THE WELLESLEY REVIEW Issue 23 | Fall 2019
The Wellesley Review Poetry | Art | Prose
Cheryn Shin ‘20 Sanjana Thakur ‘20
Anastasia Kondrashin ‘23 Jackie Xuan ‘20
Esther Fan ‘22 Brynne Ruark ‘23
Tiffany Chu ‘22 Audrey Lin ‘22
Yoon Lim ‘23 Sara Lucas ‘22
Madeline Hudalla ‘21 Eve Montie ‘20
Alexandra Ewing DS ‘22 Alyssa Robins ‘22
Kelsey Dunn ‘21 Mari Kramer ‘23
Kiki Chen ‘23 Sherley Maximin ‘22
Maya Mubayi ‘20
Editorial Boards Poetry
Christine Arumainayagam ‘20 Claire Cheek ‘21 Maya Collins ‘22 Mila Cuda ‘22 Brooke Dodrill ‘23 Taylor Doke ‘22 Ada Eke ‘23 Jacqueline Galison ‘23 Gabriella Garcia ‘22 Rose Griesgraber ‘22 Kate Habich ‘22 Nicole Hsuan ‘23 Julie Hwang ‘23 Anya Keomurjian ‘20 Hazel Kevlihan ‘23 Jessi Kim ‘23 Mari Kramer ‘23 Angelina Li ‘23 Angel Liu ‘23 Katherine Paik ‘20 Bethany Pasko ‘23 Laila Pearson ‘22 Ella Rockart ‘23 Alyssa Robins ‘22 Sanjana Thakur ‘20 Kaitlyn Wang ‘23 Angela Zhao ‘21 Jennifer Zhu ‘22 Mulan ‘23
Gabriela Awad ‘23 Roxie Miles ‘23 Elaine Sun ‘23 Mulan ‘23 Faith Carbajal ‘23 Laura Chin ‘23 Andrea Chua ‘23 Maya Collins ‘22 Mila Cuda ‘22 Brooke Dodrill ‘23 Zaria George ‘22 Nicole Hsuan ‘23 Anya Keomurjian ‘20 Hazel Kevlihan ‘23 Mari Kramer ‘23 Angelina Li ‘23 Juliette Mattair ‘23 Dominique Mickiewicz ‘22 Ella Rockart ‘23 Cheryn Shin ‘20 Sanjana Thakur ‘20 Lily Wancewicz ‘23 Poor Renditions of Seagulls Do Them Justice Maya Collins ‘22
Table of Contents 01 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 18 19 20 21
Stained Glass Laura Chin ’23 The Summer House Maya Collins ’22 Elizabeth Caren Zhao ’23 Summer (iii) Sophie Barowsky ’21 Wild Idyll Hadley Banas ’22 alone in beijing Artemesia Luk ’21 Instructions for the Leeward Side Alyssa Robins ‘22 Old Lahore Nuzaina Khan ’23 Screens Cheynne Curley ’22 Cicadas Taylor Doke ’22 Riposa in Pace Sara Lucas ’22 The Scream Cheyenne Curley ’22 Sit Spotting Anya Sheldon ’20 Alexander tries on a corset Alyssa Robins ‘22 Octopus (i drowned in chinese seas) Cheryl Wang ‘23 Juliet Patty Benitez-Lomi ‘23 Kiwi Lamees Rahman ’23 Pantheon of Bureaucracy Hazel Kevlihan ‘23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41
Twin Rose Griesgraber ‘22 Tropical Lamees Rahman ’23 commuter Caren Zhao ‘23 Hokkaido, I know and I want Grace Chang ‘23 china has stolen the best years of my youth Cheryl Wang ‘23 I Miss the Mountains Jaime Tracewell ‘23 Too Late Zeph Roussak ‘23 Nine Suns Lie at the Bottom of the Sea Kaitlyn Wang ‘23 Interfaith Longing Dani Pergola ‘21 On Calling My Girlfriend Daddy Mila Cuda ‘22 Untitled Hadley Banas ‘22 Prescriptions Esther Fan ‘22 I’m On My Period and You Pick Your Cuticles Claire Cheek ‘21 Social Anxieties Artemesia Luk ‘21 Farmhouse Ella Rockart ‘23 Mashed Potatoes over Appledore Island Maya Collins ‘22 Slow Dance Laura Chin ‘23 Snow Crabs Deavihan Scott ‘22 Nara Kazu Shimada ‘23
Stained Glass Her frustration mounts, breaking like a wave over her head before scattering and swirling her thoughts like bits of drifting wood and glass. A furtive glance out her bedroom window is enough to see that the sun has just begun to peek through the branches of the old apple tree. She curses, rages, wails, but nothing can stop the steady slip of time like sand through a clenched fist. Turning back to the assignment glowing faintly on her laptop, she scans the words that scrawl across the screen and struggles to make sense of them. What had seemed profound only moments ago is now quite clearly the product of a mind drunk on the dregs of midnight, yet still the nonsense is better than nothing. She closes her eyes, pressing the heels of her palms against her eyelids as she struggles to clear her head before the next wave of anxiety hits. Snatches of poetry and prose stick to her thoughts like drops of honey, these words of Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman inevitably and irreversibly tainting each fledgling impression she forms of their work. The rumble in her ears swells to a roar, drowning out her screams, her silence, the glow of the laptop and the lines of her bedroom walls until she finds herself just beneath the surface, surrounded by nothing but liquid stillness. In the world behind her eyelids, she sees herself breaking through, closing her laptop and pulling the charger from the wall, grabbing her keys and a pair of socks, then stepping out onto the porch without a glance backwards. She feels the morning air seep into her skin as she stands quiet, still, before the stretch of asphalt that separates her house from its reflections across the street. She breathes in the scent of roses and dew and exhales a sigh of wonder, and before she even realizes it, she has begun to run. She hears her steps, cold and rhythmless against the street, but soon they soften against the sidewalk and finally a dirt trail. Suburbia fades to a memory made distant by the clouds of dust in her wake, and presently she reaches the edge of a wooded pond.
Here she pauses, listening to the birds as they sing, though she is surprised to hear that the mist rolling off the water dampens their song almost as much as her bedroom window. The billowing whiteness creep in from the edges, sweeping through the tree trunks like soundwaves piercing a hazy dream, and only the rise of the sun above the canopy of gray-green leaves is strong enough to scatter them. Her feet pull her closer to the pond, some unknown force compelling her to stop just before she reaches the waterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge, to sit and study the rocks and dirt beneath the reflections in its surface. She stays there long after the sun has risen high in the sky and the last shreds of mist have fled before its golden light, yet still she finds no peace. Though mosquitoes alight upon her arms and legs, drawing scarlet drops of blood from beneath her skin and humming as they wander past her ears, not a single one stops to sing the song of the Iliad. Hard as she tries to listen and see and smell, no ghosts float between the trees or whisper wisdom from the blades of grass by her feet. And even when she takes a handful of sand and drops it, grain by grain, into the once-still surface of the water, no profound conclusion floats to her upon the gently rippling pond. Eventually the last grains of sand slip between her fingers, and so she rises and follows her feet as they lead her back down the dirt trail. The scent of roses crushed beneath manure greets her as the soles of her shoes strike concrete, then asphalt. Soon she passes before her own lawn, yet still she runs. Her feet carry her past row after row of identical, neatly trimmed grass squares bound by white picket fences, and she quickens her pace as their silence starts to overwhelm her. She runs past soulless trees and soundless flowers, past ringing factories and barren darkness. She runs and she runs and she runs, and suddenly she is not running at all but falling and falling, finally landing with a jolt into her chair at her desk.
She blinks, her open eyes suddenly adjusting to the brightness behind her palms, for though the sun is not yet high in the sky, it has managed to lift itself above the old apple tree to paint streaks of gold across the shades of morning gray that bathe her bedroom. She glances at her clock, then back at that glowing screen, and though she wishes she could write what they wanted her to write, her fingers falter before the keys. For how can she respond to the words of these madmen, these geniuses, these poets and dreamers and thinkers and doers and never-look-backward-ers? How can she come to some profound conclusion on nature and God when she has only ever lived in a world in which both have been tamedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;packaged neatly in plastic and delivered to her doorstep in the palatable forms of picket fences and green grass lawns, of mass produced hymnals and stained glass windows? Outside her bedroom walls, the sun colors the leaves of the apple tree in rusty orange light, returns them to green under the pass of a shadow. An intrepid squirrel scales the knotted trunk, pausing to take an unripe apple in her mouth before flying off into the branches of an adjourning yard. Butterflies and bumblebees dance through the overgrown flowerbeds, timing their movements to the chirps and trills of the birds perched overhead. And inside, a girl sits at her new wooden desk, utterly trapped inside her head, illuminated by the faintly glowing screen of her laptop. Nature sings to her through a thick pane of glass, and its song is utterly unintelligible.
The Summer House Maya Collins
Summer (iii) Let me hear the groan of the air conditioning unit down the block The promise of icy, artificial air against slick arms and legs Let me breathe in the perfume of summer Of asphalt and sunscreen Or feel that invigorating nausea That invades when veils of gray drop over pale blue skies Storm clouds inviting themselves to stay for a cold glass of lemonade Let me pour you a glass And let me be the condensation pooling on the sides Slipping down into the heat Or rather Let me become the heat Permeating space in omnipotence Let me feel myself rising, as steam from hot asphalt Sidewalks breathe differently in the summer Let me know you Or start to know you Let us sit down and breathe in the sweetness of the breeze, and notice the sweat on the backs of our necks and on our palms and let us just be here for now. 5
Wild Idyll You are just a child. Young enough that your mother still does your hair, pulling it back tight, the way you hate, but she loves you and you let her. You lean into the rhythms of your newfound oasis, one where late dusk envelops seaside communities in cellophane. During those in-between hours, those blurry, unaccounted-for hours, you sleep in the comfort of a weekend home, owing nothing to anyone. You take inventory for a later you hope never comes. A rusty tire swing. A glittering pool. Two sun-soaked boys with curly hair who would wrestle at the bottom of it. A lemonade stand. Highlighter yellow mix with rocket science ratios that must be adhered to. You scamper home under the gauzy glow of street lamps, crumpled ones and coins jingling wildly. This is before corruption, before you felt any differently about the dead presidents in your pockets than you did about the pastel stacks in a crinkled monopoly game. No one owns a watch yet, and you forget that summer has an expiration date.
alone in beijing Artemesia Luk
Instructions for the Leeward Side The unfamiliar sensations pressing against your ears demand you stop a moment. Do so. Listen, balanced there, for unfinished arrangements of sound: a voice, clear as a new lens, far away on the approaching hill, and the distant rush of wind on stone. Take the opportunity now, while the taste of ginger still pools along your tongue. This is the part the others will miss. Locate by touch: coarse grasses on foamy soil, the offering of a cleft foot by the trickle of water, the machine-grooved wood that must have left unfamiliar splinters in unfamiliar hands. Smell nothing but the sound of breath in your nose and sea. Your own diocese, bless the canonization of strong ankles, the effervescent green of moving west at evening, an old ewe and her lamb, cared for by no one but the silence.
Old Lahore Nuzaina Khan
Screens Cheyenne Curley
cw: mentions of death, dying
Cassie shouts and we both shoot towards the pond, feet thundering against the wooden dock. Her long legs clear the distance faster than mine, and she disappears under the water just before my feet break the surface; I slip under, and the world is quiet and cool against my skin. I am home. We come up for breath and hang from the edge of the old boards, still sturdy after countless years of weather and play. The sounds of summer drift through the thick air, and we let the frogs and cicadas speak for us. One hand tethering me to the dock, I press the fingers of my other against the wood, leaving a trail of dark, wet circles. Cassie watches the sky. I say, I think Nan is dying. My best friend’s dark eyes don’t move. The pond around us is completely still, a sense of calm falling over the water. Finally, she nods softly. Mama has been seeing her in the evenings after work, she says, and then she pauses. She’s learned her mother’s carefulness, a nurse’s daughter, attempting to balance both hope and truth. Nan still sends her with dinner for us, too. Past Cassie’s profile I track the sunset’s last fading streaks. She covers my hand with her own. II I sit at the kitchen table and drag my bare feet along the hardwood floor, nudging the edge of the soft cloth rug with my big toe. The room is small and bright, the windows open to the warm, late morning breeze. I rise, gathering the dishes from breakfast, and before I can reach the sink, Grandpa appears. Sue, he offers, let me help you with those. He runs the water warm, fills the sink. I wash while he rinses, setting them to dry on a hand towel across the counter.
A good working rhythm. He smiles at me and I bump my hip against his playfully. In his eyes I see parts of myself, twin loves and worries reflecting the other. The hallway never changes while I’m away. Every summer I return to find the same bookshelves, the same antique chest, the same family photographs. Next to the stairs hangs a picture from my toddler years. We’re on vacation and I’m in my grandmother’s arms, exhausted from the day, eyes closed and cheeks pink with sleep. From the corner of the shot, she beams at that small, faraway version of me, cradled safely against her chest. I drift quietly to the back porch. Nan sits on a long wicker couch, covered in a light blue throw. Her eyes are shut and I slide in carefully beside her. The scent of lilac washes over me as I lay my head on her shoulder. III Night amplifies nature’s songs. Over the loud chirps, I hear Cassie turn flips in the water. I press my back flat against the dock and look upwards, stretching my arms above my head. Everything is soaked in darkness, the stars suspended in the vast, velvety black. I stare until I’m forced to blink. Susanna? Cassie’s voice rings out soft and sweet, the voice that has been the soundtrack of my summers since I was a child. Nan. Grandpa. Cassie. My months of escape with them, long days spent suspended like the stars in this unchanging place. Are you coming in? In a bit, I say, and I stare and stare at the stars, straining until their placement is branded into my mind. Safe even if I look away. Cassie, satisfied with my response, splashes under once again, the water parting noisily around her. I close my eyes and breathe deeply, focus on my chest expanding, the feeling of my skin against the solid wood. The Earth is moving so fast, my thoughts whisper. We are all moving so fast, and I can’t feel a thing. 11
Riposa in Pace Today I killed an ant in a cemetery filled with fake flowers, sat on smooth stone and pulled out this notebook, trying to play poet. Tickle on my ankle he was there, and without thinking I pinched him between my thumb and left index, flung him aside. Sweat dripping down my neck and chest I watched him struggle against a backdrop of marble tombs.
The Scream Cheyenne Curley
Sit Spotting Anya Sheldon
Alexander tries on a corset and immediately knows it’s a bad idea. Too large, for one thing, slipping down and settling crooked against his possibly crooked hips. Too large, obviously, in the front, where the thick whaleboned satin is designed to fit snugly around a woman’s breasts, which he obviously does not have. Not sure why, but he assumed that the chest part would flatten out once he did up the hooks in front. Now it’s obvious that’s not going to happen, not even if Vikram were to cinch it in the back. The loose lacings hang down against the backs of his thighs, and his face and hands sting with humiliation. “No.” Vikram starts demanding entrance. “Are you ready? Can I come in?” “No,” Alexander says, loud. “No, it’s really bad. Don’t come in.” “What? Come on, let me in, I want to see.” Laughter in his too-loud voice and Alexander wants to tell him to shut up; stop treating the door like it’s a bad cell phone connection you have to shout through to be heard. Vikram starts to push the door open anyway, Alexander leans back against the door in panic, to keep it shut as he tries to get the corset off, pushing franticly at the tiny hookand-eye closures that evade his fingers. His numb, clumsy, stupid fingers. “What on earth is the matter?” Vikram presses the door three sharp times in succession. Alexander gouges the underside of his thumbnail on a hook as his torso smacks back against the thumping door.
This is what Alexander had imagined: that the corset would be grey with white piping. That it would fit him perfectly everywhere, like a tuxedo vest, but tight. That the lacing would be geometric and gorgeous and outline a deep arc in the small of his back. That Vikram would stand behind him and tighten the lacings slowly, tugging firmly but gently at each set of grommets until it was snug all over. That it would hold him. Hold him! God! Not imagined: this stupid slinky black satin thing that made him look like he was crossdressing as some kind of wannabe dominatrix. Not expected: to look like the kind of person his great aunt would call a harlot. And not even a real harlot—just a weird, scrawny man attempting to look like a harlot! How had this seemed so simple and ended up so terrible and perverted? Nothing’s the matter you idiot. The dressing room blurs wet-hot around him and he stumbles forward, trying to escape further into the tiny room, permitting his husband to fall in. “Oh no,” Vikram says, skipping serious and going straight to devastated. “Oh, sweetheart.” He reaches for Alexander’s face. Alexander turns away, trying to look purposeful and occupied with refolding his shirt while he ignores the fact that he can’t get the damn thing off and is inwardly crumpling. Vikram’s stupid voice… “There will be one that fits. They said they make bespoke ones!” Vikram says with false brightness. Of course he had been chatting with the goth girl
behind the counter, and now she must be a bit in love with him too. People seemed to do that without his trying. Moths to a porch light. Oh, you mean the five-thousand-dollar custom ones? The ones for brides ones? “Come here.” Vikram holds his hand out to Alexander and, the moment he turns, grabs the gaping front of the corset and pulls their chests together. Working efficiently, with six sharp tugs he frees the hooks from their eyes and slips the satin from around Alexander’s back. Alexander looks everywhere but his face. This is why he loves Vikram, he thinks, this wave of warmth that encircles him like an aura. “Whatever, Viks. It was just a stupid idea. I don’t even care.” He pulls the corset from Vikram’s hands, folds it into a warped rectangle. Drops it onto the dressing room’s granite bench, then pulls on his t-shirt and Patriots hoodie. He is the normal one of them, obviously. Not like Vikram with his cheap jokey Halloween makeup and his drag TV shows and his clubby friends and his God-knows-what-else. Vikram, who in his imagination rested his hands so gently against Alexander’s whalebone ribs. A technique Alexander learned long ago: a quick back-and-forth swipe with his third knuckle, so he might as easily be rubbing his nose. Then, imperceptibly, down to the seam of his jeans to wipe the water away.
(i drowned in chinese seas) i have eight legs and a puckered beak that talks too much and a body scarred;marred;starred from battles ill-fought. my grandmother used to cluck at my dark, tanned skin cooked in the heat of the california sun my hair thick and bushy from the turkish man who infiltrated my blood are you really chinese? she asked, pointing at the acne that dotted my skin like specks of red beans in a mung bean cake. ugly was the word she didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to say.
i chase after glossy black hair and pale white creams and wish my legs were longer to support my dreams my hollow dreams my broken cradle of a heart; i chase after impossible ideals of a small face and phoenix eyes that rise through the smoldering ashes to face the rising sun i chase after a society obsessed with white & white & white & white & white & white & white & white. when they harvested me from the fishing nets among the little girls that once chased after fireflies and fried ants with magnifying glasses on sunny days i looked at them and smiled into their concealers, their b.b. creams and c.c. creams; see, see that the knife is falling, falling falling into me and my eight legs struggle futilely. i am chopped into a million pieces and sold for scraps at the fish market octopus, bestial, beautiful creature octopus, wise, ancient, alien octopus, $3.99 for a leg with sesame sauce.
Pantheon of Bureaucracy The Fourth of July turns the American Embassy of Dar es Salaam into a pantheon of bureaucracy; it usually isn’t. On average, the embassy resembles a small shrine dedicated to bureaucracy – like the kind Emma Waterson keeps to her five exotic geese. In the off-season (the off-season of the diplomatic year is spring, when Congress conducts the budget review and invariably brings the government to a standstill debating esoteric notions), the embassy might even be a small bookshop down a dark alley which specializes in bureaucracy. It never sells many books. Ms. Waterson is certain of one thing: if bureaucracy had a color, it would be redwhiteandblue. She’s in charge of the tents for the Fourth of July. Well, in reality, she’s the Director of Facilities and Maintenance for the Embassy. But in this Arthurian hellscape where the knights face each other from four deeply lacquered tables and are primarily concerned with party planning, Ms. Waterson’s in charge of the tents. She’s seated at the exact center of the leftmost table in the ring, closest to the exit. Across from her is her arch nemesis, David from IT. He has that insidious look on his face he gets when he hasn’t contributed to a committee in twenty minutes. He’s about to say something very stupid just for the sake of saying anything at all. Mr. Price, the Director of HR and a new guy who had the unfortunate initiative to volunteer to lead this operation without realizing the scale of it, sits at the head of the table with Mrs. Ox beside him. Mr. Price’s teeth chatter and he grips an Onyx Consultancy pen – a remnant of his old job – rather like a security blanket1. He is wearing an unfortunately light shirt for the Embassy in Tanzania; the country may be hot, but the State Department simply refuses to emulate it. Ms. Waterson is convinced that every embassy she’s ever been in maintains the exact same 16 degrees centigrade (the temperature of diplomacy) and Mr. Price is sitting directly under the AC. To his right is Mrs. Ox, head of security here for two years and elsewhere for twenty. She has the look most people in her The largest party Mr. Price ever had to plan for Onyx Consultancies was the annual Christmas bash, of which the greatest strategical challenge was avoiding whichever brand of liquor David from AccountsI puked up last year. 1
Unrelated to the Embassy’s David from IT except, perhaps, in spirit.
department invariably get: tired of the marines’ bullshit. The drill sergeant of the marines, who does most of the leg work and creates most of the headaches for security personnel, is maintaining a calculated stillness on the other side of the ring of tables, her chair lowered a significant few inches below that of Mrs. Ox. They are approaching Ms. Waterson’s bullet on the itinerary. She feels surprisingly nervous as she prepares for her tent design – a variation of the blanket fort she built earlier this year when her, as of then, two geese were nesting – to be picked apart. She holds the A4 laminated page (she has found that laminated pages in Federal Offices have a certain plastic permanency) between her forefinger and thumb, perpendicular to the table in front of her like a rather pliable shield. Ms. Waterson holds her breath as Mrs. Ox, who has practically taken over running the meeting from a frayed Mr. Price, clears her throat. “And now, uh,” Mrs. Ox says, not bothering to layer her voice with forced enthusiasm as she glares at the marine across from her suspiciously, “we come to Emma Waterson’s proposed design for the tents.” Mrs. Ox shuffles through her immaculate papers, finding Ms. Waterson’s sheening plastic piece and holding it up to the light with an approving nod. David squirms in his seat. Emma cuts him off before he slides in with an inane comment which will start a rolling snowball of ineptitude and force her to delaminate her page. “As you can see, I’ve arranged all available tents in a method which I feel best fits the schedule,” says Ms. Waterson. “The only aspect of the actual setup which remains unclear is where the tents should be placed in relation to the parking lots.” She breathes an internal sigh of relief as David straightens. He’s in charge of parking and, while Emma has her own opinions on appropriate tent to car park placement, she left them deliberately vague in her inter-office memos so that David would have something low-stakes to latch onto. It worked. “Well, obviously, people shouldn’t be walking across the rougher areas of the embassy,” says David. He has a languidly authoritative way of speaking, which both gives the impression that he thoroughly believes in and has no idea what he’s saying. “For people wearing heels,” David adds, “that’s a tripping hazard.” “And, of course, we’ll want guests far away from the marine house and other secured areas,” says the marine drill sergeant, glancing across at Mrs. Ox for approval. Mrs. Ox grants her a nod, and the marine shifts into a seated parade rest.
“That only leaves the piece of grass out front,” says Mr. Price, Head of HR and Director of this meeting, inputting for the first time in twenty-two minutes. Ms. Waterson has a brief moment of ecstatic joy. She thinks she’s finally cracked the code to committee meetings. The green out front is the exact most sensible area to place her tents – the group just had to come to this conclusion on its own. Mr. Price drops his Onyx Consultancy pen on the floor beside him and clearly bites back a curse, bending sideways as if preparing to cartwheel2 off his chair, in order to pick it up. “Of course,” adds David, and Ms. Waterson is immediately filled with existential dread, “the tent doors need to be adjusted, you can only approach the grass from one side.” And, like King Arthur choosing Lancelot and spearing Guinevere through the heart3, Mrs. Ox agrees. “Ideally,” she says, “and the placement of electrical outputs would have to be taken into account.” Ms. Waterson can see that Mrs. Ox has been lining up that point for a while and slumps in her seat. Her beautiful designs, laminated or no, never stood a chance. “I’ll see right to it,” Ms. Waterson says tiredly. Mr. Price glances at the clock. “Right,” he says, clapping his hands together, relief scrawled on his face in semi-permanent ink, “that ends the third meeting of the Fourth of July pre-event planning committee. If any of you are involved in planning the actual Independence Day event, please head to the large conference room across from the canteen.” Ms. Waterson sighs, making gradual notes in sharpie on the margins of her page before straining to her feet. In reality, she is the Director of Facilities and Maintenance. For the Fourth of July pre-event, she’s in charge of the tents and, in the meeting which is about to consume her next eight hours, she is proposing a recipe for fish tacos. David has already sent her several inter-office memos regarding the appropriate quantity of mayonnaise. Mr. Price dreamed of joining the circus as a little boy, but work as an international HR consultant pays better, even if it is harder on the joints. 3 Ms. Waterson is not as familiar with the legends as she’d like to believe. 2
Oracles are more needed for the past—something that’s lost and will never be known to us again. In a way, the future is more certain—we will eventually know what happens. Who but the divine is to say what happened before us? Rose Griesgraber
Hello, I love you—Collecting tea tags, and piled things. I save my own from cups now, and fortunes from faux Chinese cookies, mixed together. Red roses represented on tags marking the past and present. A brew for years, steeped in memory. Childhood in a green and dusty house, lying on the beigey carpet—there were strands of gold in there— watching cartoons—a blessed era of television; nothing rivals it now (I decided). And fortunes— little messages supposed to predict a fantasy future. I once got one that read “you will soon take a trip to China.” And there was another one that used to tell fortunes— and still does. Mom would tell us of things that would come to pass, but didn’t—or haven’t yet. That’s a power of fortunes—future—it could always still happen. She collects for the past and future and present, whenever they may be. And so do I. Though I collect so that one day, I can leave them to her.
Tropical Lamees Rahman
Hokkaido, I know and I want I want to say that I have healed, when I push on the pedals of my blue bike; when I let the music guide me along the trail, with purple lavender unfurling westward; when I follow the faded wooden signs—slanted Japanese characters Toki no Ie—by the side of the lane. I want to say that I have learned the meaning of furusato, when I enter the bamboo shack drawn in by a scent of freshness and genki; when Oba-chan Nagi pours milk into the hometurned porcelain cup and puts a piece of nougat besides it; when I listen to the wind bell ringing on the front porch. In the same way, I want to say “matane,” but I know I have to say “sayonara,” when the fragrant cup is empty, when the evening arrives, when the lavender withers; I know that summer is ending, and I have to throw on a sweater, covering the cuts from the aggravating wind. The petals turn into traffic lights, the bike turns into the metro ticket, and the wind bells turn into car horns. I then must take the train back to Tokyo and lie on the couch again, but I know the things I want.
china has stolen the best years of my youth once, my skin was pastel white virgin from the sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pressing rays and every breath i inhaled came back in puffs of blackened smoke life was easier then when surviving itself seemed to be the accomplishment. every week we would board the midnight train to suzhou to see my tai tai, my tai ye-ye whose raspy breaths on their deathbeds were the last remnants of a century of cigarettes. when they died i accidentally sat on their ghosts at the dining table. donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do that, my mother scolded pulling me away or youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll become one yourself. she lit the incense. i coughed at the smell of death.
i have the eyes of my great-grandfather and the hair of my great-grandmother and together they created a legacy stretching from my grandmother, my mother, me.
and i wonder if i breathed in their ghosts then, that time in the dining room so long ago. ancient legacies die in dust. when i returned to america my first word was yes. do you speak english do you understand me are you stupid yes, yes, yes. i think that i could have lost myself in the smell of incense, forever. now my skin is dark cooked underneath the californian sun and my breaths are healthy and whole; my chinese is broken and halting.
I Miss the Mountains Jaime Tracewell
After Hou Yi hears the ninth sun splash, he lowers his bow and opens both eyes. Alone, the last light hangs.
Nine Suns Lie at the Bottom of the Sea
As the sun sinks, a man walks along a riverbank, holding a fishing pole and pail. When he closes his eyes, he can almost see once flooded huts; frogs floating, croaking; translucent faces of the yearly drowned. Alone, the last light hangs. As the moon sinks, a woman walks along a riverbank, a suitcase rolling behind her. When silence settles, she can almost hear her mother singing; needles clicking; a spatula scraping the sides of a wok: sand and split-open chestnuts. Alone, the last light hangs. In her palace on the moon, Changâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;e is weeping again. Rabbit swallows a sigh.
Interfaith Longing The rule for Passover is you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t eat leavened bread, And for Lent you give up what you want, And on Good Friday you fast. But I want so strongly my body could burst. I want the Stations of the Cross that I have only despised And the Passion of Christ that made me roll my eyes And the Seder tedious with Grandpaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long tales And coaching my family, no cookies, no rice Church Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Easter brunch and Easter dinner, and Dayenu off-key with grumbling stomachs. I want with the ferocity of a saint, Patron of ritual.
On Calling My Girlfriend Daddy I tossed the word around like loose change to a wishing well. Each time, a dime fell down my spine. I felt my body rhyme.
Untitled Hadley Banas
Prescriptions Esther Fan
I’m On My Period and You Pick Your Cuticles The body only knows the past and tells the present that hurt is our future. You ask me why I cry when I see a pool of blood on a white sheet and I say hormones, hormones but really, I mean, I don’t want to be a woman. I don’t want you to hurt me like my body does. Why do you dig your nails into your raw flesh? Who taught you that to feel means to destroy? In bed, I rub your torn fingers, trying to tell the body that it is wrong.
Social Anxieties Artemesia Luk
The red door behind my grandmother’s house in New Hampshire was rusted shut it ate each damp winter, grew stronger with age and all of its willful artifices.
Farmhouse cw: death, illness
There’s a photograph of my father as a child in front of that door, long blonde curls and Thumbelina cheeks, ruined only by the turtleneck those seventies shorts. He’s beside his sister, dark haired and coy, my grandfather strong in khakis and loafers, the sun broad and bright in my grandmother’s hair. There are flowers, lilies and lilacs, nothing as frivolous as a rose she favored the carnations and lupines, those bright and sturdy things. Her grandfather once ran an egg business out of the barn behind the house, Great Great Grandpa Feldman and his chickens. There’s a story there too, one I don’t remember. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, to the farmhouse. Not through the rusted door, of course, it was fixed a few years ago when Grandad was sick and Dad was doing odd jobs around the house As if the beams and chipped paint were Grandad’s own rattling lungs. He shouldn’t have expected it to work really; the house has always really been Meme’s—it is she who has always existed for me there, her long spouted watering can, the pictures on Grandad’s desk in which she is young and laughing she looks like me or I like her and my golden child-father looks nothing like himself. The summer before the summer that Grandad died was the first time I remember seeing that red door open. We brought my budgerigar to keep Grandad company, to our delight they called each other by name and got on like rust and hinges. It was a little emptier those three summers later but Meme’s house was still hers, the sturdy New England chickens, her rocky sweet lipped flowers. She couldn’t bear the thought of selling, not the barn nor the door no matter how firmly it stayed shut. 37
Mashed Potatoes over Appledore Island Maya Collins
Slow Dance A hush falls over the crowd as the gentle melody begins, rippling across the courtyard. Students catch one another’s eyes, a cryptic game of eyebrows and subtle smiles sufficient to entice them onto the dance floor. In their midst, dappled by dove-gray shadows, the girl offers them her hand, grinning broadly when they accept. She leads them into the center of the stone floor, pulling them close once the two of them are lost enough in the crowd. Their hand falls to her waist, her arms lift to their shoulders, and together their feet begin to move to the beat of a thousand hearts. Lights twinkle in the leafy canopy above, blinking in and out like fireflies as the music slowly builds. They move gracefully, a swirl of green skirts and black coattails spinning like the hands of a clock around the trunk of the old tree. Time and music fade to a blurry backdrop as they lock eyes, equal parts shy and earnest. For one perfect moment, a golden fraction of a cosmic second, the world stills, seeming to hold its breath to watch their dance. Eventually, their song will end. The world will heave a sigh and keep on turning. Wars will wage. Hunger will gnaw. The bitter winter wind will perform a slow dance of its own, twirling through the sleepy streets and into the night. These two students will be swept apart by breathless waves of others, and by the time she escapes to look for them, they will be gone. In the coming weeks, they will ignore her increasingly desperate attempts to contact them. Her texts and calls will quietly fade over the months, and when they catch each other’s eyes in the school hallways, she will be the first to look away. Winter will blossom into spring, spring will burn into summer, summer will fade into fall. The years will toil past, and the dancers will graduate from their small town to starless cities thousands of miles away. Memories of green chiffon and golden lights will be pushed away to the attics of their minds, where they will be left to gather dust as hearts learn to heal. But for now, as the music swells and the girl pulls them close, the young couple remains blissfully oblivious to the world around them. She whispers words as soft as snowflakes into their ear and paints kisses across their cheek. They sing a starlit laugh and lose themself in the depths of her eyes. The two are a blink in the scheme of time and memory – but to each other, they are the world. 39
I used to feel bad when you cut your hands on crabs I didn’t ask you to crack We’d lay out newspaper on the balcony because Mom hated when the fish smell set into the carpet I’d tear up a little when your hands started bleeding You’d laugh at me, but I’d still feel guilty when I ate the soft meat I wish we could’ve put salt in our lives to make our time together last longer Dip my memories in the butter we melted Remember where that laughter ended and silence began So I could reach in and slather myself in your happiness So I could remember when your hands began to bleed and I wouldn’t feel guilty When I trip over my words, I think of how we used to laugh about our shared lisp I can’t say I hated you, just that at some point, saying the words I love you started to burn on my tongue And all that was left of me had to be scraped out with a knife, but even then, there were no soft parts.
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Kazu Shimada 41