here and alone, my mind can wander. Can get lost in the greening thickets below. I pick off a spruce branch here and there, crushing the needles between my fingers. A silent snap, the break freeing such sweet fragrance. Christmas in June. Nostalgia fills my nose and stains my hands. I close my eyes. Breathe in. Relish that
sign of health, of not yet losing my sense of smell. Relief, the needle like a capsule, its rupture a test. Today, I pass. Maybe things will be okay. Maybe they won’t. At least I can savor the spruce. I can practically taste it. In my experience, there’s no tragedy or trauma too big a burden for these trees to carry, a strength that has persisted throughout the centuries. Emerson rings in my ears. “I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair.” Like Emerson, I’ve always regarded nature as a reliable healer, the woods especially. A soothing force elusive of human imitation. I continue plucking at the forest as I walk, the morning heat young and bearable. I forget about Mason, the pandemic, Kettering suburbs with Mom and Dad and deadlines. Months without any semblance of a forest. Our world spiraling further and further into disarray beyond these pine and oaks, their indifferent branches whistling in the wind. I touch their leaves, taste the air.
for the potter solders the broken back together using the most precious binder of all. Now, with seams of gold, the piece again is whole. It’s fixed, though never really the same. And this pottery becomes the most prized because it’s cracked. Because it is broken. These breaks are clear as day in the final design, gilded streaks running together like veins shining under the skin. They’re inherent to the piece and the process. The potter has no reason to obscure such beauty, a sign of life. Emblems of strength in light of what the world can do. Months ago, a mentor explained this practice to me, emphasizing the value of such a transformation. One of brokenness into beauty, and how only through this brokenness can such beauty be achieved.
Hope becomes trust. Here, I trust again. Here, I’m home.
I keep hiking, moving deeper into Strouds Park. This state park has quickly become one of my favorite spots throughout college, its trails lush and endless, begging you to go just a little farther each trip. And it doesn’t hurt how close it is to my apartment. A ten-minute drive down the road and I’ve got miles of forest, Dow Lake, campsites— something that always fits my mood. Quiets my worry as case numbers climb, people argue about masks. The fear of human contact, my hunger for it. There’s always something to process here, someplace to go. Today, it’s trees. The woods allow me to retreat, disappear into those sweet spots where it’s so quiet the only thing I hear is my own nervous system. I generally don’t see people, and no one sees me. I’m free to follow the familiar calls of a red-winged blackbird. Watch damselflies flit above the limestone creek beds. Engage in what Diane Ackerman praises as deep play, an intensity we all chase—naturally— as it is a “hallmark of being human.” There’s a
I believe I will find it, too.
Initially, it’s broken. Some may look and say the pot is shattered. The vase, it’s cracked. It’s worthless, flawed, imperfect. The integrity of the structure is gone, a single piece now many separate parts. But the craftsman—tenacious and diligent—he sees past such shortsighted impulses. He innovates despite others’ despair. From the cracks rise opportunity,
MAYBE THINGS WILL BE OKAY.
Japanese craftsmen have practiced the art of kintsugi for centuries, fusing broken pieces of pottery back together with gold. When I think of this custom, I envision a potter, passionate in his craft, gentle with his touch, and precise in his movements. Yet, while creating, something spills—it’s not his fault, but something cracks. And whatever the damage, the piece is no longer whole. It’s permanently changed.
He hoped I would find my gold. Believed I would find it. Day by day I think, me too.
lack of self-consciousness here, my path snaking through thickets of living timber. A sense of empowerment, allowing imperfections to fall away. After I read Janisse Ray’s Ecology, I more so understood this feeling of comfort in the woods. The guarantee of acceptance. Ray relays that nature won’t ridicule you, won’t hurt you with judgements made from the outside looking in. It lets you play and act as you would a child, before others’ opinions begin to shape and change you, no matter how hard you fight. I took her words as a warning, advising I seize that chance before the rest of world bites back. Hiking through clusters of trees near the pebbled edges of Dow Lake, I do what I can. Feathered grass swells with the wind and acorns pop underfoot. Here, I am who I am, unguarded. Perhaps even closer to who I was before November. Before my first relationship in Athens, or anywhere, for that matter. When naïvety didn’t cast such negative shadows. Outlined boundaries somehow muddled, crossed without my consent. Cracks forming, base chipping—but I’d been so clear, hadn’t I? Despite the previous fall, I still like it better here on the trails near campus, where Appalachian forests and hillsides sit just a few feet from my doorstep. Even if they’re home to us and these memories.
Then college came and the specifics start to disappear. All these little moments merge, becoming indistinguishable scars among the collective. A man in his fifties hits on me as I wait for the restroom at a wine bar. A superior at work asks me for “personal reasons” to drive and hike with him one-on-one. A friend gets too handsy, then a stranger the following semester. Then, another friend. And these actions are frequently dismissed, glossed over by some explanation. He was just trying to make conversation, he wanted to network, he’s just drunk, et cetera, et cetera. I’d fall over myself making up excuses because the truth just might hurt more. So I stopped talking about them, stopped thinking about them, and I went with the excuse. And I try to keep myself safe. My father has bought me at least four personal alarms, one of which I carry. Mace is another musthave on my person, stowed in coat pockets and gym bags. And at night, I try to never walk home alone, calling friends or family if I do. But you can take every safety measure in the book, and it might not be enough. You can still get hurt, especially by those you trust.
HERE, I AM WHO I AM, UNGUARDED.
Even if they’re home to a broken self.
I remember the first time I was catcalled while standing in a swimsuit with my older sister. We were headed to the pool when some man shouted out his car window, Nice ass! before disappearing down the road. It was so sudden, so quick— almost like it never happened. I was thirteen. I remember another time, now fifteen, working as a lifeguard and again, in a swimsuit. Some college senior showed up at the end of my shift, having delivered pizza earlier that day, and said he would take me on a date right then and there. Probed for my number. I never heard from him again—I gave him a fake.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t see it coming.
There were never any physical marks in the fall, back when Mason and I were together. No scar to point to, to say look there, see that? See what he did? Nothing to “validate” the hurt I was feeling. Or indicate my brokenness to others, one rooted deeper than needles can reach. It was then I learned that scars aren’t always visible, or physical. And these breaks, I thought, they’re so easy to hide. A part of me believed they didn’t even exist. But more and more, as I hike through Strouds, the damage appears. Vivid as the sun trickling in between branches, lace patterned shadows jumping from the cracks. Highlighting an invisible regret, my questioning overshadowing the seclusion I seek. Memories of when I wasn’t alone, Mason and I picnicking by Dow.
When listening to the lake and John Mayer was enough for a Friday night. Much of what I remember from our time together is sown so tightly into the landscape it doesn’t matter where I hike. Trees melding, the silence deafening, he crawls back, unsolicited and ever-present in my mind. Mason, imprinting these spaces. Me, letting him. Always letting him. Nights and words and wounds return. The same night really, just weeks before we broke up. It always circles back to that, down to what I wore, each drink I had. I don’t think he remembers assaulting me. But something was wrong in the way he floated me questions that night, asking repeatedly if it was okay. Was it okay? No, I remember telling him. No— but his hands found me anyway. That’s where this whole journey began, kickstarting my search for gold in an attempt to become whole. I try to tell myself to snap out of it, to stop revisiting and revising the narrative. It is what it is, right? But I was set up, and that’s the storyline. The places I surrendered, those sometimes hurt the most. I wish I had resisted, kept the way the waves rippled as the sun set for myself. Wish I had been selfish like him, withheld my favorite stretch on the bike path where the Hocking hugs campus. Wish I had refused to share the stars, their enormity spread wide above, rebelling against the ground light to be seen. I wish I had fought harder to get out of the relationship and move on, my memory unscathed. But I didn’t know what I was losing at the time.
actions were forced, making me feel so deeply betrayed, that burning hurt. But a part of me knows and can never wholly forget. Maybe Mason can’t take all the blame for my breaking, but a part of me remains forever disillusioned by his touch, and his touch alone. Unwelcome and assumed. Expected. Unfortunately, men like Mason are everywhere. Some whistling out car windows, others offering to walk you home. And society turns a blind eye, letting boys be boys. But where does that leave women? And I mean all women—no matter how “careful” you are. I was, and can’t take much comfort in precautions anymore. But I still take them.
Today, out here on the trails, I feel safe. I have full visibility. Perhaps it’s a false sense of security, like the Mace and alarms in my pack. It’s just me, a single woman traveling for hours at a time. Alone. Still, my comfort remains as I edge through a few low-growing pawpaws, trace areas choked with nodding onion and chicory. In Strouds, I have nothing to hide. It’s partly why I’m here so often, stepping freely through these young groves. Green, and redolent with health and hope. Oaks, pine, spruce—they’re all symbols of home. A familiarity I’ve missed. And as I hike, I’m constantly in awe of this earth, its ecosystems and web of interconnections. Although I’m alone, I know I’m surrounded. My foot snaps a branch and mourning doves dart from their refuge, wings beating desperate in their escape. Chipmunks skitter across twigs and fallen leaves as I approach. Black rat snakes and copperheads sometimes rest just inches from my insole. And I might run into a doe, locking eyes and sharing the air before she bolts out of sight.
Broken. I felt broken. I was broken, and still am. I find myself returning again and again to Maya Angelou’s words: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” I can’t recall for certain what words were said or
It’s always exciting, unpredictable. How a forest moves with or without you. How it moves you.
How could I?
NIGHTS AND WORDS AND WOUNDS RETURN.
There are moments when I wish I could share this solitude with someone else besides the butterfly weeds and bullfrogs. I know Mom would love the blooming flowers in June, blessed with a green thumb. And Dad, he would read the trail signs, appreciating the occasional box turtle exposed below the canopy. As I wander, I cling to these visions, hopeful that one day they’ll come true. That they’ll see this side of myself again. But in my musing, sooner or later, I smell smoke. Hear voices carried by a cooling breeze, and intuitively, I stiffen. I sense my mental haven rising up in flames, as this is not the company I had hoped for. I pause, concentrating on the rise and fall of the wind. Without looking away from the trail, I remove my Mace from my pack and continue. For a moment, nature becomes my sanctuary. But as I wind the next bend, I see a man and briefly, I debate. I’m about an hour out from my car, the sky is clouding over, and I was already thinking of turning around anyway. Beyond him I know lies a certain section of pine that always leaves me breathless. Towers of trees swelling together, an openness and density all at once. But I don’t know this man, don’t like the risk, and I head back towards my car. Those trees will be there another day. Maybe tomorrow. As I turn, I’m frustrated by my decision, its implications. Why is it with this culture that one minute, I’m feeling an easy breeze across my skin, and the next, I’m fearing for my safety? I don’t carry Mace in my waistband for the potential black bear or flies swarming overhead. I carry it because of man—my fear of people and what we can do to one another.
Justified or not.
Perhaps it’s quarantine that’s changed me. In the past weeks and months—as the earth has greened and flowered—I’ve watched the seasons shift from spring to summer. Browns molting to livelier hues, and I too seem to be shedding a former self. A loss I mourn, the child with a clean slate.
But these hurts are real, whether or not I want them to be. Half a year ago, I let my guard down, and I’m human for it. There’s no way to fix your humanity. You can do everything “right,” and the world will still bite back. That’s the unpredictability of it all, of life and of nature. Endless opportunity and pains laying paces away. Some will scar you, some may heal you. And that’s true for people, too. As I look around in Strouds, I’m overcome with emotion. Blissful in my solitude, wistful in my loneliness. Relief when I remember my health. Regret when I remember Mason. Yet more and more, time has given me the courage to fight back. To reclaim these trails and their vistas, feel peace amidst the trees. He can’t take this from me, nor should a stranger in the woods. The beauty of birds’ song, the power of Appalachian pine—this is my home, too. Regrettably, these realizations won’t change the world that waits beside my car. A place running rampant with sickness and fear, gender disparities and sexual assault. I know my hikes are temporary, my escapes more mental than physical. But I can’t live life in fear, letting others impose on my mind or my body. My chances as a woman. I know there is still gold to be found, that Janisse Ray was right. “Scars turn into trinkets you keep, wounds the herons and pitcher plants heal.” Maybe the tulip poplar is my pitcher plant, my scars my gold to keep. I won’t stop searching. These forests are endless. And the potter has yet to finish his piece.
University of California, Santa Barbara in a Russian folk tale turned best-selling kid’s book, a clay boy crafted by a pair of empty nesters gets a ten-foot growth spurt; grows so insatiably hungry he eats his own parents in the ultimate act of teenage rebellion. he is killed, like I guess all monsters must be, by a little white goat who rams its horns into his stomach so hard that his skin shatters, the living bodies of his victims sprawling out onto the dusty grass like entrails. a classic children’s story of suffering and revenge. the Golem of Prague, pulled from the clay of the Vltava river, stomped across the earth that birthed him on a sacred mission: to defend Jews fearing for their lives in Prague’s ghetto. he rested on the Sabbath, like a good Jewish clay boy. the shambling guard dog eventually turned monster, like I guess all magic does, and when his Rabbi father put him down they say his shards were lain to rest in the attic of the city synagogue.
the pit in my stomach is an empty nest. songbird waiting for the cuckoo. I search for worms: pastimes and people I think will fill the gaping wound between my ten-foot walls of sticks and ribbons. nothing new inside myself to plunder; I roll strange eggs into my home.
when they cracked open his casket in 1883, that attic held nothing but dust.
EDITORS CHOICE AWARD
EDITORS CHOICE AWARD
I cross stitches, hope a face appears inside the hoop; start fencing, thinking I might spear my own heart on the end of a sabre; strum a beat to fill my chest on ukulele, grow a new stomach from the earth of my garden, bake bread in the shape of a liver, crochet a pair of intestines, and pray, or maybe I read poetry, just to know the sound of my own voice. I won’t take up ceramics. let another pair of hands pull me gasping from the riverbank and roll my face between their palms until I look like something useful. maybe then I’ll feel full. the Golem of Prague had a name, and it was Josef. I wonder what fire in his cold gray chest singed Josef’s stony heart until he turned to violence, blood running through the creases in his wrinkled palms. I was sculpted by hands wet with gray blood to protect a village that’s already been eaten, and if I crumble before Friday’s sunset it will be because my hunger ate me, like a fire that smoked my lungs as it roasted my liver. when is my Sabbath? if these are the hands that shaped a Golem from the river’s dry blood, stoked the flames inside the kiln to fever pitch, and hollowed out a hole inside large enough to fit a village— let the cuckoo edge my bones out of an empty nest to shatter, empty eggshell, on the dusty forest floor. I will kneel in the clay and try again.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Huy was in middle school when he first entered the Oakland High track stadium to watch his brother, Thanh, perform at the meet. Mama said there was no
uy put on his track shoes and tied them. Looped them in and looped them out. Down the rabbit hole and double-knotted: once to not trip on them and twice just for good luck. Mama also tied it just like that for him as a kid, yelling at him to not run too fast, otherwise he’d trip. “I used to be a runner too, you know,” she would brag, which caused then eight-yearold Huy to laugh at the thought of Mama, a 5'2" Chinese-Vietnamese woman, scrambling with her short legs. His laughter was quickly silenced with a flick to the head. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Mama did not make any comments, though, as she drove Huy to the track stadium, the car silent except for Huy’s breathing. For the record, Mama never went out to track meets, not once in his four years in high school. Usually, Huy ran for the usual audience: the white parents cheering with their cameras out, his group of friends screaming for him to run faster, and the birds that sat perched on the rusty fence looking at the humans below. Never in a lifetime would Huy expect Mama to come to his meet and to cheer him on. Today was different though. Today, a full-ride scholarship was on the line.
way he was going to be watching alone in the bleachers by himself, so Huy invited his best friend, Ethan, to come. “Sure!” he replied quickly. “Anything to get out of the house,” he said. When they arrived at the stadium, they were both mesmerized by the commotion. They loved the hustle and bustle of the track stadium, the bleachers alive with conversation and colored with duffel bags and track jackets. On the track field, runners sat together with their team, looking like ants sprinkled across the red pavement field. Thanh jogged up to his lane on the track, smiling and waving at Ethan and Huy before setting up and getting ready on the starting block. “On your marks, get set…” BANG And they were off! The runners started off in a pack and then, one by one, began splitting off. Some pulled away at first but others sneaked their way back past the other runners. He remembered watching Thanh in the front: his feet flying across the track, his chest heaving, breathing in and out. He was on his final 100-meter dash. Ethan and Huy got up to their feet, shouting encouragement and screaming from the top of their lungs. To this day, he could still distinctly remember the smile on Thanh’s face when he crossed the finish line. Huy knew he had to be on that track. That night, at the dinner table, Huy asked Mama on their phone call if he could run track in high school. “Why in the hell would you want to follow Thanh’s footsteps? You want to run willingly? As long as you’re eating and you don’t look like a stick, I’m fine with it!” With Thanh’s help, Huy was able to buy a pair of track shoes from a thrift store down the street from their house. His track shoes were not the pairs that the other boys bought from Finish Line; his spikes of the shoes were worn out and the colors faded. It did not matter though. The track shoes were his ticket into the sport, the way into the 400-meter circle.
Thanh took Huy and Ethan to the track field on the weekends during that summer break. He remembered those days so clearly, his feet tapping the ground lightly as he rounded the curve of the track. Ethan would always be a few steps behind him, telling him to wait up. During those days, it would be Thanh’s turn to sit on the bleachers, cheering them on. The red sun dipping over the horizon, the evening breeze against his skin, the adrenaline running through his body. He remembered it like it was yesterday. That sunset. He remembered it so clearly.
Ethan looked at Huy shaking his legs while stretching on the grass. It was a habit Huy had when he was anxious, Cô Tran slapping his knees whenever she caught him in the act. “Don’t shake your legs. You will shake out all your money!” she would yell. Since high school started, they had stretched together every time before practice. In sync, both Huy and Ethan reached out their arms to tap the tip of their shoes, feeling the muscles and tendons stretch out. How good it felt to release the tension in his legs, Huy thought. They eased their way into standing up, beginning to stretch their quads, their track shoes pressed against their buttocks. Ethan let his mind flow with thoughts, just occupying time waiting for their meet event. The loudspeakers throughout the stadium began to crackle, the static smoothing out into a voice which made an announcement. Up next, the 400-meter dash. A recruiter is here today to watch the top runners in the district. Good luck, everyone! “You worried, dude?” Ethan asked. “I’m fine,” Huy replied, the shaking of his knees revealing everything. “I’m just nervous with the recruiter here, that’s all.” They began to line up on the track, each runner taking their respective lane. Huy walked to the starting block, preparing himself for the race ahead. His muscle memory went to work,
HUY KNEW HE HAD TO BE ON THAT TRACK.
setting the left block to five and the right block to nine. He bent onto his knees, feeling the poke of the track-field rubber and raised himself into position, his hands perpendicular to the track lanes and his legs in place on the block. Breathe, Huy, he told himself. You practiced more than enough. He felt his heart start to beat faster and faster, focusing his breathing and on his heartbeat. Thump. Thump. Ready… Thump. Thump. Set… Thump. Thump. BANG The shot of the gun sprung Huy to his feet as his leg muscles jumped into action, the knowledge from the previous dozens of meets kicking in. All around him, runners situated themselves to the sudden change, the quick realization finally hitting them that the race was on. From the corner of his eye, Huy spotted Ethan in the lane to the right, both of them beginning at the same pace, legs almost synchronized side by side before Huy pulled away from Ethan. For most of his childhood, Ethan had always been by his side. They met on the playground one day during recess in kindergarten where they would weave between the poles, slide down the slides, and sprint over the plastic bridge as the sand filled their tiny shoes. Later that same day, Mama welcomed Ethan into their house; a plate of cơm tấm for Huy would be followed by a plate of cơm tấm for Ethan. For almost every weekday for ten years, they would ride the hour-long bus ride home together, study together at the dinner table, play board games after finishing homework together… Just two Vietnamese kids growing up.
meters of the race. Ethan practiced every day for the last few months so that other runners were not a challenge to him, despite the sounds of the many track shoes pounding the pavement. His challenge was in lane three, Huy Tran. Floating… To run quickly without straining. Floating had always been Ethan’s favorite part of the race. For him, the track was a way for him to keep light on his feet, a way for him to lighten the load of the worries back at home. Huy had always been there for him and Thanh and Cô Tran never minded having him over, always welcoming him with open arms. Back at home, he was greeted with screaming and beatings on his back. To this day, the star on the Heineken bottle scared him, the red color warning him of the pain ahead. Sometimes, the red skin of the apples Cô Tran cut for him to eat reminded him of the image he saw in the mirror after his father hit with a belt, the red streaks of blood running down his back. True, Ethan and Huy had been friends since they were kids but Ethan could not help but feel distant. His coach told him to stop looking at other runners while running and focus on himself but he always felt he was one step behind, out of touch with Huy. Was it weird that he hated the weekends when he had to stay at home? Ethan looked forward to the weekdays, filled with days in the company of the Tran family.
One hundred meters in and we have runner Huy Tran in the lead in lane three followed by Ethan Ngo in lane four. Ethan began to slow down, pacing himself and “floating” through the second one hundred
Runner Ethan Ngo in lane four has caught up to runner Huy Tran in lane three. We’re halfway through the track. Huy and Ethan were now back together, running alongside each other, their breathing heavy and their eyes looking forward into the future ahead. Best friends competing against one another, both thought. They had grown close over the last few years. Elementary school was the beginning of their friendship, and middle school was when their friendship began to blossom and grow. Ethan felt like Huy and Thanh were his actual brothers, bound by their love for running, their culture, and the days they spent together. Summer days at
JUST TWO VIETNAMESE KIDS GROWING UP.
the track reminded him that even if he couldn’t control what happened at home, he was in control on the track. Then high school came. Huy noticed Ethan would not come to school for a few days a week. When he did, Ethan would not talk much, his smile and laugh strained, his clothes ruffled and hair messy. Huy would try calling Ethan only to be answered with “I’m sorry, the person you are trying to reach is not available.” Then Ethan came to school one morning, his eyes bloodshot and dark circles under his eyes. It looked like he hadn’t slept for days. Huy felt uneasy but didn’t say anything. Not until they went to try on their track uniforms. Usually, Ethan changed in the restroom instead of the locker room. Today, though, Ethan was distant, his eyes looking lifeless as he took off his shirt. Huy gasped, the answer and story written all over Ethan’s back. “Ethan, are you okay?!” Huy asked, shocked and worried. “I’m fine,” Ethan lied. “No! You’re not. Okay, okay… There’s medical cream in the bathroom cabinet and bandages in the drawer underneath. I’ll be back home after I finish my school project today, okay? You’ll be okay while I’m gone, right?” Huy said, concern written on his face. “...Right,” Ethan lied.
theft. That would be the quickest way to end it all. He sat kneeling in the living room, a towel underneath him so the mess of his death would be easier to clean. “Ethan, put the gun down!” Thanh said. Ethan opened his eyes, shocked and confused. Thanh stood in the doorway of the house, his hands held up and his face still and calm, despite everything that was happening. “Anh hai, stand back! I’m messed up, no one can fix me. I don’t want to burden anyone anymore,” Ethan cried. The scars on his back had multiplied over the years, the thoughts of depression had only clouded his mind more and more. He felt like an anchor to the Tran family; why couldn’t he have a normal family? He wanted it to end. He wanted to end it all. Thanh was silent for a moment. Then he spoke. “I won’t stand back. You and Huy have always been my younger siblings that I care for. You are my little brother.” Thanh lunged himself onto Ethan and both of them fell down onto the ground. The impact from hitting the ground made Ethan let out a cry and in a confused daze, his finger pulled the trigger. BANG Things might have turned out differently if that night did not happen three years ago. That night. He remembered it so clearly.
HE WANTED IT TO END.
Ethan let the tears roll down his cheeks, let the cold barrel of the gun press against the temple of his head. He could not get the picture of his father in a drunken rage smashing the Heineken bottle on his mother out of his mind. The green glass pieces shattered and bounced across the tile floor, some wet with blood. No matter how many times he closed his eyes, that image was still there, the anger on his father’s face, the face that haunted him throughout his life. At times, Ethan felt comfort in living with the Trans but he realized more and more that he was nothing more than a leech. He should not keep burdening his family, he should not keep burdening Huy’s family. The gun that Thanh bought to protect his family from robberies and
“I’m coming, Mama!” Huy said, putting on his tie while running down the stairs. Huong looked at Huy, noticing his sharp jawline and his lengthy body. How much he had changed from the small child with chubby cheeks running from room to room in the apartment: how fast time had passed since her baby had grown into an adolescent boy. He looked so much like Thanh. She blinked but willed herself not to cry. She had to be strong. She could only let the tears flow with the Cantonese radio on, driving back home from overtime on the Bay Area freeway. She only cried when she lay herself on the couch, tired from
exhaustion, crying how her hands had time to wash dishes and clean counters but no time to hold the hands of her loved ones. She could not hold the hands of her children; instead her hands were gripped by the work hours and tied behind her back. How she wished right now she could hold Thanh’s hands.
Ethan Ngo leads the pack followed by Huy Tran close behind. The final one hundred meters. Huy and Ethan are on the final stretch, the last part of the track leading toward the finish line. Huy takes a deep breath and his muscle memory gets to work. His pace quickens and his stride widens as he begins to speed up during the last one hundred meters. Leg stride and arm stride alternating as he picks up the pace. He feels his legs beginning to burn, his throat begging for water, and his lungs on the verge of bursting. Sweat running down his brows, he begins to close the distance between him and Ethan. Ethan, hearing the quickening pace of Huy behind him, continues looking ahead, unfazed. A few seconds away from him is the promise of a college education, of a scholarship, of a way to escape his broken family and the family that he broke. It’s the final stretch of the track field, the last fifty meters. Huy glances at his mother, seeing her at the front of the row. She looks out of place in the crowd, her small body among the taller adults, her cheers standing out among the other shouts, her yelling and screaming in Cantonese. What makes him more shocked is the person standing next to Mama. Thanh. He stands there, a towering figure over Mama, looking the same as he did three years ago, a wide smile on his face. Thanh does not open his mouth but Huy could hear his words in his mind. You can do it, Huy. “Fai di ah, fai di ah, mo sai si gan!” Faster, faster, don’t waste time! Mama screamed. Mama’s words ring through his ears as his legs fly through the track, his spikes tapping
the ground and his adrenaline spiking as he passes by Ethan. BEEP, the sirens declare as Huy passes through the finish line. He lets out a roar, letting his legs slow down naturally, the momentum wearing off. He wipes the sweat off of his brows and uses his tank top to wipe his face. He did it. His knees start to become weak. He looks for Thanh in the crowd but he is nowhere to be found. Then the world goes black.
A minute. It takes less than a minute to run a 400-meter race. It took less than a minute for Huy and Ethan to meet on the playground and bond with one another. How quickly things could happen in a minute. Twenty years of war took away all Mama ever knew in a single day. Twenty years of graveyard shifts and overtime took away time from her children and added wrinkles on her face. Fifteen years of physical and verbal abuse and three years of depression and suicidal thoughts took away Ethan’s innocence. It only took a second for Thanh to be taken away. How quickly things could fall apart in a single second. I miss Thanh.
THEN THE WORLD GOES BLACK.
“Zai Zai, Ethan, you both did so good!” Mama turned the iPhone screen to him. “Both of you run so fast, everyone else was far behind.” Ethan and Huy looked at each other and shared a strained smile. They did not talk much anymore after Thanh’s death. Gone were the days of riding the bus for an hour together and hanging
“Hey, you okay?” Ethan asked. “I’m good, Ethan…” Huy replied. “Can I get… water?” After gulping down water from Ethan’s Hydro Flask, the news was announced. The recruiter has decided not to award any scholarships at this time.
out together. They were replaced with awkward hellos, silent stretches, and unsaid words. At first, when Mama saw Ethan helping Huy on the track field, her heart started to beat quickly and she gripped the handrail of the bleachers to steady herself, remembering the day everything changed. So she surprised herself when instinctually she invited Ethan to come and eat after the track meet to celebrate the special occasion. Ethan paused, unsure of how to respond, then objected, “No, no! It’s fine. I have food at home…” Mama interjected, “Ay! Just pack food for tomorrow’s lunch. We haven't talked in so long.” They went out to eat at the noodle shop nearby, the neon “Open” sign inviting them in. The smell of noodles and soup greeted them as they entered through the door. Sitting at one of the wooden tables, Huy and Ethan talked to Mama, catching her up on the school year and track and field. Over hủ tiếu and fried flour cakes, Huong felt a sigh of relief and contentment wash over her. “Ethan, how is your family?” Huong asked. Ethan immediately tensed up. He fell silent, his hand gripping the teacup. “Mama, don’t ask that. He doesn’t want to talk about it,” Huy said. “It’s fine, Huy. We’re close. Cô Tran, I don’t have a good relationship with them so I moved out. I’m just living with some of my friends right now. I was hoping the race today would help me pay for college but…” he said sadly. Huy went silent as well, turning away from Mama. Today he wanted to bring home the scholarship, his ticket to college. He could not bear to look at Mama; he was disappointed for not running faster, worried about the overtime Mama would have to continue, anxious about the student loans… “Huy… I know you needed the money as well, more your family than anyone else...” Ethan admitted. Huy turned his head to see Ethan with tears streaming down his face, his sniffles intensifying. “Huy, Cô Tran, I’m sorry. Thanh should be here right now. I should have died instead of him. I’m sorry, I’m sorry...” Ethan repeated while sobbing, wiping the tears from his face. Huy got up and rushed to Ethan’s side, grabbing the cheap napkins from the metal dispenser.
At first, Huong did not know how to react. She thought back to the first time she ran in 1975. Ba commanded her to tie her shoes, doubleknotted, once to not trip on them and twice as a prayer, and to not look back but look forward to the helicopter and the freedom promised in a new land. Leaving Vietnam, divorcing her husband, avoiding her grief over Thanh. All of these obstacles she swept under the rug and locked away in the back of her mind, never looking back. But when Ethan started crying, Huong remembered everything. She remembered her concern seeing the scars peeking from Ethan’s tank top one summer. Her anger locking away the gun into a safe, never to be touched again. Her pain of seeing Thanh’s casket lowered into the ground. She remembered the tears she shed seeing Ethan dressed in black, crying that it should have been him. What should she do? What should she say? Feelings of love, hate, and sympathy filled her heart, each of them whispering advice on how to respond. Huong clenched her fists and looked down intently at the small crack on the pink table, opening her mouth to speak. But no matter how hard she tried to speak, no words would come out, silenced by the voices within her. So Huong decided not to say anything. Instead she dipped a fried flour cake in red vinegar and placed it in Ethan’s bowl, tears rolling down her cheek.
AN ODE TO MENTAL STASIS
University of California, Santa Barbara
one drip, two, FUCK *quieter* shit a blind grab for a paper towel a sip another morning ritual a shot of awakening to the brain the sweet, sweet, bitter taste bare feet on cold kitchen tiles staring out at the trees getting lost in endless daydreams morning dreams? a finger, misplaced a frantic scroll though missed messages bookmarked emails, articles, tabs uhhh, i’ll get to that shit later (no i won’t) a bump against the counter reminds me i have to pee i do that carry the coffee outside watch the birds duck and dip and spill scorching hot on my leg did you see that fucking bird just tried to take my head off a breeze feet tucked under legs outward like a frog neck hunched over another sip bliss.
THE GARDEN BED
Jeremiah Vandagrift Lane Community College
AGAIN! BUT THIS TIME WITH FEELING! Abby Pace
University of Utah
wake up looking for myself. Feeling around in the bed of my mind to see if I am still there, to see if I stayed through the night or if I snuck out in the quiet dark.
I’m the only other person on the bus. I can’t let her go unadored. I decide to love her, to love her for her bad taste and her accidental beauty. My eyes get wetter, subtly. My love for her is perfect.
On the bus, I stare at a woman facing away from me. She’s wearing pink-patterned socks and tan boat shoes, she has plush curly hair that fringes delicate. I look at her harder, see her more. I wonder if there’s anyone in her life that loves her, loves her for her hideous footwear and for her beautiful, beautiful hair. My wonder turns frantic. I look around, trying to find anyone else who sees her sacred and tacky socks, who sees her ugly shoes, who sees her hair holding the sunlight that brushes her face through the bus window.
Between classes, I lie in the barely sun, in the prickly grass. The air is so soft and I wonder if this is always here. If this moment is always here, if I walk past this moment every day. Today is so wide, the sun is light in me. Sometimes it’s heavy in my body, but not today.
I get off the bus, I carry my groceries back to my apartment. I forget about her. She slips right through my attention. My attention, with its greedy hands, with its urgent reaching, trying to hold, to catch anything that falls from the sky of my life. I won’t ever remember her, she won’t even tickle my memory as I fall asleep. I loved her completely and I loved her not at all. When I get home, I unload the food I bought, filing it all away. I feel my hair shift against the side of my face as I bend over the bags. I squat to look into the fridge, sort of shuffle things around to fit other things. I don’t know that I’m thinking this, but I am. I’m thinking “thank you.” Spacy and pleased, I find a pencil and take my journal out of my bag. “Do you think you’re allowed to lie in a memoir?” I ask my roommate from the kitchen counter. “That’s like asking if you’re allowed to tell the truth in fiction,” she yells from the bathroom. I go back to writing. Writing about nothing, all the heavy nothings of the day.
University of New Mexico
laser-cut wood burning, 6.5" × 4.5"
SINCERELY, A CLIMATE SCIENCE UNDERGRAD
Oregon State University
W RD A W WRHC A
y dad calls late on a Sunday night and tells us to come and hear the frogs, so my brother and I hop in the car and drive to his warehouse in industrial West Eugene. The three of us make our way down the street toward the rusty yellow gate that leads into the wetlands. We pass a row of mailboxes—when we were little, my brother and I used to run up and down this street checking every mailbox for tree frogs. They like to make homes there, and it was like Christmas to find a frog in the mailbox. We would scoop them up and cup them in our hands and examine the stripes on their backs with wonder, then set them free and watch them hop away through the tall, muddy grass. Back then, the wetlands across from my dad’s shop were lined with native willow, alder, birch, and towering cottonwood; the graffiti-covered wooden lookout on the edge of the marsh used to sit tucked in a dense grove of trees. Tonight it stands alone, a stark silhouette against the endless marsh grass, and the soda cans at our feet reflect a rainbow of city lights as we slip past the rusty yellow gate toward its shadowy form.
On a normal night, traffic and industrial clamor drown out the night music of crickets and honking Canada geese. But tonight, a full moon in March, a chorus of croaking drowns out the industrial clamor and the geese and crickets and everything, even my own voice. The three of us peer from behind the wooden, graffiti-covered wall to look out over the pond where a flock of Canada geese sleeps, nestled beside soda cans and the full moon’s reflection, and my dad raises his voice above the croaking to tell my brother and me about the spring peepers that used to sing their way through the silent night when he was a boy.
One weekend day last winter, halfway through the second term of my freshman year in college, all of this felt especially heavy. I sat in the cold sun in my parents’ backyard staring at the flowers of a daffodil bulb that had been there as long as I could remember. I wondered, was it just me, or was it blooming earlier than usual this year?
Things were different when my dad was a boy in rural Michigan. The nights were silent, the stars were bright, and the days were just as vivid. His mom didn’t worry when he left in the morning and didn’t come back until she blared the car horn to call him home for dinner. His world was the marsh behind his house: the powerful chorus of spring peepers it housed nightly and the tradition of catching giant leopard frogs on its shores. He spent his summers exploring its ponds from a raft made of empty milk jugs and an old board, and he spent his winters skating on its frozen surface. Back then, the awareness of the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere was new. There was a fresh hope and passion that my dad held as a young environmental activist in the seventies—a kind of hope that feels hard to come by these days. I think about this a lot as an undergraduate studying climate science at a top-tier research institution. I think about how my professors never seem to believe we have a chance when it comes to the climate crisis, but then say things like “young people like you all are going to change the world.” Why is it on me to save a world that the grown-ups in my life have proclaimed beyond saving? That’s a lot to ask of a kid who just likes nature and math and science; a kid who is trying to figure out how to be an adult and college student while watching the forests she grew up in burn to the ground a little more each summer.
Today you drew a graph on the board. You said it represented the economics of climate change. You said there would be costs and benefits to the continued burning of fossil fuels. You said there would be winners and losers. You said maybe it would all be okay as long as the winners paid compensation to the losers.
I thought about all the things I wished I could say to my professors. February 2020 Dear Professors,
I KEPT QUIET AND DREW YOUR GRAPH IN MY NOTES.
I wanted to raise my hand and ask, “What is the monetary value of a daffodil blooming in March?”
I kept quiet and drew your graph in my notes.
Today you told us that some scientists think we should plant genetically engineered forests to pull carbon out of the atmosphere or launch a layer of ceramic disks into the sky to reflect more sunlight. You said these scientists were crazy, but then again it just might be better than nothing—that maybe it would all be okay if we just pumped sulfur dioxide into the air forever to shade the surface of the earth—that maybe this was our last hope. I wanted to raise my hand but I was at a loss for words. I left class filled with visions of a sci-fi future, complete with the red skies of Mad Max: Fury Road, and tried to enjoy the sunshine of an uncharacteristically warm winter day.
WRHC AWARD WINNER
Dear Professors, Today you gave us an article to read. It was about the potential that we may cross a threshold into the runaway greenhouse effect, a point after which the climate would be unstable beyond repair as our planet’s surface heated exponentially. It reported that this point could be only decades away and that avoiding it would require a worldwide, fundamental upheaval of society and the way we relate to our environment. I wanted to raise my hand and ask, “Is it really all going to be okay?” I kept quiet and studied positive feedback loops for our exam while reading the news about forest fires in Australia.
Dear Professors, Today you argued that it’s too late for mitigation. That we should talk about ethics because there’s no hope left for anything except an apology. I wanted to raise my hand and ask, “How do you apologize to a generation that might never know the change of the seasons; or drink fresh water from a mountain spring; or hear the wind blowing through the canopy of an old-growth forest...
forms denial can take. That it can mean blind optimism or hopeless cynicism. That both represent an inability or unwillingness to accept the gravity of the facts at hand. You told us that true hope takes courage. The courage to face the truth and take responsibility. The courage to face the truth and take action. You said it’s up to young people like me to change the world. But that’s a lot to ask. That’s a lot to ask before I see you step back and take in the gravity of your own words. Because when you put them all together, it’s enough to bring anyone to tears, and all I can see is daffodils when I hear you talk about courage and hope and truth. And I may be one voice among many mustering the courage and hope to face the truth, day after day, and together we are strong. But it’s a lot to ask of one generation to bear the weight of so much harsh reality.
IT’S BEST NOT TO DWELL ON SUCH THINGS.
“…How do you suggest I apologize for the homes burning and islands flooding as we speak?”
Your words felt hypothetical—a thought experiment with an unspoken implication that I should go about my life as if nothing is wrong. Because the truth is overwhelming—you said it yourself. It’s best not to dwell on such things.
Dear Professors, Today you wrote on the board the words “denial” and “hope.” You told us about all the different
We are in this together. Sincerely, a Climate Science Undergrad
I remember my dad’s red pickup truck. It smelled like old leather. The seats were coming apart in places, its red paint was faded and peeling, and when we drove it through the mountains we would pull over routinely to let the engine cool down. I was just old enough to comprehend the reason behind these stops. Mostly what I remember are the dirt roads it carried us down and the adventures they led us to: camping in the middle of thunderstorms and ponds so thick with tadpoles that I could scoop them up by the handful, trekking cross-country on chanterelle hunts and using the position of the sun to find our way back to the road. My world back then was these adventures and falling asleep to my dad’s stories as we drove home late at night, the moon just beyond reach outside the passenger seat window.
That red pickup truck bit the dust a long time ago, but its legacy lives on in a silver Toyota minivan that’s born witness to more recent sagas. August 2020 watch the sun set red through wildfire smoke from the roof of a battered minivan that’s weathered all the storms of our Oregon mountain home— we find ourselves here, repeatedly lost on rocky dirt roads by the cliff’s edge, trying to figure out what it means to be twenty in a world that more and more these days seems to be crumbling around us— drive us somewhere never listed on the map, with music blaring through broken speakers we’ll make our own destination I was seventeen the first time I witnessed wildfire smoke thick enough to turn the sunset red. It was beautiful in an ominous kind of way. That was the same summer I developed asthma. We joked that at least it couldn’t get much worse, but counted our blessings that Oregon was better off than California. We had no idea what was coming.
It’s almost October now, and we are lucky because our house is still standing. One day, driving the silver Toyota minivan down McKenzie Highway, East of Eugene, we got our first view of the wreckage—trees reduced to blackened stumps and houses to chimneys and dust, the rubble stretching for miles. I flashed back to the day we learned about climate change impacts in my climate science class. I remembered jotting down “increased forest fires” and committing it to memory like one would a fact for trivia night. As we drove, the words from a scholarly article on climate change ran on repeat through my mind: “Avoiding the runaway greenhouse effect would require a worldwide, fundamental upheaval of society and the way we relate to our environment.” It was during those drives in the old red pickup truck that my dad explained to my brother and me about how the world has changed. He explained why all the trees looked the same on some hills and why they were missing from others; and how the little bits of plastic in the ocean move up the food chain; and that the sky has become like a big pane of glass that lets heat in but not out. He taught us that plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, the opposite of us. That one really stuck with me. I thought long and hard about it one day while staring out the window at the tulip poplar tree in the front yard. Plants breathed out oxygen. We breathed in oxygen. We breathed out carbon dioxide. Plants breathed in carbon dioxide... The conclusion I reached was that people and plants needed each other. We gave each other air to breathe. But that left me troubled. If trees gave us air to breathe, why would we want to cut them down?
The air is cold and crisp on this apocalyptic summer Sunday afternoon. Gazing out my bedroom window, I can’t see to the end of the street. I want to believe it’s the cold crispness of fog on a winter morning, and I almost could if it weren’t for the burning in my throat and lungs. The smoke rolled in, thick and sudden, one afternoon last week. My brother and I were soaking up sun in the backyard hammock, laughing at TikTok videos, when he got a text from a friend in Corvallis, an hour to the north. She said the Air Quality Index for her city was off the charts. Within minutes, I watched a tree not too far in the distance turn from clear to hazy and then disappear altogether. I ran inside coughing to close the doors and windows. Ever since, the urge to leave my house for a breath of fresh air has been strong and primal, but there is nowhere to go. Roads are closed and
WE’LL MAKE OUR OWN DESTINATION
we are in one of a few locations across the west coast of Oregon, Washington, and California that is not in imminent danger of evacuation. So I try to breathe as deeply as I can and imagine the crisp, clean air of a foggy morning in December.
WRHC AWARD WINNER
The thing about fire is that it breathes too. It breathes in oxygen and it breathes out carbon dioxide just like us. But it doesn’t just breathe oxygen; it also breathes in forests and homes and lives. We have become creatures of combustion: our factories, cars, trains, and planes are as adept at harnessing its energy as our metabolic systems and, like reckless teens playing with fire, we disrupted a delicate cyclical dance. But humans are not the first species to alter the atmospheric composition of the earth. Think of the first photosynthetic organisms: cyanobacteria that breathed in carbon dioxide and breathed out so much oxygen that the air became toxic, killing other simple life forms that were beginning to emerge and simultaneously creating the conditions that would lead to life as we know it. We’re not too different, except that we have intelligence on our side. The intelligence to harness the life-giving energy of combustion and use it to propel us forward into a twisted definition of the word “progress.” Is this really all we’ve got? We are smarter than reckless teens playing with fire. We are smart enough to recognize that fire breathes more than just oxygen. I, too, am guilty of wondering if we are too late and pushing the thought aside in favor of driving to the Starbucks that’s less than a mile from my house. Because what’s one more plastic cup in the landfill? What’s a little more carbon in the atmosphere? I, too, am a creature of shortterm gratification. And the truth is, it’s not on me to save a world that’s been proclaimed by the grown-ups around me beyond saving. This perspective is tempting, but let’s stop to think about the meaning of the words “denial” and “hope.” It’s a lot to ask of one person and even a generation to bear the weight of so much harsh reality. But it’s not too much to ask of a species.
yes, we all wonder sometimes if we are more than meaningless specks on a dying planet and yes, all things tend toward chaos but you, staring up at the stars wondering, are a counterexample. No, it’s not on me to save the world. It’s on each and every one of us.
“WELCOME HOME” Martina Preston
I’M THINKING I SHOULD BUY FLOWERS
University of California, Riverside
here’s a dead cat outside the kitchen window. Everyone can see it. Everyone did. It’s laying in the middle of the intersection. The cars have to slow down to avoid it. If you sit at my side of the kitchen table, it’s impossible to miss. Disheveled. It appears to be both one with and escaping from the asphalt. The poor thing is either white with orange stripes or it’s orange with white stripes. I can’t see its head. That’s the part that appears to be one with. Everyone in the neighborhood saw it on their way to work; you know how small our streets are. I bet they told someone when they got to work. I bet they’ll discuss it at the dinner table when they get home. I bet they’ll talk about the dead cat for a whole ten minutes. I hope they’ll wonder who loved it. I only saw one person stop and check on the poor thing. Maybe it was their cat. Maybe they knew someone who knew someone who loved the cat. They looked sadder than everyone else who drove by, but not sad enough to have loved it. Maybe they’d lost a cat before so they knew. They cried because they knew. Everyone knew how the cat died but nobody knew who loved it and that broke my heart. I think it broke theirs too. Dad saw it first. He told me he knows that cat. Maggie is always barking and chasing after it. He told mom but only to warn her from looking outside. “She doesn’t need to see any more of that.”
You died around 5:12 am. I missed your last breath but we noticed the silence around then. The nurse only knew you by your English name so I was telling him your Korean name because I felt he deserved to know what we called you. I think it made a difference. By 7:00 am they were here to take your body. They came earlier than we wanted. They complimented how strong you looked. We told them that chemo didn’t stop you from trying to go to the gym. I think they also thought you were the older brother. They called you my hyung. I think dad corrected them. I remember not liking the people who came to take you. By 7:30 am we watched you being rolled away on a gurney. You left our home through the front door. The leaves to mom’s maple tree were all green by then, just in case you forgot. They were at their strongest. They dare not fall upon you, yet. Everyone saw it; you know how small our streets are. Some through their windows. Some through nothing at all. The neighbors across the street were pulling out to go to work and stopped mid-turn as they saw the body bag. Everyone saw it. I bet they told someone when they got to work. I bet they talked about it at the dinner table when they got home. I think they talked about it for longer than ten minutes though. Nobody knew how you died but they knew who loved you and I think that’s all that mattered. To them, us, and you. I don’t think anything else needs to be answered after that.
Mom spent the morning praying for the dead cat. I’m thinking I should call somebody. I’m thinking I should know its name. I’m thinking I want to leave it flowers. I think one should for a peek at such intimacy. Why are we here if not to leave flowers when loved beings die? None of the neighbors sent us any flowers but I didn’t hold it against them. I think sending dead people flowers is something you do for yourself. And they didn’t know you well enough to need to. Sending flowers sure as hell isn’t for the dead. I think sending flowers is to keep yourself warm. I think without doing so, you’d forget how to live. You’d fear nothing and nothing could break your heart. Living would bore you to death. I think if you slept all day and only ever woke up to see the sunset you would eventually convince yourself that the illusion of mortality dissolves the sun of its divinity. You could convince yourself the sun has no use. You could forget how it feels to be kissed by the sun.
I saw it at lunch. I stared at it while I ate. I finished the whole plate; I almost had seconds. I wondered if it would’ve made a difference if I knew the cat, if I still would’ve had my appetite if the cat and I were on a first-name basis. I think it would’ve made a difference. Doesn’t it always? Mom’s maple tree is beginning to yellow, so the window framed the hit-and-run as kismet. It seemed fake at times. Sometimes I forgot it was dead. I couldn’t stop staring at the poor thing. We talked about it for about ten minutes. Mom spent the day accidentally glancing at it while in the kitchen. She always groaned when it happened. It let me know it was still there.
BRACING THE WIND
Colorado State University
Colorado State University
Arizona State University And I fall beneath a sea of sleepy poppies. They tangle their tongues between my fingers—numbing them—and their gentle stems cling to me. They tug around my ankles forcing me into slowness. Upon passing through them the light softens and the sun droops drowsily into the horizon. Gossamer thin, a breeze softer than breath cascades and curls the surface of them like ripples on a pond. The breeze, bringing their scent to my attention, teases me into seeking sweetness for mere moments before it disappears with the winding of the wind. They have me snared now. Captive to immobility, my limbs know only warm earth, and a sheet of petals kisses my skin. Collapsing away from consciousness, dreams find their way beneath my eyelids: dreams that are languid, stubborn, and poppy-red. Roses on my lashes, against my lips, between my skin. Roses from my knuckles to my kneecaps: they prick me, trying to find a way in. My mouth lolls open, ready to discover if they taste as sweet as their name. Roses in my airways bloom, pushing my lungs outward from within. There are roses on my body and they are roses growing from him. In colors more vibrant than eyes could imagine, with a fragrance that makes my head spin. Roses: there are roses blooming from my fingertips, filling up the hollow of my neck, twining behind my shoulder blades, and tracing out my ribs. I am blooming roses and they are seeking him. Marigold mornings are for laughter. Made from beds held in heat by their late-rising occupants. Marigolds taste that laughter from their blue-glazed pots, like pillows beneath their heads. Marigolds know giggle-accented cuddles and mid-morning sunlight dipping fingers through slightly parted curtains. They recognize pancakesizzle and glimpse smiles to match that pancake taste. They have Easter Sundayyellow visions of the private moments that make a house “home” and they have no lips with which to share them. So, content, they share only glowing mornings with the people living with marigold-glistening eyes. Peonies weep their raindrop tears into the aching earth. Their sadness whispers to the worms and percolates the trees. It tastes on tongue-tips and surfaces behind eyes. Peonies with rhythm, efflorescent heartbeats, mutter apologies: “Sorry, sorry, sorry we cannot save you, for we are merely petals and leaves.”
Sunflowers dressed in sundresses picnic in the park. They laugh, heads thrown back, mouths ready to swallow the summer sun. They glow with overture-heat, the kind that knows your body is at best a fragile thing. They smell like the feeling of a baking beach meeting bare feet. With carnival sounds between their seeds, and growth that’s paced like young lovers’ temporary fling. Sunflowers belong in windblown hair and filling up the frames of amateur paintings.
The dandelion fluff purrs like a kitten. “Lion,” I murmur to myself, “you are as much a lion as I am.” The globe of winged seeds sits inches from my face, and the stem bends with the breeze. The cool of the grass laps at my cheek; its tongue is rough but painless. A kitten’s kiss against the flush-heat of my skin. “Lion.” I giggle again pursing my lips to scatter the umbrellaed seeds into the wind. Some lion you are, de-crowned by my meager girl’s breath. The lilac hums absent-mindedly as if she has lost herself in the task at hand. The buzz is not song-like, it does not carry a melody; it is composed of honeybee chatter and the setting of a summer sun. Lilac and the honeybees dance together in a millionyears rehearsed choreography: a sway, a scent, a tremble with wind. What kind of task could so absorb this lilac that she forgets herself into it? Does she riddle, create, or conjure? I imagine her as a youthful nymph, concocting the magic that tints memory with nostalgia. She stands softly smiling, as biting silver kettle boils. The sound it makes is of the same summer tune that fills the air, and the steam is a purple so delicate it could evaporate.
Daisies giggle as they play; their bright, baby heads bobbing like toddlers at recess. They scatter across the grassy green, with white-tooth smiles that fill up their entire face. They invite me in, taking me insistently by the hand and I collapse into their midst, beaming up at the nursery-clouds in the sky: the ones that look painted there by an unpracticed and anticipatory hand. My face fills with a smile akin to theirs and naïve gaiety escapes my lips. These pure-white daisies have left me childish with their presence.
STAFF CHOICE AWARD
Lane Community College
mixed media, 10" × 16"
University of New Mexico
United States Air Force Academy
Очередная проблема? Я продолжаю двигаться к свету. Насколько не было бы сложно, это моя бездна. Он ведь не погаснет, так держим курс на победу. Как бы ни хотелось, я не уеду: Моя душа - часть моего храма. Очередная проблема? Я продолжаю двигаться к свету. Как теперь отдать долг деду? Плевать на все, стремлюсь упрямо. Он ведь не погаснет, так держим курс на победу.
Покажи, что добавить к моему макету. Куда ушла моя возлюбленная дама? Очередная проблема? Я продолжаю двигаться к свету.
Дай мне сил, слабому кадету. Полюби меня, как родная мама. Он ведь не погаснет, так держим курс на победу.
Я не уступлю свое место врагу! Я должен двигаться прямо! Очередная проблема? Я продолжу двигаться к свету. Он ведь не погаснет; так держим курс на победу.
Another obstacle? I will continue to move to the light. As difficult as it may be, this is my abyss. It won’t go out; then let me strive for success. As much as I would like, I will not leave. My soul is a part of my temple. Another obstacle? I will continue to move to the light. How can I honor my grandfather now? Nothing matters; I persevere stubbornly. It won’t go out; then let me strive for success. Show me what to add to my maquette. Where has my beloved lady gone? Another obstacle? I will continue to move to the light. Give strength to the weak cadet. Love me like my dear mother. It won’t go out; then let me strive for success.
English translation by Daniil Tourashev
I will not give up my place to the enemy! I have to keep moving! Another obstacle? I will continue to move to the light. It won’t go out; then let me strive for success.
EL MALPAIS: A DINÉ COLLECTION OF POMES
Marie Adele “M’Adele” Little
University of New Mexico
Experience El Malpais: A Diné Collection of Pomes at scribendi.unm.edu
Two sets of models, at 1:16 and 1:4, were created with basswood and photographed by the artist, emphasizing strong, intentional lighting details and highlighting the calming, natural-feeling design.
Inspired by and meant to be constructed in El Malpais National Park, this set of scale models depicts a design for a jewelers’ retreat, complete with studio, gallery, and five living quarters for resident jewelers. The juniper berries and the hexagon shape that create the design are both elements used by the Diné who once inhabited the land of El Malpais.
University of California, Riverside after Roque Dalton Like you, I am still learning to love it here, inside this skin that swaddles me. I never was colicky until now. These blue-faced tantrums blend into twilight and I ball my fist, slam it against this blemished skin— the irregular shaped scars on top of my foot quake under my silent, simmering self-hate. And I, still learning how magical it is that the crescent moon rises at the edge of my right eye, never kiss myself goodnight.
WARMTH IS A BLANKET OF IGNORANCE
University of Utah
with statements by Greta Thunberg
“You are failing us. People are Burnt berries: glistening, suffering. People are lost in that tangerine horizon & dying. Entire ecosystems are becoming loose zones of soot. collapsing. We are in the beginning of Paradise, a destination including a mass extinction and all you can talk about is mossy reconstructions. money and That atmospheric pressure brings you to fairy tales of eternal economic growth. pursue green. We will never forgive you.”
Breathe those lungs laced with oil.
University of New Mexico
collage, 7" × 10"
HOW TO ETHICALLY STEAL A PIG
er plan would have worked if not for the damn chickens. Naïvely, she’d assumed that the 6:00 am rooster call meant the birds slept through the night, so when she heard the cacophony of squawks coming from the chicken coop as the twang of cut barbed wire bounced from her shears, she was surprised. It was well past moonrise on a hot, windless Minnesota night, and any sound past the chirping of cicadas would be suspect. Better make this fast, then. She took a deep breath of humidity and ducked through the snapped wire—a shoddy defense for such a big operation, really—and walked quickly past the coop toward the veritable sea of hogs enclosed a few meters to its left, glancing up at the ranch-style homestead that looked out at the vast metropolis of animal offal to see if any lights had gone on in its windows after her noisy arrival. Seeing none, she walked more brazenly over the gravel road, hearing the rocks crunch under her boots. God, faux leather had been a mistake. Her feet were sweltering. She reached the pigs and stood looking at them. Their fat, bumbling bodies pressed together until the movement of one pig seemed to shift the whole herd. A gentle, rumbling murmur lingered in the air above them—reminiscent of a snore, though by the smell it was something else entirely. Jesus, she thought, Molly’s horse trailer is not big enough for this. And to think, this was only a fraction of the hogs housed on the farm.
Her gaze shifted upward as she peered beyond the pigs, barely discerning Molly’s old Ford attached to the battered trailer. Having known nothing else, the pigs probably wouldn’t mind being packed in tight, but even so, she doubted more than fifteen of the 300 lb. hogs could fit inside. But hey, thieves couldn’t be choosers, and she would take what she could get: fifteen for the road and five hundred for the wilderness beyond the farm. She pushed away from the railing around the closure and began the long walk toward the end farthest from the homestead, watching the dull pink mass wriggle in the night. It reminded her of a giant brain. It reminded her why she was doing this in the first place. To her, hog theft wasn’t a capital offence. What was a capital offense, however, was euthanizing over five hundred pigs after the hog-processing plants had shut down because the virus had claimed too many workers. Now, with a myriad of pigs fat enough for slaughter and nowhere to go, farmers were forced toward euthanasia. Of course, she didn’t view meat processing as an exactly ethical practice, but it had been tuned just enough that the supply of meat was steady and the prices remained low. Now, however, less meat from the plants meant less on the shelves meant higher prices meant those who couldn’t afford it were out of luck. And yet, five hundred pigs that could be used to feed the less-fortunate were instead going to a mass grave. This wasn’t fair—not to the pig or the consumer—and so she was stealing them. Molly wouldn’t let her kill them—hell, Molly wouldn’t even let her kill a fly—so she would take them east, toward Duluth and her father’s farm. Provided, of course, she didn’t get caught. She finally reached the south entrance of the enclosure, pausing to examine the lock across the gate bars before pulling a heavy pair of bolt cutters from her backpack and clamping down on the lock—snapping it in half with the force of her bodyweight. A lone squawk sounded from the henhouse. She eased the gate open, careful to keep the hinges from
squeaking, and found herself staring into the drowsy eyes of the fattest animal she’d ever seen. Its head was the same dull pink as the rest of its body, but even in the dark she could tell it was spattered with mud and fecal matter. The creature let out a miserable snort and tried to shift, but only succeeded in wedging its rear end closer to the face of another hog. Another snort. Okay, let’s get you out of here. She reached back into her pack and pulled out a length of rope, looping it into a lasso around the massive pig’s neck and giving it a tug. The animal let out an indignant snuff but lumbered out of the gate, sleepily swatting at flies with its grime-caked tail. Keeping the rope in one hand, she moved back toward the gate and swung it shut again, shooting a quick glance up at the homestead before turning back around to lead the hog toward the trailer. The only other noise it made was a clang of hooves on the rusted metal ramp as it ascended into the deeper black of the trailer. Eleven pigs later, she was walking back toward the enclosure—swinging the lasso into the whispering grass stalks—when she heard the gunshot.
TO HER, HOG THEFT WASN’T A CAPITAL OFFENSE.
The sharp noise spooked him and he grunted in distress, ramming his shoulder up against the flimsy metal wall. His deadened ears swiveled toward the sounds of shouts and running feet, the ear tag swaying like the pendulum of a clock as it ticked closer to his time of death. Collectively, he and his siblings let out a long, low groan at the sound of heavier boots tramping up the rusting ramp. A sigh, this one human. He grunted again, squirming against the wall to his right and fleshy mass to his left until he could see Farmer standing at the entrance to the trailer—a darker black silhouetted against the moonless night. It was tight in here, but not as tight as the pen, and for the first time he could remember, his hooves weren’t sinking into a quagmire of shit and rot. He wasn’t going back. Running might sign his death warrant all the same, but
at least he would taste freedom before that inevitability. Besides, what man could stop a 300 lb. hog from escaping, even with a shotgun? His bones ached under his weight as he managed to finish shifting around, the feeling of another hog’s wet nose being shoved up his ass by the motion only further instigating his flailing, leaping run as he shot past Farmer, past the woman struggling against one of the farm hands, around the truck and trailer and then onto the road. He felt like a NASCAR driver—but this time not as part of their breakfast.
She would make it to Duluth, but not in the way she had hoped. No. Instead of Molly’s battered Ford, she was riding in a sleek new sheriff’s car; instead of blues rattling from the speakers out into the hot night, she could only listen to the harsh static of the police radio as it prattled out all the petty crimes in the area. She wondered what the dispatcher had said about her: Requesting assistance off Highway 2. The Booker farm. Some crazy lady is trying to steal pigs. Jesus. And we thought the Fourth of July was crazy. Jesus was right. Molly was going to kill her. Honestly, she’d fully expected Molly to give up her pacifism once she’d discovered she’d stolen both her trailer and fifteen pigs, but now she knew she was really in for it. Molly valued honesty over just about everything else, so breaking her wife’s trust like this spelled a road bumpier than the one they were currently speeding over. Hey babe, listen, I know we talked about a need for peace in times like these. I know you believe that the best way to combat uncertainty and uproar is with kindness and stability, so I thought I’d go renegade and steal some pigs to send to my dad’s place. Don’t worry, now, he’ll kill them kindly! Better than euthanasia, right? You’ll be happy to know that one got away. The farm hands chased it down the road, but it was running to win the Daytona 500. Oh! I’ve got to go, they’re about to charge me with a felony! Right. That was going to be a great conversation to have.
She stretched in her seat, the metal cuffs digging into her wrists as she tried to reach her hands up over her head. The drive from Baudette to Duluth was usually just over three hours, but she had driven two hours west to just outside of Hallock to find the Booker farm. The officer planned to drive the entire distance back toward Duluth—the biggest city in the region, where they took the really dangerous criminal cases—in just that night. She craned her neck to get a glimpse of the clock blinking in the dashboard. 2:00 am. At least she’d be home by 7:00 am—breakfast time. Duluth was only her home in the sense she’d grown up there, playing in the haybales that dotted the fields on her father’s farm at the outskirts of the city. Her mother had died when she was two, so it was just her and Dad, watching Seinfeld reruns on the old box TV every Saturday morning. Now, however, she lived with Molly in Baudette. She’d never understood why Molly had been so keen to live there; she insisted it was for its rustic quality, but there were plenty of other rustic Minnesota towns that weren’t fishing havens. For an animal protectionist and conservationist, Baudette was a strange pick. Still, she would follow Molly anywhere—even to Baudette.
They’d followed him for maybe a quarter of a mile. Stupid, fat, slow humans, he thought as he slowed to a more amicable trot, glancing over his backside just once to ensure he was no longer being pursued. He kept moving, letting the settling dust kicked up from the sheriff’s tires guide him through the cloud of flies and midsummer ticks. He was going to find her—the short, strong woman that reminded him of a fence pole with her brown hair and burnt skin and woody eyes and face. He was going to say thank you, and then he was going to force her to help him rescue the rest of his siblings. He could imagine their astonishment on his return: He’d have grown lean and lithe from his journey and the muck compounded into his flesh would’ve been washed free from the
MOLLY WAS GOING TO KILL HER.
surprise summer downpours. He’d rip the new lock from the gate with jaws grown powerful from living off the land instead of fattening slop and swagger in, leading them out with a cock of his head. Instead of an ear tag swaying in his ear, he’d have a golden stud. He would be a king, a king among hogs. Shit. A fly flew up his nose, and he stopped by the side of the road to snort furiously until it dislodged itself and buzzed off into the night. Well. Kingliness takes time to develop.
The gloved hands that guided her through the precinct were smooth and soft. The pandemic had its perks: no gun-calloused hands actually touched her skin. They stopped at a checkpoint where her temperature was taken, and then they were off again, maneuvering toward the sparsely populated bullpen. The clang of the gate opening reminded her of the clang that had sounded when she’d opened the hogs’ gate to release them. This time, however, she was the prisoner rather than the jailbreaker. The glove guided her inside and she turned around in time to see the barred door swing shut in her face, the metallic vibrations running through the soles of her feet up to her head. Her ears were ringing. She sat down. “What’d you do.” It was a statement, not a question, and the syllables were muffled through the facemask of the ancient man sitting on the bench opposite her. Tried to steal some pigs, she thought. “Murder.” He laughed and the smell of alcohol on his breath reached her even through their collective two layers of cloth. He leaned back and closed his eyes. She followed suit, letting her eyes slip shut for the first time since she’d left for the farm.
down at a sandaled foot resting against the bottom rung of the caged wall. She recognized the floral patterns that peaked through the sandal’s straps, and if that tattoo was here, that meant that… “Molly. Hey, hun.” “Try to sweet-talk me and I’m leaving you in here for good.” Jen let her eyes rise up Molly’s legs toward her face. If she could read her expression, she might know what to say. Molly wasn’t going to make this easy, though: she was as inscrutable as ever. Play it safe, then. “How did you know where I was?” “Your dad called me around seven o’clock this morning. Said you’d just called him to say that you’d been arrested and were in Duluth. Said he figured I’d like to know. He was right. I would like to know. What the hell were you thinking, Jennifer? Stealing pigs? Stealing my truck!” Jennifer, not Jen. That meant that Molly was royally, epically pissed. “Molls—” “No. Stand up. We’re leaving.” “But—” “Now.” Jen shot to her feet, her bones cracking after sitting for so long. She watched as Molly stepped aside to let an officer unlock the bullpen and glanced around quickly before she stepped out, noting that the old man from that morning was no longer within. Her cuffs were taken off, but Molly’s hand replaced them in a vice that was even more tight and painful. Twenty minutes and an ankle monitor later, and after being frog-marched through sanitization measures by her wife, they were sitting in Jen’s Subaru. “Where’s your truck?” “Your dad went to the Booker’s to get it. I’m taking you home.” “Molls—” “Shut up, Jen.” A sigh. “You’re lucky you got off with just house arrest. Seriously, what were you thinking?” “You really want me to answer?” Molly paused, considering. “No. I need coffee first.” “Amen.”
WELL. KINGLINESS TAKES TIME TO DEVELOP.
“Jennifer.” Shit. “Jennifer Kirkland you move your ass right now or I’ll move it for you.” Yeah, I bet you will. “Jennifer.” The sound of something hitting the metal bars of the bullpen lazed Jen’s eyes open until she was looking
The noon sun beat hot on his back. The gravel road had long since turned to concrete and the directional dust specks had disappeared, but if the deluge of cars passing by the ditch he was in were any indication, he was getting close. Close to her—their angel. The ditch ended and he pushed his way up the bank toward higher ground, feeling his fat shake with the exertion. God, he could use a drink. The ditch didn’t continue on his side of the road, but peering across the median he could see the telltale dip on the other side. He started toward it. If anyone saw an enormous hog wandering the shoulder, they might call the police. Somehow, though, he thought that escaped animals didn’t go to the same pens caught humans went to. So he needed to be discrete. Stay hidden. Find her without being found himself. He was startled out of his thoughts by the blare of a horn. Turning his head, he became acutely aware of the car speeding toward him at seventy miles per hour. 300 lb. hogs couldn’t move that fast.
of their miseries by meat-processing plants. Now they don’t even have that. Instead, they’re pushed ever tighter together as less go to factory and more get fatter. For their final degradation, they’re euthanized. It’s like they’re not even animals anymore, Molls, it’s like they’re objects.” “It’s like they’re food.” “It’s like they’re women.” A silence. “So you decided to steal them from the inhumanity of euthanasia and instead save them for the humanity of slaughter.” “I know it seems backward, but—” “It’s more than backward, Jen. You sound like one of them!” “Okay, that’s not fair.” “What’s not fair? We don’t believe in animal cruelty—in any form—and you’re over here advocating slaughter as what? The more humane option? There is no humanity to any options that end in death, Jennifer!” “Christ, Molly, I know!” “Then what—” “—Was I thinking? That my dad, out of everyone I’ve ever met, knows how to put down animals in the kindest possible manner. You know that he’s the one who taught me to respect them. He didn’t go as far as to prevent all forms of animal cruelty, but the principle is still there. I thought that if I could get just a few pigs to him—and let the rest run free—I’d be doing the world a favor.” “But why bring any to slaughter at all? Why not just let them all go and be done?” “You’re thinking that if I had done that, we could have been, like, lesbian superheroes? The Pig Escapologist and her really, really hot—” “Jen.” “Sorry. It’s just…there isn’t humanity in letting people starve, either. What little pork does get to the shelves is so insanely expensive that those who really need it—not that anyone really needs meat, but you know what I’m saying—that they can’t afford it. I wish I could redesign the whole supply chain, but I can’t. So I thought I could help by getting a little more meat on the market.” “But sustainably farmed meat is more expensive. Anything your dad slaughters is still likely beyond the price range of the people you’re trying to help.”
“I’m listening.” “Are you?” A glare. “Okay fine.” Fair-trade coffees in hand, they cruised down Highway 2 back toward Baudette. “I don’t think euthanasia is a humane practice.” “Neither do I, but you don’t see me stealing pigs over it.” “I know, but I needed to do something. There are so many inequalities in the world, Molly. I was hoping I could help fix just one.” “By stealing pigs?” “Yes, let me finish—” “Fine.” “Yes. Anyway. You know I don’t believe in animal cruelty, and frankly, I find the industrial farming system completely unethical—the conditions these animals are forced to live in are appalling, Molly. We’ve seen it on documentaries, but in real life it’s completely different. I mean, these pigs were up to their bellies in shit. That or they were so fat their bellies reached the shit. I really don’t know. And I know it sounds horrible to say, but God, at least they were being put out
HE NEEDED TO BE DISCRETE.
“Government subsidies. They’re going around.” “Well, if you’re not a million-dollar corporation, good luck getting one.” “Touché.” “I still wish you’d talked with me before stealing my truck and those pigs.” “I know. I’m sorry. Morality is a tricky thing…and to be fair, I didn’t actually manage to steal the pigs. Your truck, however—is that what you’re really mad at? That I finally outsmarted your perception?” “Nothing about anything you just did was smart, Jen.” Molly turned to look at her, and Jen gazed back into her bright blue eyes, noting how their crow’s-feet deepened as Molly smiled for the first time that day. She let her eyes drift back toward the road, ready to immerse herself in the rolling Minnesota corn fields. What she didn’t expect to see, however, was the enormous hog standing in the middle of the road, tail lazily swatting in the hot air. “Shit, Molly, watch out!”
wife. She was still asleep, having passed out on the ambulance ride back to Duluth. The paramedics attributed it to exhaustion rather than pain, and Jen had a feeling they were right: three sutures lay across her left eyebrow and her right pointer finger was in a brace, which could prove to be a problem later on, but she was otherwise unscathed. Before falling asleep, Molly had questioned the wiseness of being brought to a hospital that was actively treating infected patients, but the medics had insisted that observation was required to ensure one of them didn’t have a concussion. Jen, for her part, felt fine. All she could notice was a slowly blooming bruise on her elbow, but apparently dangerous criminals couldn’t wander about the hospital. Instead, they needed to be locked into bed. But at least she was at a significantly lower risk of being exposed to the virus if she was isolated, and if that isolation happened to take place with her wife…well. Seeming to hear her thoughts, Molly stirred and blinked her eyes open, sliding them over to Jen’s and cracking a dry smile. “After all you’ve dragged me through today, I want a divorce.” “Not sure if that’s legal yet. The Supreme Court basically just ruled that we could get married.” “Fine. I’ll bring the lawsuit myself.” Jen smirked at that and shifted to a less painful position. “Did they seriously cuff you?” “Just par for course, Molls. It’s what happens when you’re married to a felon.” “Yeah, you’re a real danger.” “Shut up.” Molly laughed, but then turned serious. “I almost lost you twice today, Jennifer. Once to the law and once to a hog. Please be more careful.” “I wasn’t the one driving.” “Jennifer.” “I’ll be more careful.” “Good.”
“SHIT, MOLLY, WATCH OUT!”
The collision knocked him off his hooves and sent him sprawling down the road, rolling and cooking like dough over the hot surface. His obesity had cushioned his fall somewhat, but pain still rattled in his ribcage every time he tried to breathe. He shifted his head, hearing the squeak of his ear tag as it dragged across the cement. Foggily, he heard voices— one familiar, the other not—and the slam of a car door. He blinked. His eyes blurred. The last thing he saw was their angel, standing over him with a hand outstretched, like she was trying to rescue him yet again.
She groaned and tried to roll over, but the handcuff attaching her wrist to the bed rails prevented her from doing so. Apparently, “house arrest” had spelled “convict” for the hospital staff. She should be thankful, though: her and Molly’s injuries were a fraction of the pig’s—they weren’t dead. She shifted again, this time managing to twist her arm behind her so she could lay on her side to gaze at her
Her dad took one look at her and laughed, his hearty guffaw uninhibited by his facemask. “God, Jen, the expression on your face is the
The ride passed in relative silence and they stopped only once, on the side of the road, to pee. I’m not going into any gas stations, her dad had said, those places are germ factories. They finally reached Baudette in the midday haze, the sign that read Welcome to Baudette Minnesota, Home of Willie Walleye, Walleye Capital of the World! greeting them as they drove in. “I think this is our stop.” He parked the truck in front of their house and clambered out, waiting for the other two to climb stiffly from the car. “Are you gonna be able to get home okay, Dad?” “Mhmm. Bill’s got a car I can borrow. Says he’s planning to head over to Duluth next weekend, anyway. Shame that the Subaru got totalled by a fat pig, though. But look on the bright side, at least now you’re lessening your carbon footprint.” Molly laughed at that, leaning over
to place a kiss on his cheek before taking Jen’s hand in her own. “You two stay safe. No more stealing pigs—and if you do decide to, at least wear a mask, Jen, Christ.” “Okay Dad.” He smiled at that and tossed the keys to Molly’s Ford toward them before turning down the street and sauntering off to Bill’s house. “They’re probably going to share a beer.” Jen looked over at Molly and smiled. “Why don’t we do the same?” “Are you sure? You know, distillation could be considered akin to euthanasia.” “Molly Kirkland. You are one mean woman.” “You better count on it: I think I’ve figured out our latest scheme in escapology.” “Oh? What’s that?” “The fish, Jen. We’re going to save them from overfishing.” So that’s why they moved here. “And how are we going to do that, drain the river?” “Don’t know. The morality’s complicated.”
same as the time you hauled back and punched a kid for stepping on a damn ant. I had to come to your school and find you in the principal’s office sporting a black eye and bloody nose.” “Jailbreaking some pigs and then hitting one in the middle of the road is comparable, huh?” “Sure. Just stupider.” “Dad!” “Pipe down, sport. I’m sure she’s given you an ear of it already.” He nodded his head at Molly, who looked up from their discharge papers to shoot him a quick smile before turning back toward her rapid scribbling. “You got everything?” “I didn’t expect this to be an overnight trip, let alone two. Everything I have is on my back.” “And on your ankle.” “Dad.” “Sport.” And Molly wondered where she got her attitude from. “Okay, let’s get going.” “You really don’t have to drive us all the way back to Baudette, you know.” “Are you kidding? What else are you going to do, take the Greyhound? The Amtrak? If public transportation wasn’t a health hazard before, it certainly is now. Besides, I’ve got Molly’s truck and you’re both under observation. What kind of a father would I be if I didn’t observe you?” “A less annoying one?” “Maybe. But certainly a shittier one.” “Come on. Let’s go.”
WRHC AWARD WINNER
LUZ DE LA LUNA
California State University, Northridge
illuminated styrofoam, digital
IF YOU WANT ME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU, MAKE ME OATMEAL Sarah James
University of Portland
8:03 pm ’m hungry.” The complaint exits my mouth, not as a whine, but as a mere statement of fact, as if I am simply informing those in the room of the current state of my stomach. But my mom knows it is a request. “Do you want oatmeal?” She asks this while already getting out the ingredients. I look back with a guilty smile. I never say no to oatmeal. Normally, I would sit on the couch and wait to hear the clatter of a spoon against the blue and white hand-painted pottery bowls out of which I always eat my oatmeal, but tonight I walk into the kitchen. “You know, you’re going to have to teach me how to make this.” It’s one of my last nights at home before I leave for Portland, for trees, for cooler weather, for him, and I’ve decided to commit this process to memory. Lest you get the wrong impression, I, at twenty years old, do in fact know how to make oatmeal. What I don’t know how to make is my mom’s oatmeal.
Half a cup of oats. One cup of water. A dash of salt. Some cinnamon. In a small pot on the stove on medium heat. Stir occasionally. Every time I’m hungry at night, which is more often than not, my mom offers to make me oatmeal, no matter how tired she is. “It only takes seven minutes, Sarah Jane, don’t worry.” The guilt I feel at taking those seven minutes away from her never outweighs my hunger, and more, my desire for the warmth and comfort the oatmeal always brings me. But still, I never quite understand why she never says no. I guess that’s what being a mother is: knowing that although your twenty-year-old, almost junior-in-college daughter could probably figure out how to make this oatmeal for herself, you do it anyway. The simple selflessness seen in standing, stirring by the stove. A selflessness only mothers know, only mothers are capable of. The selflessness my mother has exuded every time I’m hungry, every time I’m sad, and every time I’m sick. I wish I could take your pain away, I wish I felt this pain and not you. Only a mother would wish to feel pain. A mother who sees their children hurting and is heartbroken by their tears, their cries, their eyes squeezed shut trying to block it all out. A mother who feels helpless even when she’s helping more than she knows. Wait for the oats to soak up the water. Let sit for two minutes. Add vanilla yogurt. Mix until creamy. Stir in a tablespoon of apricot jelly (leave some chunks). Don’t add cloves.
I don’t know how my mom came up with this recipe, and she doesn’t know either. As with all great things, the origins are shrouded in mystery. Undoubtedly, it stemmed from the unavoidable picky-eater nature of every toddler, as I have memories of eating it as early as age five. This concoction is my comfort food, my soul food, my cure-all remedy for everything from a headache to a first heart break. I know that I will start eating it when it’s too hot because the smell never fails to entice me. I know that it will make me feel better, even when I’m stubbornly trying to stay in a bad mood. I know that I will sleep better on nights when I eat it, my stomach and heart warmed by the oatmeal, by the pure mom-ness of it. Warn Sarah Jane that it’s hot. Put it on the table next to the couch so she doesn’t burn her lap. Watch her put it on her lap anyway.
I watched this routine that night, the measurements not exact, my mom just knowing how much to put in, having made anywhere from one hundred to one thousand bowls for me over twenty years. And then I left. In Portland, I didn’t eat oatmeal for the first month in my cheap, not-so-new, apartment in a not-so-good part of town. Then, one night, at his house, I was hungry. “What do you want to eat?” I didn’t know. I didn’t know what food he had, didn’t want to take something I shouldn’t. I shrugged. Then, he turned and looked at me with a glean in his eye. “Do you want oatmeal?” He didn’t know about my mom, my nocturnal oatmeal-eating habits, my veritable oatmeal dependency. In that moment, transported back to my kitchen, transported to anywhere in time from the last two decades at home with my mom, I looked up at him and realized that falling in love with him would be the easiest thing I’d ever do. Pour packet into bowl. Mix with water. Microwave for one minute, thirty seconds. Warn Sarah that it’s hot. Watch her eat it right away anyway.
Watching him stir the oatmeal and clean the bowl after I had finished, I felt a familiar warmth I hadn’t felt in over a month. The warmth was only increased as we slept soundly that night, as I slept more peacefully than I had since moving into that cheap, not-so-new, apartment in a not-so-good part of town. I woke up at peace, content, craving more oatmeal.
LE SECRET DES ÉTOILES
University of New Mexico
Le ciel m’engloutit Elle me lève au-dessus de la souffrance d’humanité Des animaux sans leurs cornes Ils sont recouvertes de sang Leurs morts exhibent comme une victoire Je veux partir de ce monde Qui met en valeur la prise des vies des êtres-vivants. Mais les étoiles Comment est-ce qu’elles ont le courage de rester chaque nuit, Lorsqu’elles voient toute la déstruction? “Comment est-ce que vous êtes si fortes? Pourquoi vous ne fuyez pas?” Je leur demande. La plus brilliante, elle me serre dans ses tentacules De lumière d’or Elle m’enveloppe dans son cœur Je ressent la joie, et l’amour Des milliards d’années Je pleure Je veux rester ici Je pourrais mourir, encerclée par le ciel ouvert.
“C’est pour ça que nous ne fuyons pas Nous savons que vous êtes encore jeunes Mais, vous pouvez ressentir les sentiments Qui ont le pouvoir de guérir les blessures qui viennent avec la vie Il y’avait un temps où j’étais jeune Je ne pensais qu’à moi Les humains sont encore une espèce nouvelle Mais maintenant, vous pouvez le changer Maintenant vous avez la connaissance dont vous avez besoin” Elle a dit.
Je regarde la terre dessous moi, et je ne veux pas y retourner La haine qui augment chaque jour L’incomprehension des autres La pénurie de la compassion La guerre qui éventre les vies des familles Et pourquoi? Quand mes enfants me demandent “Pourquoi?” Qu’est-ce que je peux dire? Les billets? C’est trop dur de penser à ça maintenant Je veux toujours dormir sous les rayons du soleil Oubliée. Mais enfin… Non Je regarde les fleurs jaunes qui sont comme les cousines petites du soleil Je songe aux rochers rouges des montagnes Je me souviens le ciel est devenu violet au moment du crépuscule Et j’ai nagé dans le lac Vert et froid. Et je ressenti quelque chose Une besoin de protéger la terre Qui m’a mis au monde.
Translation on following pages
Mais je dois vivre Je dois parler Je dois agir Parce que avec toute la puissance de notre planète, Elle n’a pas de voix.
“Je dois y aller?” Je demande à l’étoile sage, avec un peu d’espérance Qu’elle dira “non” et qu’elle me protègera de la peine Que je vais trouver un jour ou l’autre si je retourne au sol.
The sky swallows me She lifts me up above the suffering of humanity Of the animals without their horns They are covered in blood Their deaths shown like a victory I want to leave this world Who puts value in taking the lives of living beings. But the stars How do they have the courage to stay every night? When they see all the destruction? “How are you so strong? Why don’t you flee?” I ask them. The most brilliant, she holds me in her tentacles of golden light I am enveloped in her heart I feel the joy, and the love Of billions of years I cry I want to stay here I could die, surrounded by the open sky. “That’s why we don’t flee. We know that you are young, But you can feel the feelings that have the power To heal the hurts that come with life There was a time when I was young I thought only about myself Humans are still a young species But now, you can change it Now you have the knowledge that you need” She said.
I look at the Earth below me, And I don’t want to return The hate that grows stronger every day The incomprehension of others The lack of compassion War that rips open the lives of families And why? When my children ask me “why?” What can I say? Dollar bills?
It’s too hard to think about that now I want to sleep forever under the rays of the sun Forgotten But alas… No. I look at the yellow flowers who are like little cousins of the sun I think of the red rocks of the mountains I remember the sky became violet at sunset And I swam in the lake Green and cold. And I felt something A need to protect the Earth Who gave birth to me. “I have to go?” I ask the wise star, With a little bit of hope that she will say “no” And that she will protect me from the pain That I will find one day or another if I return to the soil.
English translation by Blaise Koller
THE SECRET OF THE STARS
But I have to live I have to speak I have to act Because with all the power of our planet She doesn’t have a voice.
JEMISON DID NOT
GO TO THE MOON AND
BACK FOR YOU
Madeika Vercella University of Utah
Jemison did not go to the moon and back for you to erase her contributions
yearly, those cultural producers borrow that aesthetic heritage and ink textual violations
those brown bodies terminated, omitted from the pages
February is a tragedy
WRHC AWARD WINNER
multimedia on lithography print, 14" × 21"
University of New Mexico
Western Washington University Potatoes, crusted in dirt on their tough skin, gleaming with mud where the shovel struck the starchy vegetable. Pea pods inflated with warm hose water, tiny tendrils making curlicues, fresh bites holding the raw flavor. Pods plucked by many hands, crisp, stringy plants. A forest of densely populated red trunks, leaves devoured by hungry crawlers. Fibrous, celery-like stalks, staining knives and tongues bright red. Rhubarb chunks baked down into sauce, bubbling in a patchwork pie crust, blending with strawberries. Surprise pumpkins blooming from autumn-yellow flowers, richly orange, thick-skinned, unlike those from the patch. Other assortments, crawling with pesky squash bugs, baked until soft. Dusty green pockets of sickly-sweet juice. Traces of seed nearly vanished, skin growing thinner, more delicate with age. Giant perfect raspberries, some baked off the bush under the sun, plucked each day, religiously. Toward the end of the season, more into the mouth than the bowl. A weak peach stalk, struggling in the corner. Nets and pruning cannot raise it. What good produce is left, stolen by neighborhood squirrels.
Perfect shining yellow, orange, and red fruits. Little cherry vegetables, perfect to pop in your mouth if you can bear the strange, seeded tanginess, bitter to young lips.
LIVING IS NEVER EASY
University of California, Riverside
when poems are stuck in this non-lineated space some people call prose like it means something as if it should mean anything other than the words jackhammered onto this page no one is listening to the line breaks or caesuras or the boiling assonance bubbling in my throat no one has ever listened because i am a poet a woman the forsaken poetess because we do not speak with our voices, only our breasts because we are only meant to be tight-lipped and grabbed by the pussy, spread out and fuckable, always laying on our guts moaning to be filled as if we were ever empty before because poetry is a waste of an education spent paying forty thousand dollars a year for words that will never be heard because poetry is not a housewife with four kids in one hand and the american dream in another because my grandmother did not amputate her native tongue with razor blades so that i could starve as an artist living is never easy when the only language i know how to speak is silence, and even that is poetic
University of New Mexico
wood, nails, glue, spray paint; 18" × 18" × 36"
oil pastel on cardboard, 13" × 21"
Colorado State University
THE EYE OF A COVER
Azusa Pacific University
W RD A W WRHC A
nce a Snake met a Lizard online. The Snake was a red-tailed rat snake. Redtailed rat snakes eat lizards. “I hate that I eat lizards,” thought the Snake. He made his profile picture just of his eye. “You seem very kind,” typed the Lizard into the chat. “Can I see your face?” “No,” said the Snake. “That’s alright,” said the Lizard. She had beautiful blue eyes. With only one eye in the picture, the Snake did not look too much like a Snake. He looked more like a Lizard. The Snake and the Lizard became good friends. They talked about their families, their hopes, and their youth. The Snake and the Lizard were not very old, but they felt like old souls. They did not have many friends, but they had each other. “I wish I could see you in person,” typed the Lizard one day. “Where do you live?” “I wish I could see you in person too,” typed the Snake in return. He was trying so hard not to eat lizards. He tried eating mice instead. But he could only go a couple weeks without eating lizards. He had eaten one yesterday. “I can send you a dinner,” said the Lizard one day. She liked thinking of ways to make him happy. “What do you like to eat?” The Snake did not want to hurt the Lizard. If she didn’t know, she wouldn’t hurt. He wanted the Lizard to be happy. “Mice,” typed the Snake.
“Lizard,” said the Snake, “I am your friend.” “You’re not my friend,” cried the Lizard. “You were going to eat me. You’re a red-tailed rat snake.” “Lizard,” said the Snake, “I am your friend.” “Do you eat lizards?” “Lizard, I have only my eye in my profile picture. Now you know it is really me.” The Snake felt very small. He said, “I eat mice.” “Do you eat lizards?” The Snake was quiet. “Yes. But I am your friend.” The Lizard lay very still in the box. She could not move, but she did not try. “I loved you—I love you. I thought I knew you.” “I am a red-tailed rat snake.” The Snake helped the Lizard out of the box. “I want nothing more than to be a Lizard. But I am not.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Would you be my friend if I had?” The Lizard was free to leave now. She heard hisses coming from everywhere around her. She did not know where to go. The Snake waited. The Lizard did not know where to go.
The next day a fresh mouse arrived by post. The Snake ate the mouse. He felt satisfied. He didn’t need to eat a lizard that week. The Snake and the Lizard kept talking. The Lizard liked the Snake, although she did not know he was a Snake. The Snake was happy and afraid. The next week another mouse arrived. The Snake ate the mouse. He was not satisfied. He ate a lizard. “Did you like the mouse?” asked the Lizard. “Yes,” said the Snake. “When will we get to meet?” asked the Lizard. “I do not know,” said the Snake. “Can I have another mouse?” The Lizard sent mice to the Snake every week. Sometimes the Snake felt full. Other times he could not help himself but eat a lizard afterward. Sometimes he did not notice until it was too late. With each lizard he hated himself more and more. But he was trying so hard. One day the Lizard told the Snake that she loved him. The Snake felt happy and very afraid. The Lizard started sending more mice. Usually the Snake was full enough. But not always. “Most of the time is not good enough,” thought the Snake. One day the Snake was full of mouse. But it had not been a particularly good mouse. He went hunting for lizards. “Sssss,” thought the Snake, coming up close to a lizard. He checked to make sure it was not the Lizard. “Sssss.” He wrapped his body around the lizard and squeezed it to death. Then he swallowed it. “Most of the time,” hissed the Snake, “most of the time I do not eat lizards.” The Snake did not talk to the Lizard for a few days. He wanted to eat another lizard. He did not know how to hide how badly he wanted to eat a different lizard. A package came. The Snake suddenly wished that a lizard would be inside. He was tired of so many mice. He opened the package. A lizard was inside, a live one. The Snake began to writhe in delight. But it had beautiful blue eyes. The Snake froze. “Who are you?” cried the Lizard. “I— I—” said the Snake. “You are a red-tailed rat snake.” The Lizard started to breathe very fast. “Red-tailed rat snakes eat lizards.” She tried to get out of the box. She was stuck. “Please, please, let me get away, I’m just trying to find my friend!”
PENGUINS AND THE EVIL EYE
Alessandra C. Park
University of California, Riverside
University of New Mexico
PORTMANTEAU TO TAKE ALONG
Griffin Mozdy University of Utah
There was a holy respite Hidden between onions and oil Tarragon fumes and white wine You can insult my nose But you will never taste like I can There was a great compromise Made between mind and body Fluid vitriols fluttering in Confluence is rhythm emulating falling Sands from Moab are my effigy There was an anguished laugh Bent on parrying subtle Queries with oblong reasoning Pressured through subway tunnels My apoplectic awakening There was a hallowed visage Predicated on a pauper’s tongue-y Lullaby reapportioned to serve Mass vicissitudes stuttering Deafening my ear There was a studded path Boulders parley between Aeration and deep-set Motivations against natural law An extra half-inch of skin on my heels
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
California State University, Bakersfield I cut myself thin, Hoping for a sample that reaches no deeper than skin And betrays nothing of the bulging fears I keep Wrapped inside flimsy membranes I flatten myself and mount the plastic slide, Nearly suffocating beneath the cover slip, I try To speak, but my protests disperse in smudgy breaths, Condensing in droplets that linger like death, While I wait, splayed out in dreaded anticipation, For the inevitable examination of character I never asked for Someone’s hand flicks the switch, Igniting a beam that pierces clean through my chest It pins me in place, while my muscles twitch with restless energy, I itch to run towards the edge And escape the electric sunlight from below I press my body flatter against the slide Hoping to disappear, hide In obscurity But when they peer through the ocular piece I know they can see all of me, more than a piece of me They track my movements intently, Note how my fumbles make ripples, tracks in unmelting snow My gut twists in knots, each time they turn the coarse Adjustment knob, and wrench me off course, into Midnight territory, where my faults are magnified four hundred times Through an objective lens, Eight hundred times through a subjective lens
I hear the scratch of a pencil The professor, saying “Draw only what you see.” What do they see?
THE FRIENDLY CAMPUS GHOST
University of New Mexico
University of New Mexico
THE MAN FROM BUTON
Metropolitan State University of Denver
charcoal, 18" × 24"
Colorado State University Home is where the heart is, they say. Or rather, Pliny the Elder said, before his home was engulfed in the fiery tsunami of Vesuvius. I wonder if Pompeii was his last thought, the last word whispered through cracked lips. I wonder if that was where his heart was, in those last panicked moments— I like to think it wasn’t. Home will never be one place, one house, one city. Home is a fleeting memory skittering through your mind, a warm feeling pawing at your heart, a deep flutter that sits just right. Home is the soft crunch of stepping on a trampoline after the first snow of winter, the frozen tips of my mom’s eyelashes as she laughs up into drifting snow, the thick dredges of peppermint-swirled chocolate at the bottom of a mug. Home is the feeling of roughly bitten fingernails wandering through my hair, the slow blink of a warm Sunday morning, my dog timidly lifting a blanket with her nose when she wants to cuddle. Home is a fistful of melting taffy, chasing parades through streets with smeared face paint, the sticky slap of bare feet splattered with popsicle. Home is pretending to be annoyed at stinking feet resting in my lap on a road trip, the off-key sound of my dad’s voice threaded into the gentle strum of a guitar, the last ember of a campfire on a cool desert night. Home is breathing air that tastes like rain and wet leaves, the quiet scratch of my pen under a flickering candle, a soft kiss from inside a gently swaying hammock.
Home is where the heart is, he said— and I wonder if he had a home like mine. I wonder if his heart wasn’t buried beneath ash and lava and smoke, but under a vibrant pile of freshly raked leaves, giggling hysterically with his baby brother under a fiery sunset.
Colorado State University
colored pencil on toned paper, 12 × 18
THE PART I CAN SEE
Brigham Young University
ICE A WARD
ach step I take along the cold cement leads me closer to a future I cannot see. The cold runs from my toes up through my skin, chilling all of me. I am practically naked in this hospital cloth, holding Bill’s hand and moving one step at a time toward the bright room with all the machines. Last week we went out to eat at Tucanos. Bill laughed at me because I had mistaken the wasabi for guacamole and ruined my entire salad with a big scoop of the spicy stuff. When I write the name Tucanos I still feel the burn in my nostrils. On the drive, I had lounged in the passenger seat, enjoying the chance to escape normal and have a miniature adventure with Bill. It was here that he asked me to make the promise. “If you have a choice, choose to come back.” I promised. The past eight months had been a whirlwind, but they were over now. Even in the photograph of us taken at Kicks n’ Giggles, you can see behind the “It’s a Girl!” sign that I’m in emotional pain. Even before we really knew. I knew. Somehow I knew. In a dream, I held my baby girl in my arms. She was tiny and perfect and somehow capable of walking and talking already. Pregnancy dreams are weird like that. She kept jumping out of my arms and running away from me, but as she ran, her head popped off and immediately began to wilt and shrink. Alarmed, I grabbed her and her head and reassembled them. Life returned to her head and she was perfect again. But I could not hold her. She kept jumping out of my arms and her head kept
STAFF CHOICE AWARD
popping off. No matter how many times I took her back and put her back together, it was no use. Her brokenness was inevitable. The Kicks n’ Giggles tech had only been an undergraduate neuroscience student at BYU, like me. We chatted about professors and classes as he moved the ultrasound probe over my exposed belly. He congratulated us and announced we would finally have our first girl after five boys. He showed us the three dots that proved him right. I wanted only one thing. I asked him to show me her face. I had never asked for this before with my other children. And yet, it felt like the most important thing to me in this moment. I had to see her face. But it was the one thing he could not do. He could show me her arms and her legs, all looked pretty normal on ultrasound at eighteen weeks. But when he tried to image her head, something seemed to be in the way. Something, he said, was blocking her face. We would need to have a more professional sonogram done. We set the appointment, convincing ourselves that whatever it was, we would fix it. Our daughter was worth any amount of intervention to save her. At the next appointment, the floor moved. Initially, Phillip the experienced sonographer had told us that our baby had “some kind of anencephaly.” In Neurobiology the week before, I had seen pictures of this in my textbook next to images of babies with microcephaly. In my mind, the two were combined and fuzzy. I hadn’t been paying close attention because of the two terms, the one I recognized—microcephaly—was a phenomenon surging in South America due to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. It was a world away. Not here. Not mine. Then he said words like “not conducive to life,” and “terminal.” The floor fell away and I was floating on a surreal sea of impossibility. As our internet research unfolded, Bill and I realized we would have been lucky to have a baby with microcephaly. Those babies often lived.
Anencephaly was different. Our baby was going to die, probably before she could even breathe. Our daughter. The word was brand new on my tongue and already it had a bitterness I could not escape. Phillip the sonographer had suggested that we could still have a home birth like we’d planned. It would be my fifth home birth. The major difference would be that our baby wouldn’t live. Unacceptable. Unfathomable. There had to be a way. I was twenty-two weeks along. We had time. I went to my classes, Chem 105 and Neuro 205. I studied. I cuddled my kids. We talked about Abigail Reileen, their little sister who would only come for a little while and then she would go to heaven. “I’ve wanted a sister for a long time,” my oldest son told me. He was turning thirteen, and for him, this news hit deeper. His relationship with life, with death, and with God would change forever in these months. In the BYU West student parking lot, I sat in my car, my mind still. Focused. Always focused on her. My neighbor the nurse had suggested the hospital in Provo. They had a state-of-theart NICU and they could handle our baby’s case. Maybe she would live for a few hours, maybe longer. Nobody knew. I had read that 75% of babies with anencephaly are stillborn. But hope can bleed like a hemorrhage and yet never die. My baby was going to defy the odds. She was going to breathe on her own, and she might need a feeding tube. So we were going to go to the hospital to make sure she could get the care she needed. My plans were solidifying. There in my car, I picked up my cell phone and searched the number for the neonatal unit. I called Dr. Gerday. He sounded foreign but his voice was kind. He confirmed that they could handle a case of anencephaly. I thanked him. He said he wished we had met under better circumstances. His voice, full of regret, broke the floodgates. I ended the call and sobbed alone in my car. Then I drove home.
I ASKED HIM TO SHOW ME HER FACE.
About twenty-four weeks in, I went to maternal-fetal medicine at the hospital where Dr. Gerday worked. I met Dr. Feltovich. In ordinary times, I might have noted that she was quirky. But during the two hours of ultrasound wherein she tried to find my daughter’s face, I didn’t think that at all. “This might be a little bit of thalamus,” she said, pointing to the screen where no discernible facial traits were visible. “Does she have meninges?” I asked, fresh from my neurobiology class. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out. It’s not likely, though. The amniotic fluid breaks down the brain tissue because there’s no skull to protect it. I’m so sorry. This is hard, but I just want you to know exactly what to expect, as much as we can see.” At a different appointment: “This is her chin and this looks like a little bit of malformed nose.” “The other sonographer said she saw an ear,” I said optimistically. “Yes, but the trouble is we can only see in layers, and I think what she’s seeing is actually that malformed little nose.” Over the course of more appointments and so many ultrasounds, we tried to piece together Abigail’s face in our minds. Dr. Feltovich was the expert. She spoke on ultrasound diagnosis at fancy medical conventions. She had spent hours looking for Abigail, and she knew better than anyone what we would find when we pulled her out. Abigail had no face. No ears. No nose. No eyes. Like all babies with anencephaly, she was predetermined to be deaf and blind. She would not be able to breathe. She would not be able to see me. She would not be able to nurse. She would not be able to hear my voice. And I would never see my daughter’s face because it was missing. Dr. Feltovich diagnosed a rare kind of anencephaly caused by amniotic band syndrome. Because of the amniotic bands, Abigail’s head had fused with her placenta. If I tried to birth her naturally, I would die.
After five births showcasing my raw power as a woman to bring life into the world, this birth would be different. Different because I would lie there passively while my baby was removed. Different because I would not be bringing life, but ending one. Scheduling the C-section felt like planning a murder. How could we choose this day? They wanted to take her four weeks early. I called them and made them change it forward a week. Three weeks early was all they would get. Give her lungs a little longer to develop. Hope had not died. I had spent so many hours of my life reading books and online accounts of people’s near-death experiences. My husband and I had spoken at length about them, and how they fit in with our own personal beliefs about what comes next. I had always been fascinated with the way some people said they were forced—even pushed— back into their bodies by some angelic guide or God himself, while others were given a choice to return or stay. So I knew exactly what my husband was talking about when he said, “If you have a choice, choose to come back. I don’t know what I would do without you.” I promised him that if I had a choice, I would come back. The conversation didn’t carry the weight it should have because I probably wasn’t going to die. And this conversation was all hypothetical, and a little bit silly. Really. And then I was walking into the operating room on February 25, 2020, and the floor was cold. I sat on the edge of the bed, if you can call it a bed. The anesthesiologist must have stabbed me in the back five times to get that spinal anesthetic in the right place. I cringed, maybe whimpered, as the pin-prick of pain traveled down the nerves in my legs. I told myself the pain would be over soon and then I would feel nothing. We had a birth plan. When they pulled Abigail out, placenta and all, they would trim away the
HOPE HAD NOT DIED.
STAFF CHOICE AWARD
parts of the placenta not directly fused with her brain tissue and then wrap her up and hand her to Bill. Bill would carry her over to me while they stitched me up. All the while we would listen to Abigail’s playlist. I would be awake and alert for everything. That was the plan and we were prepared. On the Facebook support group for anencephaly parents and grandparents, we saw so many pictures of babies missing parts of their heads and faces. We were ready to love Abigail no matter how she presented. I laid back on the bed. The surgeons wasted no time starting their work. Behind me, the anesthesiologist monitored the machines and a nurse helped Bill figure out how to play our Abigail playlist. By the time they got it working, the fourth song was playing: Calee Reed’s “Broken and Beautiful.” I felt like crying. Bill held my hand. The surgeons cut into me, seven careful layers of cuts. Days before, I had joked with Dr. Laraway, “Please don’t cut my bladder.” “I’ll do my best,” he smiled back. The surgery seemed to be going well. It was weird, not feeling pain but feeling pressure as Dr. Laraway put his hands all the way up under my skin to detach the placenta first. This was a backwards C-section because usually the placenta is brought out last. The song ended, and “Come What May,” a cover version by Jackie Evancho, played next. The original version was our wedding song, but this version was the only one we could find on Amazon music. Bill held my hand and we looked into each other’s eyes. He has been front and center at every birth. Ours is a love that has been through the fire before. All at once, everything changed. My thoughts became unfocused. I tried to communicate what I was feeling. I thought Dr. Laraway was pushing on my lungs. So much pressure. And then a heaviness inside began to spread. I said, “I feel awful.” That was the last thing I remember. Bill told me my hand slipped from his, and then the nurses ushered him over to the table where they were cleaning up Abigail. She was
so chubby. That was unexpected. She had a club foot on one side, and tiny little toes on a tiny little foot that had been restricted by the amniotic bands for months. Her other foot was perfect. Her hands were both beautiful, with one pinky smaller than all the rest of the fingers, also from the amniotic bands. She had the dimpled chin Bill gave to every baby. As he held her hands and the nurses washed her, Abigail breathed. Behind him, my heart monitor flat-lined. Calmly, too calmly for Bill to register, a nurse picked up a phone and said, “We have a code blue.” Dying was easy. But before Bill was wheeled out of the room to name and bless our breathing and very much alive baby girl, the anesthesiologist had restarted my heart with a shot of epinephrine, and I took several gasps of air I would not remember taking. My first awareness happened in a hallway. We were moving, wheeling very quickly, from the operating room to some other place. All of the people were new. None of the nurses or doctors I had known were there, and my eyes searched for something I could see at my level. One particularly tall nurse named David was tall enough for his name tag lanyard to swing right beside me. I read the name and tried to orient myself to the new circumstance. He bragged to everyone that I said his name a lot. But what I remember was waking up and asking questions. Where was Bill? Was Abigail alive? Where was I? They explained that my heart had stopped just as Abigail was born and that she was breathing and with Bill. This news should have been earth-shattering, but I only felt relief. Then more pain as they poked me with more needles, this time quite strikingly through my neck. A central line, I later learned. I was pumped full of nutrients. Apparently clinical death depletes your stores of all kinds of things needed for life. My experience became murky. So much of what had happened these past several months had felt surreal, but now I was living in a Salvador Dali painting. It’s not that I hallucinated, but my focus was scattered. I only made a few solid
WAS ABIGAIL ALIVE? WHERE WAS I?
memories, one that was the most important: Bill bringing me our daughter, all wrapped up in a hospital blanket. She was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. She did have a nose. In the middle of her nostrils was a facial cleft, but she breathed through it like a champ. She did have ears, two perfect ears on the sides of her head. She had a bottom lip and Bill’s dimpled chin. She even had eyes with tiny little eyelashes. They never opened, but newborns are like that anyway and I didn’t mind. Her face was so sweet, absolutely perfect. I touched her chubby cheeks and talked to her. For me, time passed in a strange way. I didn’t realize then that I had missed the afterparty. Bill had taken Abigail into the labor and delivery room where our family was assembled. Everyone held Abigail and had pictures taken with her. I was the last one in my family to hold her. I couldn’t sit up to do it because sitting up prompted vomiting, so I lay back and held her that way, singing her my favorite lullaby about angel friends who would protect her. My mom was there then to help me sing when my voice broke. My boys came in at some point, all dressed in the matching blue dress shirts I had bought for them beforehand, for our family picture. A photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep helped Bill dress Abigail in the turquoise and pink preemie outfit I had bought for her. It fit perfectly. They laid her out on a blanket I had chosen to match the outfit and placed a baby owl in her arms. Owls are protectors, symbols of the goddess, and harbingers of death. Abigail had come to me in a dream with an owl as her protector. Now the owl looked almost as big as her as she held it unwittingly and the photographer took pictures. My children weren’t allowed to stay in the ICU. My mom left with them. My husband and my big brother, Tim, stayed with me. Abigail spent time in their arms. Bill held her long enough to feel sore and need a rest. I wished I could hold her like that. But people kept reminding me that I had died. “We’re so glad to have you still with us!” nurses kept exclaiming in dramatic and overly chipper voices.
Every few minutes my blood pressure cuff tightened. Heart doctors came in with expensive equipment and measured my heart to rule out heart disease as the cause of my sudden and unexpected death. But Dr. Laraway was sure it had been amniotic fluid embolism. It was just something that happened sometimes when there was trauma to the uterus and bits of uterine or fetal tissue made their way to the mother’s heart. The body has an anaphylactic reaction, and that’s why epinephrine worked so fast. A NICU nurse assigned to Abigail came in throughout the night to feed her, every four hours, by tube. I wanted to learn how to do this. I hoped she would live and live and live. But I couldn’t hold her. I needed to sleep. I took a Percocet and finally slept for three hours. In the morning, her breathing wasn’t as regular and her skin felt colder. Alarmed, I tried to hold her closer. Now that I could sit up, I could hold her better. She began to spit up the food from her tube feedings, and the ICU nurses suctioned her to clear her airways. Then she began to cry. Abigail’s cry was heartbreaking: uneven, sometimes gurgly, and always weak, yet somehow distinctive and feminine and hers. I loved the sound of her voice even as I wished I could make it stop by comforting her. I took pictures of her and mother-daughter selfies with her, and I took one video where I introduced her: “This is Abigail Reileen and she’s been alive for almost 24 hours now. She’s having a little bit of a hard time this morning.” I tried bouncing her gently and I tried holding her close, but nothing helped and there were more regurgitations and there was more suctioning. The ICU nurse moved too slowly. I thought it was deliberate. Why weren’t they moving faster to clear her airway? The truth is that everybody knew it before I did, that she was dying. Of course she was dying. She had anencephaly and she had already defied the odds by breathing as long as she had. She had hung on through the night. Incredible in her strength. She had answered my hope with this gift, with her own tenacity.
HER FACE WAS SO SWEET, ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.
STAFF CHOICE AWARD
In the middle of the pregnancy, I woke up sobbing. I had dreamed of holding one of my other children, Daniel or Layne. He had been hurt and gotten angry and then his heart had started to beat irregularly. And then he became a baby in my arms and in my mind I remembered doctors having told me that his heart would slowly come to a stop and I could only try to make him comfortable as he died. It was inevitable. The inevitability of it had haunted me, horrified me in my dream. My sobbing woke my husband and I told him that this dream felt exactly like what I was doing with Abigail. Just holding her until she died. The tragedy of this rested heavy on my heart. And then it wasn’t a dream. It was really happening, and I felt confused because this was not real. And yet here it was. Abigail was undressed by the nurses and laid on my chest by my husband, skin to skin. So she could be comfortable as slowly, slowly her heart came to a stop against mine. And then, the inevitability of it was not horrifying, but peace-giving. Because this had been foreseen, and it was required of me, and so I could do it. That foreknowing was a gift too. Dr. Gerday came in, the man from my parking lot phone call months before. He put his cold stethoscope on her warm back and listened so carefully. The heartbeats were three seconds apart. And he left us alone for a little while to hold each other. The next time he checked, her heartbeat was gone. It wasn’t until after she was gone that they finally agreed to let me out of the ICU. The awful needle in my neck was removed, again painfully. The catheter was finally taken out. I was helped into a wheelchair and my lifeless baby was handed into my arms. As we carted through the halls toward the elevator, a nurse passing by started to “ooh” and “ah” over my baby and then seemed to realize the scene she was witnessing and quieted herself. We entered the elevator in silence. Bill took a picture of our ICU nurses back in our labor and delivery room. I spent the day there with a butterfly on the outside of the door,
a symbol to anyone who saw it that we had been touched by an angel. I cried so much my eyes swelled up. I put on makeup and the blue and pink flowered dress I had bought to match the boys. They came back in their blue dress shirts and we carefully dressed Abigail’s body in her funeral gown, her first and only dress, for a family picture. It hurt to think that all future family photos would be missing someone so important. Bill took the kids home to give my mom a break and then returned and spent the day with me. Again, time passed strangely. We had visitors. Our friend Ruth had painted a vibrant sunflower on a canvas on the day Abigail was born, just the day before. She brought the birthday gift on the day Abigail died. I loved the flower. Abigail was in so many ways like a flower, so briefly seen in her glory. Earlier in February an amaryllis I had grown from a bulb had bloomed early, so white and delicate and exquisite. It had only stayed a few days in its glory and then so suddenly diminished. I pondered this. Did permanence make a thing better? What happened to the glory of a flower after it wilted? Did it just disappear, or did it go somewhere? Somewhere beyond what I can see? So much seemed to lie just beyond what I could see. I had died and seen or remembered nothing. I had most certainly kept my promise by coming back, but I didn’t remember doing it. I lost consciousness before I flatlined. The actual experience of dying had been curtailed for me. Twenty or thirty seconds of clinical death had not given me eyes to see beyond. “You were seconds from broken ribs,” Dr. Morris had joked with me afterward. But before CPR had been necessary, I was back in the realm of the living. I stabilized remarkably fast. It was almost like nothing had happened. Dr. Morris and a nurse had asked me independently if I had seen or experienced anything. I’m sure they had heard so many stories about extra-consciousness in the operating room. But I had nothing for them. There was only so little in the part that I could see.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GLORY OF A FLOWER AFTER IT WILTED?
It troubled me until at home one day later, I reread the last half of one of my favorite neardeath experience books called Through the Window of Heaven. I had never realized before that the author had died in an operating room during a surgery for ectopic pregnancy. In her book, she recalls a whole experience of being out of her body when her heart stopped and then meeting Christ as a being of pure love. She experienced panoramic and tangible visions he wanted to show her. Then at last she had been brought back to her body to return to mortality. Her expansive experience had taken seconds. On this reading, I read the ending as if for the first time. I had never realized before that at the end of the book she woke up from death, despondent and feeling forsaken. Her baby was gone and she had no memory of the wonderful experiences her consciousness had just had. The memories didn’t return to her until later. Her parallels with my own experience struck me with that hope that still does not die. Even after I died and came back. Even after Abigail died and stayed on the other side. Hope breathes. There is more beyond what you and I have experienced. And there is more beyond the part I can see.
University of Northern Colorado
WHAT IS FREEDOM? Dylan Francisco DeCastro
black ink on paper, 3.5" × 5"
California State University, Northridge
UN DÍA PRONTO LLEGARÉ
University of Washington Tacoma
Cada día lejos de ti, mi madre llora Su hija ya no llega Me extrañas como te extraño yo? Con tierra roja y familiares caras Un día pronto llegaré Cada mañana el gallo no me saluda La alarma suena y otra día sin ti me quedo Porque ya no llegas? Me preguntas El trabajo me atrapa y mi cuerpo pronto ya no podrá más Todo por ti, y yo con nada me quedo Un día pronto llegaré Yo soy tu hija que quiere volver Pero no puedo aún y me cuesta pensar que solamente regresaré contigo en una bolsa Aún me quieras? Con nuevo idioma y nueva ropa Un día pronto llegaré, contigo
Everyday I spent far away from you, my mother cries Her daughter no longer comes Do you miss me like I miss you? With red dirt and familiar faces One day soon I will arrive Every morning the rooster doesn’t greet me The alarm rings and I’m left to another day without you Why don’t you come? You ask me Work traps me and my body will no longer be able All for you, and I am left with nothing I will one day soon arrive
English translation by Maria Magana
ONE DAY SOON I WILL ARRIVE
I am your daughter who wants to go back But still I can’t and it hurts to think I will only arrive with you in a bag Will you still want me? With a new language and new clothes One day soon I will arrive, with you
THE BALANCING ACT
University of California, Davis
’m only whatever my parents wanted for me in utero. Books, TV show characters, acquaintances—that’s what they claimed to have helped determine the name of their fourth child and that fourth child’s identity from then on, and that’s what they assumed would be best for me: to be Christina and Huiyeon. That was their first misconception.
Three years old, face pudgy with baby fat. I grip puzzle pieces with my stubby fingers, those seashell fingernails visibly pink on the TV screen. My mother, who stands in front of me holding the camcorder, had most likely painted them on for me. “What is your name?” my mother asks me in Korean on-screen. “Huiyeon,” I answer, fidgeting around, a typically restless child. “What will your teachers call you when you go to school like a big girl?” she presses. My face fills the screen, the timestamp in the corner reading, “2004.” I turn to the camera. “Keu-ri-seu-ti-na.” On the screen, I reach my small hand out to touch the camera lens, but as I sit silently watching my younger self, the oddity of the passing moment lingers. My mother on the screen must have praised me afterward or moved onto the next bout of interrogation to capture on camera, but my mind urges: “Rewind. Rewind to the
second when I hear myself pronounce my own name in a Korean accent,” as if the syllables rested uncomfortably in my three-year-old mouth, clashing against my baby teeth in a struggle to escape as a sound that would supposedly be uttered in the future to identify me. Keu-ri-seu-ti-na. I had managed to say my own name in a succession of five syllables, a name that should only take three. There had to have been an exact moment that I stopped pronouncing my name in this way. There had to have been a moment when my tongue underwent an unconscious metamorphosis, shifting, conforming to a foreign frame. It must have been the day that my tongue stopped curving in the way of Korean vowels and consonants, instead adopting the shapes and trickling fluidity of English letters. When was this? It would have certainly been before that one day in the middle of first grade when my teacher, holding the door open while saying goodbye to her students, caught the eye of my mother who waited nearby. My teacher struck up a conversation: “Christina is doing great in my class.” I blushed and suppressed a smile, pretending to be modest. My mother did not smile. Instead, she opened her mouth, suddenly exposing my unfavorable tendencies to my teacher, making me feel a kind of shame that I could not put my finger on at that time but nonetheless still feel vividly today as a selfinflicted attack on the roots of my identity: “Christina doesn’t talk in Korean at home as much anymore.”
Sitting at the head of the dinner table, my father recites the well-known tale from his high school youth as an immigrant: how he spent his school nights reading novel after novel— twice the work assigned to him by his English teacher who understood the work necessary for my father to learn a new language—yet never understanding a single word and spending most of his time flipping through the dictionary. My father jokes that he speaks zero languages, referring to his evolving Korean accent molded by his years living in the United States— something peculiar that his father-in-law once pointed out upon meeting him in Korea before my parents’ wedding—and his imperfect English pronunciation, not quite perfecting the vowel sounds simply as a result of learning the language in his later teenage years. He calls himself a man of no identity. Going by “Chul” throughout high school, my father had shortened his already brief, two-syllable first name to accommodate the tongues of students unfamiliar with his origins. After college, my father legally renamed himself to “James.” I imagine that this transition from Chul to James couldn’t have been as straightforward as learning to sign five new letters with a pen or introducing oneself with a new syllable of sounds.
My teacher frowns. My mother smiles. There it is, the shame.
This was the second misconception: that my father thought telling the story at the dinner table about his youth would stay at the dinner table as a nonchalant show of effort to somehow connect with his daughters. That I would laugh at it then and forget about it later.
On days particularly sluggish and punctuated with mundane topics of conversation, my mother will lean her back against the couch and tell her version of a story about the countless times she and my father spent looking through books and pamphlets of names, trying to find the perfect combination of sounds that would sit well in their mouths and identify
There I am on the TV screen. I’m crouching in the hallway, still three years old with the puzzle in front of me. I look up at the camcorder in my mother’s hand, glance down at the scattered pieces at my feet, and insist in Korean, “I’m not doing it anymore.”
HE CALLS HIMSELF A MAN OF NO IDENTITY.
their newest baby. They agreed that the name shouldn’t be uncommon enough to prompt brow-furrowing. It should be appropriately universal and translatable in multiple languages, and it should destine me for great things and simultaneously accommodate my father’s penchant for nine-letter names. My parents settled—I would be named Christina. Keuriseutina, reminding me of my first years of testing the linguistic waters, awkwardly fitting the English syllables in a mouth with a tongue only meant for uttering Huiyeon. Keuriseutina, a demonstration of my mother’s own discomfort with my English name, the unfamiliarity of the foreign syllables resting in a mouth meant for eu, ah, and ee. The woman who gifted me hair that only shines brown in the light, who feels unnatural when referring to me by anything other than Huiyeon. That woman teaches me to repeat the syllables exactly as they left her mouth: Keuriseutina.
I wonder why my father opted for a brand-new English name for himself over his Korean one while my mother clung onto hers. I wonder why my English name was chosen to overshadow my Korean middle name according to the nature of simple succession. I wonder why my identity had been decided before the day I was born, how it is that I would be American first, Korean second. Meanwhile, I searched for answers. I taught myself to write my Korean name in its original Chinese script, and I compared memorizing those common Chinese characters to learning the Greek and Latin roots from middle school. I learn that Huiyeon is “bright lotus flower.” I learn that my mother’s name means “lotus flower” as well. I spend the next several weeks looking at photos of lotus flowers, reading poems about lotus flowers, drawing those blushing petals of lotus flowers. I also find an image of an oil painting: Raja Ravi Varma’s artwork from 1896. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi stands poised in the heart of a blooming lotus flower, two of her four hands delicately grasping the stems of smaller, budding ones. Later, I learn that East and Southeast Asian cultures embrace the lotus flower as a symbol of life and resilience, noting the plant’s ability to revive itself after long periods of dormancy, as the flower blooms in warmth from the depths of murky waters. Perhaps my mother knew this. Perhaps she had bestowed that hopeful concept of resilience onto her last daughter through a Korean name symbolizing the lotus flower. I’m my mother’s daughter, the one who still carries with her the shame from the first grade whenever she utters the sounds of the Korean language. I’m the daughter who learns to be resilient, to recover from those embarrassing moments, to come back after years of struggle and confusion in her original state or—better yet—to come back improved. Like Lakshmi, I want to hold onto the ends of things that tend to bloom. The label of Asian in one hand, American in the other. The two flowers in the form of the English that I speak to my friends and the Korean that I speak to
I SEARCHED FOR ANSWERS.
Sixteen years have passed, and I can still picture myself in the floral summer dress trailing on the hallway carpet. The baby crouches, assembling As, Bs, and Cs. This is one of her first experiences grappling with the English language. She then mugs at the camera, trying to elicit responses from her mother who films the baby’s every movement as documentation of who she once was. Without warning, the selfishly dubious and one-sided part of me emerges to ask, “Why was my mom so upset about my growing distance from the Korean language when she has placed that expectation upon me since the beginning?” The small-minded Christina goes back to that day in the first grade, the embarrassment of being shamed by the adults I trusted the most, the confusion of being expected to balance English and Korean, American and Asian, all within the small hands of a six-year-old.
The third misconception: that names are easy.
What really is the difference between my parents and me? Perhaps we are all struggling to find that balance, to know when to respond to James or Chul, to Christina or Huiyeon, to figure out how to hold these names between our fingers, whether we must bring each higher or lower, to find that perfect balance. Perhaps it’s the struggle itself that stabilizes us: the occasional annoyed looks we receive when we speak in Korean at the store, the peculiar back-and-forth of asking and responding in both tongues at home. Perhaps that’s the beauty of it all; when we cannot find that one word that sits comfortably in our sentences, we switch.
The next misconception: that it’s okay to blame the one half of us that doesn’t feel adequate on a certain day, and the other half the next day. It means poisoning our own duality with unrealistic expectations of what “could be” when the beauty lies in the reality of what “is”: the twoness. It means belatedly recognizing that we derive meaning from the synthesis of both our halves, regardless of each one’s strengths and weaknesses. I later learn that these pros and cons of experiencing “twoness” come and go like moods, like erratic weather, so I learn to disregard these
And the grandest misconception: that I had looked closely enough. I admit that I hadn’t observed the things that balance not only me, but my parents—a mother and a father who decided on Christina but also Huiyeon, who taught me to write Hangul but also bought me the English alphabet puzzle of my childhood. If only I had searched for the right things, and if only I had known that the hands of the mother and father who taught me twoness weren’t only weathered from age, work, the sun. If only I had known that we are more similar than we appear. Because if you stare, squinting, searching, just barely seeing enough, you’ll see something familiar. Creased and flushed with the weight, their hands—my parents’ hands—are not one-ofa-kind. They’re balancing, and they’re familiar. They look just like mine.
My father never became “James” to his parents and two sisters. Likewise, my mother never went by a monosyllabic version of her given name to her family in Korea.
ups and downs. I disregard them, just like I do when a lady stares at my family speaking in Korean at a Target. Instead, I let her be, and I let myself be. I let each half rest in my palms, balancing my weight, managing my breath, just like the puzzle pieces in my pudgy three-year-old hands.
my grandparents, both languages possessing the potential to bloom, to become an integral part of my identity. If I could hold my two names in my hands as Lakshmi holds those flowers, I would. Rather than first introducing myself with, “I’m Christina,” I would show the names residing in each of my palms, each name weighing down equally as heavily into the skin of my hands, Christina and Huiyeon displayed with the same amount of importance—not one after the other—but with balance, becoming the dichotomy that can complete “me.”
EDITORS CHOICE AWARD
THE BALLAD OF ME ‘N JIM
Utah State University
linocut, 5" × 4"
THE SEVENTH DAY OF RAIN
Western Washington University
y the fourth day of endless, pounding, sheets of rain, the residents of Hayes had begun to tire of finding new words to describe the deluge. At the beginning, the violent opening of the skies had seemed like any other rainstorm: quick to begin and quick to dissipate. It had soaked the town as people scurried to their trucks from Sunday morning prayer at the old, whitewashed church with peeling paint. But as the day rolled on and morning melted into afternoon, the iron skies above sat still and solid, not budging or relenting. It had been a game at first, trying to judge if the rain had eased or not, trying to reckon the empirical distinction between a “downpour,” “blankets of rain,” a “squall,” or the sun “plain and simple forgetting how to do its damn job.” The game had lost its fun when the water stopped draining and the puddles on Main Street, the only real, paved street through town, had merged into ponds, then lakes. By Tuesday morning, the road had become a small river and the rain showed no signs of stopping. The reservoir over by McCord Bend swelled and clawed its way up over its banks into the flatlands and so, by Tuesday afternoon, Hayes was well and truly flooded. The stop sign where Joint Road met Main Street poked out of the water uselessly as cabs of trucks sat halfway out of the murky, brown water. The townsfolk got belongings moved out of basements and up to second floors if they were lucky enough to live in a house, and onto supper tables in doublewides. By then, the
storm had even got some wondering if maybe that whole “global warming” thing wasn’t a hoax after all. Sure didn’t feel all that warm to the people of Hayes. On Wednesday, the clerk at the new drugstore was sent to post a “will open again once the flooding has stopped” sign in the door and make sure it was all locked up. The store had been open Monday, but the clerks quickly realized that goods on the lower shelves were liable to float away, so on Tuesday they moved everything to the upper shelves and called it quits. It was this clerk who saw the man first, early Wednesday morning. He emerged from the shroud of rain on the south side of town in a small, low-bottom, rusted silver skiff that sputtered along weakly through the storm. So it was that on the fourth day of a historic rainstorm, the drugstore clerk was surprised to turn around in waist-deep water and see a man in a soaked white robe standing in a small riverboat, staring at her with icy blue eyes, droplets of water beading up at the tip of his nose and chin. He spread his arms and began to speak, projecting his voice over the rainstorm. Fear not, shepherd, he said, for I am here to save you. I will guide you, my flock, through this, the Judgment of the Lord and you shall see His Righteousness in Eternal Glory. The clerk tilted her head. I ain’t never seen this before, she muttered. The man, who was clearly not dressed for the weather, continued unphased. This storm is the beginning of the end, he proclaimed. The Lord has sent His Final Judgment upon us! I will cleanse you, my flock, of your sins before the day when He returns to reclaim His faithful to the Eternal Glory of Heaven, he cried. I shall baptize you all in the church, as He wills it, the man said to the bewildered clerk who hadn’t managed to get a word in edgewise. The strange man yanked the ripcord and the skiff coughed to life. Go now and spread this good word, the man said as he motored slowly toward the hazy, shifting shape of the church through the wall of rain. As the man passed the
low-slung, sagging houses on Main Street, he allowed a small smile. Outpost Internet had been planning to service the broadband connection to Hayes on Monday, but due to flooding on the road from Ashley, they hadn’t been able to do the work and the planned overnight service outage had stretched well into the week. The storm had also managed to knock out any hope of cable service to Hayes, making the man on the skiff the most interesting thing for fifty miles. By the next morning, the clerk had done her job and word had rippled through the waterlogged town of Hayes of a delusional preacherman riding the storm, promising salvation. With a classic Midwestern “might as well go and see” attitude, ineffective galoshes, and overalls, the congregation of Hayes waded toward the gray outline of the small steeple on Main Street through stomach-deep murk. Rain, rain, and more goddamn rain bit angrily at the surface of the brown water. The man had set himself up in the church. It was flooded, just like the rest of the town. His boat was pulled up behind the altar where he sat, cross-legged, as the people filed into the church. He had piercing blue eyes and long, scraggly dark hair that shrank into a pitiful attempt at an uneven, unkempt beard. The congregation of Hayes, unsure of what to do, bumbled their way through the underwater pews to their usual spots in the church, then waited, an expectant murmur bouncing around the room. The man stared at the townsfolk of Hayes in silence. Rain hammered the ceiling of the old building and leaked through cracks in the roof. Drips of water fell into the nave and the entire stuffy building smelled like soaked, pliable wood and warm, damp bodies. A large carving of Jesus on the cross stared at them all impassively, water droplets forming on his nose and the nails in his palms. I am here to save you, the man said finally, looking around. This storm has been sent by God Himself to punish us for our sins. This is the Flood and I am here to save your souls. I
IT WAS FLOODED, JUST LIKE THE REST OF THE TOWN.
shall baptize each of you, cleansing you in these holy waters so that you may go unto the Promised Land pure and absolved. The townspeople looked around, seemingly unsure what to do about this man who had shown up out of nowhere. The people of Hayes were good, God-fearing folk and soon one man in his fifties, wearing a sodden red raincoat and blue jean overalls that were now soaking wet and closer to black in color, stepped forward. Who are you, exactly, asked the man from Hayes. And where did you come from? I have been sent by God Himself to pardon you of your earthly sins, said the strange man. He stood and rose his arms, looking the part of the Redeemer, silhouetted by Jesus behind him. I am His Son, I am Noah, this is my Ark, and this is His Holy Flood. I have come to save you. Another murmur rippled outward through the nave, the townsfolk whispering to each other. The man in red paused, chin tilted up and brow furrowed. Ah, why the hell not then. Let’s get on with it, said the man in the red raincoat. The Lord smiles upon you, said the strange man, stepping down the stairs from the altar into the water, his white robe splaying out around him as he waded deeper. So it was that the congregation of Hayes was baptized in a flooded church by the man who appeared from the storm. By Friday, the rain had still not stopped, and the skies squatted above, low and dark. The people of Hayes began to wonder if this man, who seemed to be sleeping in his skiff in the church, was perhaps truly sent by God and that this was the end of days. There had been floods before in Hayes; ’56 and ’74 were especially bad, but nothing like this. The congregation gathered to see the preacherman again in his holy house of flooded worship to ask him for guidance. My flock, you will be safe when the Lord descends to this Earth to collect us. But for now, he commanded, looking into their uncertain eyes with an unwavering stare, you must sever your ties with this earth and its worldly sins! Bring your valuables here before
the Lord, bring your prized possessions to show that you are truly willing to renounce them and embrace His Holy Light! And so they came with jewelry, candelabras and candlesticks, antiques and all other varieties of objects that hide in Midwestern basements. Only a few devout brought their most valued possessions, but after six days of rain and a flood that dwarfed anything in memory, the people of Hayes were prepared to let go of a few things, “just in case.” They laid all of these offerings on and around the altar, which remained above the water, surely by some miracle of this man who had come to save them. The Savior of Hayes. The pile grew throughout Friday and Saturday. On Saturday night, he spoke to his flock one final time. Tomorrow, on the Seventh Day of His Holy Rain, the Flood will come and devour this world and its sins, he proclaimed. The congregation leaned forward, held in waterlogged rapture with each word that rose above the murky water and the din of rain above. You must now go, he continued, go to your homes and pray and you shall wake tomorrow in a dry new land of sun and His Grace! The townspeople hugged the man and he blessed them each, one by one on the stairs of the altar, framed by their gifts. They thanked him for passing the Lord’s Salvation unto them, and then they left the church, wading through the water to their homes to do as their savior had bid them. So it was that the congregation of Hayes believed they had found salvation. When the last of them had left, the man quickly stripped out of his white robe and changed into warm, dry clothing from his bag in the skiff. He loaded the gifts and valuables, worth a considerable sum at pawn shops in Brookings, into the little boat. Before he left, the man turned to the carving of Jesus on the cross and gave him an overexaggerated bow. Thank you kindly for your hospitality, he said with a smirk. And for the town of Hayes, the man added. Then, the Savior of Hayes started his skiff and motored through the double-wide doors to the church, back onto Main Street. Under cover of
AND WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?
the failing gray light and incessant rain, the man left the town going north, back into the storm. When the people of Hayes woke the next morning, they truly believed they had woken in Heaven. Golden light filtered through windows and the sudden stillness of a world without rain was a deafeningly silent bliss. It didn’t take them long to realize that they were still in the moderately flooded town of Hayes and thus, likely, not Heaven. In the church they found only an empty altar and Jesus staring down from the cross at them, emotionless, drops of water forming on the tips of his wild hair and thorny crown. Together, they collectively agreed that the storm surely must have been the work of the Devil, bewitching them all into believing such foolhardy nonsense that it was the end of days. After all, it was only a storm. And the storm had passed. And the man who rode the storm into Hayes on a silver skiff and promises of absolution had disappeared with it.
California State University, Long Beach
I feel grown for the plastic mold I called home for years My tongue sits waiting for an invitation That was never mailed And the poison you have watered Down my throat In place of chai nabat Has begun to rot the roots Slowly pushed to madness As the meaningless excuses echo And try to explain The pain you caused But how many times must you bruise my heart? As if I am unworthy of bearing your flag Claiming my successes but never Taking me in And I still wander In between American and Iranian But I am never enough For one or the other So I will keep wandering And swallowing a painful Desire just to belong When will I learn? That stars can’t fit into cubes
WRHC AWARD WINNER
California State University, Long Beach after the television series Ratched Raspberry lips conjure driftwood out of trench coat lay supple the psyche, or oral the hatchet. The epigenetics of ‘blessed be’ you don’t see your fatal seed until the knife buries you in the back. There’s a platform for miles, in all directions. The horizon swallows you then. The world is flat like that, lusting for your ‘manifest destiny.’ Shocker, leeches nor masturbation have been FDA approved yet. Most things involve opportunity costs like falling for the straight girl or peeling an onion. There’s a chance this all goes wrong. You were supposed to marry the person you waited with in the elevator. You’ve been forgetting to walk your dog for ten years. Now he’s dead and you’re a hypochondriac. You choke when it’s finally time to say your vows. Someone shits on the Gold Line. But hey. At least the train’s still moving.
TO BE ALIVE
Oregon State University inspired by Gregory Orr
awaken, inhale learn to tread lightly across singing sand—become ocean air to animate this carcass is to thread lungs with fragments of our universe to allow heartstrings to freely operate—running temple to fingertips dive daily into spark of dawn, float tenderly toward setting sun
WHEN THE SOON COMES RUNNING
University of Utah
y mother falls asleep on an air mattress in my sister’s kitchen. I see her sad and sweet body soften into her aloneness. I think sleep is an aloneness you can’t fake. My sister is wound and relaxed in a way so particular to her, like her loose bones are still holding on to so much ready. My father is breathing hard and mad on my sister’s couch, like he’s angry about how hot it is even in his sleep. I read in the dim heat of a small room. The next morning we eat breakfast together. There’s something about eating cereal that makes us all look like children. My mom and sister talk about when we’ll all meet up for dinner or maybe how we’ll just meet my sister at her work and how actually it might be smarter to play it by ear. And I watch my dad listen while he eats his cereal and while some of his milk spills from the side of his spoon back into the bowl it’s hovered over. I had woken up later than everyone else so I am still soaked in sleep, my dreams dripping from my eyes, but I like how many dried strawberries I got in my bowl without even trying. I think about how lucky that is, how that never happens. I say that. My mom gathers up enough kindness to care a little bit about how many dried strawberries I got in my cereal because she loves me and also because I’m her youngest daughter and I think maybe because when I say things as small as that, it makes her feel a little less like I’m all grown up. And even though she knows I’m all grown up and even though she knows it’s good that I am, I can imagine it still feels nice to think about your youngest daughter as the child you’ve
known for all this time instead of as the barely woman you are just beginning to meet. And maybe also because it even reassures her I’ll still call her after they drop me off at school again, because as long as I notice how many dried strawberries I got in my cereal, I’ll probably also want to tell her about them. I sort of laugh in a real little way because I know she’s loving me when she’s saying, earnestly, that she’s glad I’m lucky today. I want to clarify that her loving me isn’t in her kindness but in the gathering of her kindness. That’s the part I liked. That’s the part that made me laugh in the little way I did, that I could see her choosing it. It’s strange to feel so much like her child again, after so much standing on my own. It’s strange to want to feel like her baby, it’s strange not to. It’s strange to want something at the same time I want the opposite of it. I have to fold my wanting like that, I have to crease it right in the middle to get the opposing sides to touch. And that pleat in my middle is soft with wear and it’s getting softer with every time my want opens out into space and with every time my want closes in on itself again. Days later, it’s time for my parents and I to leave my sister’s kitchen, along with the rest of her house, along with her. She’s happy we stopped to stay with her on our way and hopes I have a good time back at school and I’m happy we did too and I’ll do my best at having a good time back at school. She looks at me with the green eyes I used to want and I look at her with the brown eyes I have and I think about how my sister lives, married, in a small cottage with chickens she takes care of and how I can still remember her burning her forearm with a curling iron before her high school homecoming. I remember how she got her nails painted silver for that dance to match her silver dress and how my mom made fun of her about that to me while we waited outside the salon. I think about how easily my sister has changed and how easily she’s stayed the same and wonder if it really felt all that easy to her and if it did, why does it feel so hard to me? Why does it feel so thick with not knowing? And so
thin with uncertainty? I see her life and think, yes, that is so clearly hers, so surely what it was always supposed to be. My brother’s is that way too even though it isn’t. Even though I think his life feels a little like when the bottom of the bag you’re carrying rips open and everything that you were carrying in the bag slips out and lands at your feet. Even though he is almost always falling out of and into his own life. Or maybe it’s his life that’s falling into and out of him, or maybe they’re falling into and out of each other and that’s why calling him feels like a question a lot of the time. Even that is clearly his own, so completely couldn’t have been any other way. My dad drives most of the way, no, actually, the whole way. The three of us, my dad, my mom, and me, spend most of the time in the car looking and seeing, going between the two. I look for a while, and then, when I get tired of looking, I start seeing and that goes on and on. I forget that we’re actually going somewhere because it mostly feels like we’re just going, maybe because I’ve been waiting to be going for so long. I forget that the somewhere we’re going is for me, maybe because I’ve actually been waiting to be gone instead of waiting to be there. My mom is forgetting about the place ahead of us too, mostly thinking about the space between us. Throughout the ten-hour car ride we tell each other over and over again how beautiful this drive is. And we actually mean it, we mean it every time we say it. And we mean it with our whole chests, with our whole voices, with everything we have living inside of us. And I just think that’s a lot rarer than I ever hear people talking about. I just think really meaning it is all there actually is. It’s the only thing that doesn’t feel like it’s evaporating while it’s happening. What we drive through is the kind of beautiful that you can feel in your toes, that burrows itself into your center, that forces awe out through your eyes. We realized my dad missed an exit and decide to keep driving an extra three hours instead of turning around to retrieve the accidental forty minutes. Later, every time one of us says
SHE’S GLAD I’M LUCKY TODAY.
something about how long this car ride is getting to feel, another one of us reminds everyone of that decision and we laugh at ourselves. We laugh because we all still secretly know we made the right choice and we laugh because it still really seems like that shouldn’t have been the right choice at all. But it was. And isn’t that special? That’s why we laugh, it’s pride. We’re proud that in the face of that moment we chose ridiculously. And we chose right. When we get to where we’ve been going, we’re relieved and afraid of what it means to be there. This is the part where they leave me and where we feel in our sad and sweet hearts that this is ridiculous and also that this is right. When we say goodbye, my mom spills over with missing me before they’re gone. I see her eyes brimming and her cheeks wet and my heart buckles under her loss. But it also inflates with my anticipated aloneness. My want is unfolding now, yawning and reaching, it presses up against the walls of my heart and fills it out. My dad doesn’t spill. My dad dances. In the parking lot, the car pushes music out of its chest, all of its doors opened, my dad stands dancing his goodbye. He wants this moment happy, and that’s how he loves me. We hug hard and tight, which is the way you’re supposed to hug when you say goodbye. You’re supposed to hug this way because it makes the moment heavier. If you hug too softly, too loosely, your memory might be too light, light enough to get picked up and rushed away by air that’s running by. Our hug swells with our breath. He is ready for them to go but not ready to be gone and I’m ready for them to be gone but not ready for them to go. They go. I had been stupidly craving my aloneness but now I think about how I haven’t been alone in a while and I almost worry I won’t be good at it anymore. I almost worry, but I don’t. I don’t worry, but I do almost. Almost is a feeling too. Like putting the side of your head as close to a wall as possible without touching it. That’s one way to feel almost. Some almosts are heat, like when I bring my hands as close to each other without touching and I can feel
the warm building between them. Almosts that are heat are almosts among the living. So anyway, I feel the buzz of almost as I get closer to worry, still not touching it. And then, before I get a chance to reach out and into the worry, it thins, spreads itself so flimsy that it floats up, up, up. I watch it from the ground, from my own two feet, from my own two knees, from my own two hips and from my own two elbows and my own two hands, and I notice that I seem to be made of couples, and suddenly I feel a bit like Noah’s ark and a bit like I have, in me, everything beautiful enough to be saved and saved in pairs, for that matter, to ensure the making of even more. The single balloon of my worry is still in sight, and I stare in salute as it shrinks into the up. The space between me and my mom and the space between me and my dad breathes in, expands, lengthens. I wonder if that’s how my mom feels while they drive away, like she’ll be holding her breath, waiting for the space between us to exhale, to shrink, to shorten again. I’m on my own again and it’s still August but my hair is shorter and what is it about riding a train in the summer? When the doors open, the warm sky pours in, with light so big it embarrasses the artificial bulbs. When the doors close, the warm air is scattered so wide it becomes cool. I’m leaning against the train’s inside and I can feel the seat’s cloth on the skin of my bare legs. Light runs through the mostly empty car, light made slightly blue by the window tints. I write to myself, “What is it about riding a train in the summer?” And then I write, “Am I a grown woman?” I answer it by how it feels in my body to ask it. Stepping, alone, out of the train, stepping into the middle of the day, I can feel the day in my middle too. I hear brief static quiet through my headphones and it is perfectly aligned with the perfect silence, the perfect stillness of the sun. The whole world is held, the whole world is holding. I can feel my life opening inside of me, I can feel it unfolding in my stomach as I walk. My body envelops my life, keeps it warm. My body, this hunk of world that I am, is the
ALMOST IS A FEELING TOO.
only thing I carry. The next song starts and everything tumbles. The sidewalk meets my feet, rolls under me, matches the speed of my steps. This beautiful tumbling. Walking outside to class, the sun presses into the left side of my face. My face presses back. There’s pressure here. The sun shines off my skin, off my fingernails. It shines in my hair, equally bouncing off and sinking in. Saturating my scalp with heat, plain bright heat. I think about laying down on the grass I’m passing. I think about letting the sun press my whole body deep into the earth. But I don’t. I can feel the singing almost of letting myself fall as I keep walking, as I keep not falling, as I keep pushing the sun farther away into space with the top of my head, knowing that I will give in soon but that that soon isn’t now. Later, when that soon comes running and I catch it in my arms, holding it and sinking to the ground with its weight, I can feel how much I mean it. How much I really mean laying there. I think about how lucky I am to know how to mean it. I think about how the clouds never cover the sun, they cover us. And when they part, when our earth opens up to let the sun in, I also open to it, I peel off my clothes and I open my heart to the golden heat. I let it warm the soil of me and I mean it.
“BUT I AM” Jenna Rhodes
Utah State University
original poem, letterpress, 8" × 4"
THE NEXT SIX MONTHS
California State University, Long Beach after Rachel Zucker
places to be than home worse than fully fed [pedal harder] because mom makes three square meals [creak in right knee] a pavlovian response to approaching steps [wipe] & someone shits next door [gear six] [thank god] the door is closed [press] can they still hear it through mute? BE QUIET! dad’s started walking Mooka door to door inside the sky is orange & Governor Gavin Newsom signs the bill [knees hot] I wonder if it’s politically expedient to sign off [pedal harder] so folks can extinguish at their full worth [ inhale | exhale ] dinner time fueled by news like twenty years of karma in a shot glass [shake out my hands] from a past life [screenshot] unhealthy for some sensitive groups [the sun sets] a good test to check — if your tongue [gear five] blisters to the echo of your cry for help — bouncing back [press pause] doesn’t sound anymore like you know what you’re doing [FOCUS!] there’s a man who survived darkness playing golf by himself until he was saved [sip] Cether to League of Legends & his friends, how did I miss him? [sit] Mooka curls to sleep [windows shut] with Mercy & cries [press play] when Mercy leaves with mom to the supermarket [pedal harder] we can’t see their smiles [gear six] it’s only uphill if you imagine it is [unclench] Wonuola’s two-hour calls & Maryana’s texts [press harder] fall & another season of friends [wipe | stupid | selfish] I wanted my first kiss before all of this [ache] still freshly tatted nose pierced [knees hot] like my insides out [slower] everyone knows themselves better [pause] alone I think [send] I’m a giver not a taker [faster] still falling asleep on the job & myself [knees hot] Mrs. Gray teaching me to U-turn in her truck & which way the parakeets fly home [save the USPS!] send my friends collages, poems, & earrings live weddings live baby showers live funerals [stop] [FASTER!] so we make it through.
saddle myself on the stationary bike [press play] there are worse
Amaris Ketcham & Leslie Donovan, Faculty Advisors
ome four hundred years ago, during a different plague, Shakespeare penned King Lear. We’ve heard this story countless times this past year. While it’s fun to imagine the playwright genius under lockdown, perhaps worried about his stash of lye and reserve of toilet paper, it’s also a good reminder to continue creating through a problem. The work you see in this edition of Scribendi shows just how active undergraduates have been in the last year, processing experience through words and mark-making, symbolism and line, meter and shutter speed. From the dangers of befriending strangers online, frustration with climate change, to memorials along the highway, many of the works here touch on our current situation, trying to make a life during the pandemic and amid social upheaval. Of course, we haven’t all been writing or painting our masterpieces, as there has been an unprecedented amount of change and loss for many creators. Like our contributors, the Scribendi staff has dealt with immense personal griefs and losses of heroes with the nation and the world. In the smaller sphere of what we do for Scribendi, some of our biggest changes have revolved around remote education and teamwork, finding solutions for replicating some of our process and our communication, and having one faculty advisor in the fall and a different one in the spring. (Professor Ketcham took sabbatical this spring, lending the shepherding Scribendi temporarily to Professor Donovan, who served in the role in 1997-2012.) Because we conducted our class and staff meetings primarily by Zoom, that nearly ubiquitous technology which so many of us now equally despise and appreciate, every task took longer than in past years and was more draining to our backs, eyesight, and especially psyches. Even a relatively simple action such as choosing among paper samples was immensely more complicated and less certain in a time when campus buildings were locked, computer monitors differed, and sensory information from touch was prevented. Nevertheless, perhaps the most challenging aspect of our process did not change at all this year—the challenge of choosing which among the many student voices we loved and admired would be represented in this year’s magazine. Finding at least consensus, let alone widespread agreement, on which collection of student works offered the most power to impact Scribendi’s highly discerning audience of honors students, faculty, staff, family, and friends is not nearly as easy as many would expect. Some works did not find the same home in these pages that they did in individual staff members’ hearts, as the dedication in our front matter indicates. The staff consistently and willingly pitched in to help each other realize the potential and promise of this magazine. We faculty advisors only wish all our projects could be graced with as many committed advocates. Nevertheless, they couldn’t have done it as well without the leadership of the two student editors, Megan Kornreich and Zoe Perls. Megan and Zoe brought enthusiasm and elbow grease to each new problem, from making training videos to scaling and shaping graphic design elements. Working seamlessly as a team, they modeled how to merge professional quality with sheer joy in creativity. This has been a hard, hard year for Scribendi, for honors students across the country, for all of us globally. And we are all utterly exhausted and spent. We can’t pretend otherwise. Mostly, our Scribendi family wants nothing more than to be together in person with you, our readers, to share and celebrate all that went into this magazine—what we have suffered and lived through as well as what we have learned and will never take for granted again. We Scribendi faculty advisors take heart and hope from hints sprinkled throughout the pages of this magazine that when we finally come together in the future, we will have sharpened our attention to the world around us, to new visions of public mental and physical health, social transformation, and racial and economic justice that have been accomplished by collaboration and supported by creative expression.
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS John Adair, Lane Community College
John is a photographer, student, and a visual storyteller. He has worked as a social media manager, photojournalist, and event photographer. His goals as a photographer are to have published works in the form of photobooks and to change the world through his photos. Staff Choice Award Candy-Wrapped 32
Alicia Alexander, United States Air Force Academy
Alicia is from Saint Louis, Missouri. She is a first-generation college student who took an oath to serve her country in the United States Air Force at nineteen. She enjoys all forms of artistic expression and is applying to medical school for the fall of 2021. Communion 01
Salome Aydlett, Westminster College
Salome is a native Montanan and outdoor enthusiast. In her free time, she enjoys skiing, running, cycling, backpacking, and eating a lot of vegan food. She hasn’t tried to steal any pigs yet, but it’s definitely on her bucket list. How to Ethically Steal a Pig 41
Morgan Azevedo, University of California, Santa Barbara
Morgan is a fourth-year communication major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In her free time, she enjoys biking, traveling, and dreaming about moving to Spain. an ode to mental stasis 15
Dylan Francisco DeCastro, California State University, Northridge
Dylan is a second-year college student who attends California State University, Northridge. She is currently an art major diving specifically into illustration, and often uses traditional methods of drawing in order to create her pieces. Passionate about creating art for others around her and herself, Dylan plans to pursue tattoo artistry for her future career. What is Freedom? 81
Jireh Deng, California State University, Long Beach
Jireh is the assistant opinions editor at Long Beach State’s student newspaper and is working on her first screenplay with GetLit’s Poetic Screenwriters Lab. Her poetry has appeared in the Poetry Foundation’s podcast “VS” and YouthSpeak’s upcoming “Unified Anthology.” You can follow her work on Instagram and Twitter @jireh_deng. Wretched 94 the next six months 101
Felix Dong, University of California, Santa Barbara
Felix Dong is a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studying communication and Asian-American studies. He enjoys painting, thrifting, photography, and walks on the beach. Run 09
Katrina Dutt, University of New Mexico
Katrina enjoys photographing things that are not immediately obvious to the casual viewer. She tries to capture the hidden beauty of objects in nature and focus in on the details; she looks at something, maybe finds the lighting compelling, and snaps a few pictures. Unwind 69
Greta Gannon, University of New Mexico
Greta is currently a junior studying visual arts and biology at the University of New Mexico. She has previously attended Howard W. Blake School for the Arts and the University of Oregon. When she is not creating, she enjoys traveling and being out in nature. Mountain Terrace 60 Anthony 65
Ashley Geraets, Colorado State University
Ashley is a vegan powerlifter who has a passion for intersectional environmentalism and visual art. She’s majoring in environmental engineering and minoring in Japanese, and strives to use both engineering and art to address the issue of climate change. Aqua Vitae 72
Sogol Gharaei, California State University, Long Beach
Sogol is a first-generation immigrant from Iran. She wrote this small collection because the world is full of other voices that are never heard. She wrote to contribute to a writing community that gave her so much as a young reader. WRHC Award Winner Diaspora 93
Luke Griffin, Western Washington University
Luke is currently in the final year of his undergraduate degree at Western Washington University studying English, French and international studies. He has also spent time at the University of Essex in England and the Université de Lille in France. The Seventh Day of Rain 89
William Hindmarch, Metropolitan State University of Denver
William is an artist and a dancer. He was disabled for five years. He puts the cry in cryptid. The Man from Buton 70
Sarah James, University of Portland
Sarah is a Las Vegas native who defected to Portland for the cooler weather and coffee shops. She can be found dancing in her kitchen, reading on a bench, and discussing feminism everywhere. Sarah speaks French at times if you ask her, but can’t promise it’ll be correct. If you want me to fall in love with you, make me oatmeal 49
Anna Kenyon, Colorado State University
Anna is a Colorado native who loves to do art for fun outside of school and work. She works with watercolor and oil pastels. Shadowed Cacti 61
Kevin Kim, University of California, Riverside
Kevin is an anthropology major at University of California, Riverside. He always thought he was bad at school but realized he was just studying the wrong thing. I’m thinking I should buy flowers 26
Blaise Koller, University of New Mexico
Blaise is an artist born in Seattle and raised in New Mexico. She works in many mediums, from drawing to pottery to digital media to textile dyeing and sculptural work. Her work attempts to question the divide between human and nature but also uses many materials foraged and scavenged from the landscape. Prickly Phantasm 19 Le Secret des Étoiles 52
Vanessa Krajeck, University of New Mexico
Vanessa was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and attended La Cueva High School. She attends the University of New Mexico where she is majoring in biochemistry and minoring in art studio with hopes of one day going to medical school. The Bizarre 33
Katrina Lantz, Brigham Young University
Katrina studies neuroscience at BYU. She is a curriculum developer at Ensign Peak Academy. Her published books include middle grade fiction: Drats, Foiled Again, Bombs Away, and The Healing Bucket. Staff Choice Award The Part I Can See 73
Christina Lee, University of California, Davis
Christina is an English major at the University of California, Davis. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the cello, making lists, and collecting stationery. The Balancing Act 84
Marie Adele “M’Adele” Little, University of New Mexico
M’Adele is a junior studying architecture at the University of New Mexico’s School of Architecture and Planning. M’Adele is involved in the American Institute of Architecture Students, Phi Eta Sigma National Honors Society, LoboTHON, and Chi Omega fraternity along with the Honors College. WRHC Award Winner El Malpais: A Diné Collection of Pomes 36
Maria Magana, University of Washington Tacoma
Maria hopes to share her words with the world. Quarantine has given her more time to write and explore her creativity. Un día pronto llegaré 82
Alli Mancz, Ohio University
Alli is a senior in the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University, currently double majoring in English and environmental Studies. Though born and raised in the Dayton area, she now calls Athens home and hopes to pursue her passions of environmental advocacy and creative writing after graduation. Seams of Gold 02
Fiona Martinez, Western Washington University
Fiona is a first-year student hoping to study creative writing at wwu. She enjoys writing poetry, especially out in nature. Earthly Gems 58
Mahal Miles, Oregon State University
Mahal is an Honors Associate and Ford Scholar at Oregon State University. She aspires to bridge the gap between social sciences and the humanities to facilitate holistic research efforts. Mahal is enamored by the work of Mary Oliver, Morgan Parker, Anis Mojgani, Ocean Vuong, Langston Hughes, and Jennifer Richter. To Be Alive 95
Griffin Mozdy, University of Utah
Griffin is an honors student pursuing his degree in operations and supply chain management through the Business Scholars program. He loves to ski, hike, game, write poetry, sing with his acapella group, and be with his friends. He hopes that a thousand words might paint a picture. Portmanteau to Take Along 66
Rylee Norman, University of New Mexico
Rylee is a freshmen at the University of New Mexico majoring in film and digital media. She loves photography, filming, and good coffee. The Friendly Campus Ghost 68
Lexi Orgill, Colorado State University
Lexi is a third-year student at Colorado State University. She is extremely passionate about wildlife conservation and the environment. She also loves to write poetry and memoirs about important moments in her life on the side. Pompeii 71
Abby Pace, University of Utah
Abby is an artist living in Salt Lake City. She thinks she’s all that but really doesn’t know much. Again! But this time with feeling! 17 When the Soon Comes Running 96
Alessandra C. Park, University of California, Riverside
Alessandra works as a part-time Page/Homework Helper at an LA County library and is a fulltime undergraduate honors student in creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. Born in Miami, Florida, she now lives in Covina, California with her family, fish, and a dog. Penguins and the Evil Eye 64
Samantha Park, University of California, Riverside
Samantha is currently a third-year student at the University of California, Riverside. She is double majoring in creative writing with a focus on poetry and comparative literature. After graduation, she hopes to find a job as an editor for a publishing company or literary magazine while continuing to write. Like You 38 LIVING IS NEVER EASY 59
Martina Preston, Northwest University
Martina is an ambitious student and author with a passion for the arts, whether that be writing, visual art, music, or mixed media. She aspires to be a polymath as well as a polyglot, and spends her sporadic free time making slow progress on both goals. “welcome home” 25
Jenna Rhodes, Utah State University
Jenna is a senior in the printmaking bfa program at usu and is particularly fond of risograph and relief printing. Outside of schoolwork, she enjoys singing and dancing, sewing, and petting cats. Editors Choice Award The Ballad of Me ‘n Jim 88 “But I am” 100
Emily Rice, Oregon State University
Emily is a second-year student at the Oregon State University Honors College. She is majoring in earth science with a climate science focus. Her goal is to pursue climate change research and work to educate the public about global warming. WRHC Award Winner Sincerely, a Climate Science Undergrad 20
Anna Rinaldi, California State University, Bakersfield
Anna is an undergraduate English major at csub. Her long-term goal is to teach English at the college level and support others in finding literature that speaks to them and inspires them to write their own stories. In her free time, she likes to read science fiction books and draw. Under the Microscope 67
Casey Ryder, University of Northern Colorado
Casey is a graphic design major with a minor in psychology. She grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and loves to travel when she can. When not in school she enjoys cooking, doodling, playing and listening to music, and playing D&D. Left Behind 80
Ryan Schmidt, Colorado State University
Ryan is a third-year honors student at Colorado State University. He studies economics and works as a photojournalist for the Rocky Mountain Collegian. Bracing the Wind 28 Flight 29
Julia Seaton, Azusa Pacific University
Julia is a junior violin performance and honors humanities major at Azusa Pacific University. Born and raised in Washington State, she loves spending time in nature and with family and friends, as well as any animals that cross her path. Her already-begun dreams are to teach private violin, perform in chamber music, and travel. WRHC Award Winner The Eye of a Cover 62
Kahlo Smith, University of California, Santa Barbara
Kahlo is a third-year anthropology and religious studies major at ucsb. Her hobbies include baking, gardening, and nurturing existential horror. She has been writing since the age of three, and never intends to stop. Editors Choice Award Clay Boy 07
Marieke Sorge, Arizona State University
Marieke is senior at Barrett, The Honors College, double majoring in biological sciences and neuroscience and minoring in statistics. She plans to pursue a PhD in neuroscience after completing her undergraduate degrees. In addition to her obvious love of STEM, she is also an avid reader, creative writer, and tutor. Her favorite novel is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and she loves E.E. Cummings’ poetry. Blooming 30
Ethan Swanberg, University of New Mexico
Ethan is a second-year student at unm studying nursing science and art. Although he’s gunning for a bsn and further education in nursing, creating art remains an innate component of his life and personality. He enjoys caring for people, plants, science, and art, and hopes to someday find the medium between them all. Queer Nostalgia 40 WRHC Award Winner Harvested Selfhood 57
Daniil Tourashev, United States Air Force Academy
A Florida native, Daniil is a double major in foreign area studies and military strategic studies and a Russian minor. At the academy, he is in charge of Russian Wing Tutoring and co-runs the Russian Club. After graduation, Daniil plans on working in Intelligence and applying to be a Foreign Area Officer. Моя Зашита 34
Jeremiah Vandagrift, Lane Community College
Although Jeremiah is an engineering major, he has always greatly valued artistic expression. Amongst visual arts and photography, Jeremiah expresses this value through his other hobbies, such as violin, origami and ice skating. The Garden Bed 16
Saul Vazquez, California State University, Northridge
Saul is a student at California State University, Northridge and is currently in his second year. He is second from his nuclear and extended family to go to college. WRHC Award Winner Luz de la Luna 48
Madeika Vercella, University of Utah
Madeika is currently a third-year honors student pursuing an English degree. An avid learner of languages, she speaks French, English, and Haitian Creole. In her spare time, Madeika can be found reading, cooking, or practicing yoga. Warmth is a blanket of ignorance 39 Jemison did not go to the moon and back for you 56
STAFF BIOS Mariposa Childson
Mariposa is a political science and psychology double major in her third year at unm. She grew up mostly in Santa Fe and Pojoaque. Her favorite thing about Scribendi is going through the submissions and hearing all of the different opinions from the other staff members. A littleknown fact about her is that she lived in a semi-renovated school bus in the Colorado mountains for a year (yes, she did see bears).
Flannery is a third-ish year interdisciplinary arts student at unm whose studies focus on both graphic design and communication/psychology. Enjoyer of InDesign and font fanatic, Flannery most liked Scribendi’s rewarding publication process, design work, and colleague camaraderie. Chinese-born and American-raised, Flannery enjoys experimenting with and incorporating international graphic design trends into her work. Moreover, in any free time she hasn’t allocated to napping or working, she enjoys playing video games with friends, drawing, and anime/cartoon binge-watching.
Dickey is an English major and Chicana/Chicano studies minor in their fourth year (of five!) at unm. They are from New Mexico, as is their whole family. Scribendi is a wonderful place for them, as it indulges their love of art and literature as well as keeps them out of trouble. Unless you count accumulating books and magazines as “trouble,” in which case there may be a slight problem.
Leslie Donovan Faculty Advisor
Leslie was Scribendi’s faculty advisor in 1997-2012 and is reprising that role while Professor Ketcham is taking sabbatical leave in Spring 2021. After starting her career as a poet and spending way too much of her life considering kerning, leading, and the x-height of fonts, she now also teaches courses on ancient epics, creativity, the future, and New Mexico’s unique place in the world.
Paul Douglas Irwin
Paul is a senior at unm. His major is in English, with minors in the Honors College, film and digital media arts, and in technical writing. He is from the North Bay of California. He enjoys the challenges and process of magazine design and production in Scribendi. He is a master tie-dye artist, organic farmer, and has recently fallen in love with the throat-singing of the Mongolian folk-metal band, The Hu.
Shelly is a senior at unm, studying English. While originally born in Georgia (the state, not the country), she has lived in Albuquerque for over 20 years, so at this point it’s home. She came to Scribendi to learn and stayed for the arts. One of her biggest bragging rights is that she has a D&D group that meets weekly and was able to finish a whole campaign playing one character the whole way through.
Amaris Ketcham Faculty Advisor
Amaris is an honorary Kentucky Colonel who occupies her time with open space, white space, CMYK, flash nonfiction, long trails, f-stops, line breaks, and several Adobe programs running simultaneously. Her books include A Poetic Inventory of the Sandia Mountains, Glitches in the FBI, and Best Tent Camping: New Mexico.
Megan Kornreich Editor in Chief
Megan is a graduating senior and egg extraordinaire. Her philosophies are taken from a high-class magazine and goin’ to the movies. In the book of life, she just wants to be in the acknowledgements.
J is a third-year student studying fine arts at the University of New Mexico. Hailing from the dense forests of Connecticut, they once ignorantly grabbed a prickly pear cactus with their bare hands, which were immediately filled with painful spines. Their favorite part of Scribendi is getting to experience a variety of student-submitted art and literature from across the country. They now keep a pair of thick gloves in their backpack, just in case.
Sierra is an English and women/gender studies double major in her third year at unm. She was born and raised in Albuquerque, but most of her family is originally from Taos. She loves Scribendi and the entire publication process. Someday she would even like to pursue magazine publishing as a career. She only wishes she could sell her soul to see Selena perform live at the Astrodome in 1995.
Sam is a studio arts major in their final undergraduate semester at unm. They are from Albuquerque, as is most of their family. Their favorite things about Scribendi are learning as much as possible about publishing, and experiencing all of the unique art and literature. If that sounds nerdy, let it be known that one of their favorite hobbies is playing tabletop RPGs, and their current D&D character is a fire-loving Tabaxi elemental monk.
Zoe Perls Managing Editor
Zoe is a junior at unm studying English and political science. She believes every day is an opportunity to find a fairy ring. Her goal in life is for a man named Tony to describe her as “pissed off, funny, and warm.”
Sehaj is majoring in computer science and minoring in gaming. He was born and raised in India and later moved to America. He loves the sense of community and friendship among the Scribendi staff members.
Stefanie Stearns Office Manager
Originally from San Diego, California, Stefanie is a junior in her program as an English major with a double minor in journalism & mass communication and interdisciplinary studies through the Honors College. After graduation, she plans to have a career in the publishing industry. Her favorite quote this semester is “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now” from Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda.
Victoria is a second-year student studying architecture at the University of New Mexico. She was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but has been all over New Mexico camping and spending time with her grandparents. She likes to spend time learning about historical fashion and sewing various things. Her favorite thing about Scribendi is all the software and design skills she is learning, and collaborating with her classmates.
Spenser is a second-year student at unm, where he studies English and theatre. He comes from all over New Mexico, having spent time in Farmington, Raton, Roswell, and now Albuquerque. He loves everything about Scribendi, but particularly the sense of community cultivated among the staff. In his spare time, he enjoys watching stupid movies and teaching his one-year-old niece his favorite curse words.
unm Honors College Faculty unm Honors Alumni Chapter unm Honors College Staff
National Collegiate Honors Council (nchc) Western Regional Honors Council (wrhc) wrhc Art Judges Megan Jacobs, unm Raychael Stine, unm Noah McLaurine, unm wrhc Literature Judges Creative Nonfiction—Maria Jerinic-Pravica, unlv Short Fiction—Heather Lusty, unlv Poetry—Nora Hickey, Aims Community College
Foreign Language Copyeditors Kaela Holmen Tanya Ivanova-Sullivan Irina Vasilyeva Meier Kelly Dunn Our Fellow Campus Publications Limina Conceptions Southwest The Daily Lobo Financial Supporters The John and Eunice Davidson Fund Jackie Schlegel Endowment Fund Harper Baird Audrey Burk Danielle Gilliam, teambuilding workshop leader Diane Marshall, Interim Dean of the Honors College Rebecca Maher, Starline Printing Company Representative Amaris Ketcham, Scribendi Faculty Advisor Leslie Donovan, Scribendi Faculty Advisor Stefanie Stearns, Scribendi Office Manager
TILL WE MEET AGAIN
THOSE WHICH MUST BE WRITTEN