THE WELLESLEY REVIEW POETRY | PROSE | ART www.thewellesleyreview.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS Light Switch, Sydney Hopper
Chinese Tea House, Beryce Garcia
DIONYSIA, Emily Prechtl
Beyond the Summit | 江, Azalea Sun / 孙漠晗
Ablution, Seren Riggs-Davis
Her Village, Tatiana Ivy Moise
Holy Shards of Prayer, Emily Dromgold
Ode to Insomnia, Michelle Shen
Seated Monks at Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia), Tara Oanh Kohli
Harry Potter’s Scotland: Glenfinnan Viaduct, Emma Deary
My Descendants, Anya Sheldon
Aristos Achaion, Michela Gerardin
For Herself, Karina Ithier
Birmingham Boys, Michela Gerardin
Captivated, Celine Christory
Coﬀee Dates, April Poole
Grounded, Ungrounded, Sama Mundlay
In Bloom, Madison Miller
United We Stand, Cheryn Shin
Échappé, Matilda Berke
Crowley Lake Columns, Leila-Anne Boehme Brusseau
Reflection at a Wedding, Margaret Sun
Ode on a Sidereal Clock, Jay Fickes
Adorkable, Paige Tears-Gladstone
Psychedelic Decay, Seiyeon Park
Love Poem to My Hometown, Rachel Kisken
Progressive Decay, Genevieve Fisher
Wasteland Jelly, Madison Miller
Пока, родной язык | Parting Words to My Native Language, Sydney Hopper
Saltwater Supplication, Michelle Shen
Hmong Embroidery (Hanoi, Vietnam), Tara Oanh Kohli
Percy, Sara Cooper
Vignettes in Time, Marley Forest
The Dock, Marley Forest
Mist Opportunities, Doris Li
Knot Holding On, Celine Christory
?, Cindy Zhou
drowning / S E L F - C A R E, Anneli Xie
November 1969, Caroline Alt
The Loudest Form of Darkness, Sarah Shireen Moinuddeen
January 1967, Caroline Alt
Landlocked, Matilda Berke
The Art of Motherhood | 妈妈的艺术, Linda Zixia Liu
Tall Tales, Camille Brunetti
LIGHT SWITCH sydney hopper
There’s something about a Light Switch That will put you on a Power Trip: The grace of god All up in your Finger tip, In one little flick, and “Let There Be Light.”
DIONYSIA by emily prechtl
I went for a run in the rain this morning and couldn’t help but cry. The air smelled so pure, like freshly plucked basil. It was the kind of air that could fill your lungs and, with one exhale, rid you of years of smoke and exhaust, sadness and responsibility. The cleanness of the air consumed me, and I was swept with nostalgia for my past 18 years of desert storms. Arizona, someday I will leave you, but I will never forget the scent of a Creosote when it rains or the cotton clouds that dissipate into the Superstitions on a hazy day. Humidity envelops me and the rain rolls like pearls on and oﬀ my skin as I run through the storm. The ground is always too dry to become muddy; the dirt is only damp and my shoes pound over fragmented pebbles and velvety earth as I continue through the desert, so foggy now. I have no destination, because what is a destination but a constraint that leads us through calculated mountains and gorges, highways and streams, so that we end up in the exact place we planned to be? With destinations, we become so focused on what lies ahead, we lose sight of the sun above coating the world in gold, and we overlook those who stand beside us through our voyage. We forget that their climbs are hazardous too and they have swum through the same oceans, tasting the sea’s saltiness with each inhale. So I proceed with no destination. Only the perfume of the Palo Verdes, the spectacle of the Saguaro Cacti, and the song of wrens to accompany me through this desert shower. I cried today, as I ran, not for the void in my heart I have felt for months, or at the thought that one day the desert would no longer be home to me. Today, I cried tears of joy. Though my clothes were soaked and my lungs ached from their strain, I turned my head and looked up at the immensity of God’s creation, and thought to myself that life must not be so bad after all.
HOLY SHARDS OF PRAYER emily dromgold
Question When they tell you no Or donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t understand you Volatile flaming rage rising in your chest Broken shards of you swept into trash cans of their abyss Take them back Take back the stained glass beauty of your thoughts Faith you hold for something original By You Original Holy Connections Dreams of reality on paper Pray For someone reads them Somewhere And dreams alongside you Someone understands you And when you look into their eyes filled with color Warm smile Or pondering intrigue They follow your religion of Originality These stain glass souls take back the broken shards they swept into trash cans of their abyss And build a cathedral of connections and ideas Crystal clear chaos Beauty of knowing Exquisite inflections You A stain glass prayer Answered
SEATED MONKS AT ANGKOR WAT (SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA) by tara oanh kohli
MY DESCENDANTS by anya sheldon
FOR HERSELF karina ithier
Cross-legged on the rug alone, her eyes scan the ridges of the hips, contouring the excess skin that pools outwards. She places two hands on each side of the stomach, pinching fingers back and forth along the round ridges. The fat creases like soft dough between them. Dormant, she does not allow herself to stand up — to feel the body’s length expand. Her skin is warm, caramel brown. She kneads it as Tears fall from her eyes. The sunlight from the dim window creates tiny rainbow rays on her fingertips. Like magic. These hands… How elaborate! Calloused, With a million intersecting pathways. We do not think of the perfect hands as we do the perfect body. The hands just are. Each its own miracle. Her body just is. She uses her hands to propel herself upwards. She feels her toes. Her belly drooping in place and her chest heaving with each breath, she acknowledges.
But at least she can feel the sun dancing on her skin its lemonade mouth crying onto the thighs, whispering in swirls around her naked body. Only the crickets are muttering outside, their voices a chorus of triumph. To feel the body, to embrace the self as if it is to be loved is what she most desired. A soft sway of buzzing â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the beginning of a jazz crescendo. She taps each foot to this new dance â&#x20AC;&#x201D; slowly, swaying, rocking from her dormancy. She wants to blossom. She wants to become, failing to understand she already is. Placing one hand on her womb, she tells herself that tonight she will become a Mother to herself.
CAPTIVATED by Celine Christory
GROUNDED, UNGROUNDED sama mundlay
I strolled home through a cacophony. In the city it is brawls, honks, screeches, shrieks and whirs that I travel through; in the suburbs it becomes cricks, rustles, skitters. Behind women I walk, synchronizing our paces. As we travel up this hill, I match my footsteps — reluctant, dragging — behind her quick, light, rhythmic ones until we are closer and closer, and I can almost touch her hair if I just reach forward… But now I quicken my pace reluctantly, my knees creak while I bring my legs over and around faster and faster so that she doesn’t think I am following her. I speed up to justify myself. As I approach home I slow again to hear the brusqueness of her movements. When I reach home and unlock the door my first instinct is to collapse. But unclean dishes gather. Obligations beckon. I turn on the radio and let the music float through me while I make the mandatory call to my parents. Yes, I’m doing fine, how are you? How is the dog? Can you send me some money? I need a favor. Not too much. The weather is fine. I am warm. Thank you. Goodnight.
filters. Their lives are so insular in their own aﬀairs. They’re so… grounded. The television, sleek and black, beckons me. I turn her on. I watch the cable news tell me about the disaster headed my way. The weather woman warns me not to leave the house, to prepare for the long haul, to keep water and food and flashlights nearby. Good. I am in it for the long haul. I don’t want to leave. I don’t particularly care that the rain has not stopped. In the morning it was a nuisance and now it’s background noise, even though the shutters rattle and threaten to leak. Reports now indicate minor flooding but I live on the tenth floor. The roads in my small radius of living are underfunded, unused, unkempt, but accessible enough. So I should be alright.
“In rain and in sunshine, he is always too polite, too caring, too open-hearted.”
My phone alerts me to another disaster nearby. They’re getting closer. Starting from the South, they inch towards me and my haven, threatening to uproot my small life. I live in apocalyptic times. Storms are more unforgiving than my siblings, each of whom scowl at me through the phone when I choose to talk about my life. I don’t have a child or a husband or a dog. I breeze through cities. I work when I am lucky and spend what I earn, not in an investment or a retirement plan, but on a thick slab of dark red salami and a box of wine. I perch on my couch — an overstuﬀed, overzealously maroon hand-me-down — and scroll. Blue light fills my eyes as I wander through feeds. Every acquaintance seems to be advertising their own version of monotony. My colleague has gotten engaged to someone whose teeth protrude from every picture. My mother’s friend’s daughter has been accepted to a somewhat elite university in a foreign country. An old roommate passed away. Her brother’s memorial post on her wall includes baby pictures edited with nostalgic
An ex-boyfriend of mine messages — I heard about the storm. Are you alright? In rain and in sunshine, he is always too polite, too caring, too open-hearted. His message can be ignored. My stomach, ever annoyed, demands to be acquiesced. I reach into the fridge for a can of beer and a neatly boxed butter-chicken-and-naan combo pack. I eat the staples watching an outdated sitcom about several beautiful white people and their ethnic friend. The storm drones on; the thunder states its presence. My program is interrupted by breaking news: Nuclear war is imminent — by whom? He doesn’t say, he proceeds to tell me that the futility of the nuclear arms race is both understood and unsustainable but unfortunately, nobody will tell our leaders that. I must speak now to stop the race! One voice seems small, but thousands of individuals can rise up against the tyranny of nuclear proliferation, unless the foreigner threat turns real — in that case, any reasonable patriot must support doing “whatever is necessary” to “neutralize the threat.” The power flicks oﬀ in the middle of his sentence. I’m forced to feel around — to stroke the straining, wrinkled fabric on the edge of my couch, to drop to the low, worn corners of the coﬀee table. From there my toe touches the edge of the bookshelf and I slide towards it, rubbing on the pathetic cotton carpet. Finally, laboriously, I reach towards the
wooden tableâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s curves and encounter the smooth countertops, grasping underneath to the cold handles of the drawers and there! The box with several candles and no flashlight. Each candle is handled, lit, strategically arranged to shed light on my situation. I cannot ignore the rain now. It is louder than my ears want to withstand. An urgent notification on my phone implores me to stay indoors, to seek shelter, to stay vigilant to the threat. The rain bangs on the windows and the doors, begging to be let in. Stronger than a downpour, stronger than a waterfall. A sheet of water in the black night, closing in from all sides. I am now paralyzed with fear. Maybe I will be found here in the morning, huddled, tears frozen to my cheeks, or maybe my body will be swollen blue, my eyes burst from my sockets, and my brain in the afterlife, or
maybe I will be barely breathing, rushed to the hospital only to die in the ambulance. Maybe I will wake up confident, red-faced, happy as the rain ends its deluge within the next two minutes. I message my ex-boyfriend saying I hope I will be okay but the message does not send. The rain is roaring now, my brain cannot block out the noise of its insistence, its forcefulness, its anger, its power over my small body. It must be let in, it wants to be let in, my opinion means nothing because it wants to penetrate through my home just because it can. All I can do is close my eyes and blur my mind and think of something warm until the moment is over, until it shudders and sighs and, with a final, jarring push, goes through my body and plants itself deep, deep within me.
UNITED WE STAND
2015 France in your midst the world saw your skies go up in flames as Paris your city of love where is our love your Tower did not fall like twins but she looked on iron stiďŹ&#x20AC; steel cold peak peaking above black clouds rising from the ground.
2016 Orlando your black light splattered red bleeding colors as vivid as a rainbow inside Pulse from your veins and we mourn for love where you deserve to be loved for who are you? to judge hate and discriminate we hear you Orlando keep your ground. 2017 Manchester we know you suďŹ&#x20AC;er your wounds in Arena gathered by common love for Grande music if only love was what burst instead but know we see you Manchester United, we stand safe strongly united on ground.
Crowley Lake Columns by Leila-Anne Boehme Brusseau 16
ODE ON A SIDEREAL CLOCK jay fickes
After Keats The sun pours through the glass like flowing dust, and skips by books and long forgotten notes. My cupped hands carve entreaties to the lost moments that hang suspended, golden motes of time in stay still eddy’s grasp. A clack, door opens, snow feet carry wind through me, the interloper smiles and disappears: that world’s already cracked. I listen to the star-timed clock and breathe new life into the susurrus whispers. They spring awake around me, voices chime as if they never left us — transience pads through this college world. We meet, but time, fickle, pulls us apart again. If verse could freeze this moment — amber trails that stay to mark existences beyond our names — then words would fly through air, like clouded dreams. But time rains down. So wait for nothing: futures don’t exist. No claims stay constant in these time-soaked streams. Ignore it, then, as best we can, and live as if our link is not drawn ever on. We measure time in moments of belief, of victory over twisted problems, of seconds spent together on the floor talking through the present, past, and future. We move in star time steps, bare feet on stone, for time is all we are. That is to say, we use stars as sutures on bleeding hearts. They lead us to our home.
The god eye telescope sleeps through the day, hundred-year-old footsteps echo through it until, at last, cloud-free day fades away and stars appear like dust, or angels lit with dreams of distant planets. Now, once more, the lights dimmed red and blinds drawn tight, we dance as if the dawn may never come again. Raised hands, wide grins, three rungs above the floor, we leap mostly by chance from nebulae to galaxies, and when the dome closes, the stars shine true, adored.
PSYCHEDELIC DECAY by seiyeon park
A splintered tree stump lay twenty years ahead of a gated community where a family of four just bought their first dog A young girl dropped the silver sterling spoon used to stir that freshly brewed chamomile as she sat alone in the breakfast nook There was a quick snap of a yellowed page, caused by its turning to find the next step of a diďŹ&#x20AC;erent young girlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s journey in a far away land Her breath left her body, like a clock counting the seconds since the other girl crossed that broken chain-linked fence beneath the forest canopy where those pages exist The stars lie above the pungent quilt that was sewn by the metallic fingers of men in suits who sit behind their glass desks and customized checks The labored breaths of the workers mingled with the humid air while they built the shelves and shelves where all thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s left is the faint smell of chamomile tea, two sugars, no milk A mind where thoughts infested the cerebellum like termites in an old splintered tree stump She lay dormant on the living room couch wrapped in a quilt knitted by the great aunt with the yarn she bought from the native down the road Each loop possessed a dream, and each day claimed ownership of its reality So lie down inside of a whitewashed house where the bananaquit bird sang its last song before winter came to the tropics
WASTELAND JELLY by madison miller
SALTWATER SUPPLICATION michelle shen
“When I say my name / I hear a burned-down church.” — Bob Hicok, from Elegy Owed in the emptiness of car crash blackout the thrum of blood rushes to your head you see oceans crash and burn, have you ever seen water light on fire, it smells like the cinders of dreams decayed even the silence bares its teeth begs god to die asks for answers you can’t give wipes its mouth on dirty lies grins and snarls, because it knows the goddamn terror will eat you alive this is the art of never being enough ferment your sadness into fine wine, keep toasting unto your destruction repent the sin of existing this is the antithesis of resurrection sitting in the lobby of the hospital third floor my sister declares all the women in our family are fucking crazy i hear her words in my mouth crystallizing like salt on my tongue i wonder how to tell my parents their sacrifice was wasted on me how it feels like my insuﬃciency dissipates their struggle here lies a tome of death, generations of women who tried to erase their voices with their own hands, but when it was my turn, i kept taking a breath before going under god i made a promise that i would never let nostalgia warp history but promises mean nothing if their integrity was compromised from the genesis and history demands to be heard history won’t stay down history is repeating itself like clockwork you wake up one day with lead in your mouth and blood on your hands lord cleanse me for i do not want to be myself any longer ashes to ashes, you are pompeii’s immolation dust to dust, you are noah’s inundation
the truth is: you are not your mother’s daughter, you are not your father’s religion no matter how hard you try you are pluto unrequited, too much to be a star, not enough to be a planet my heart is breaking but you cannot hear it what the axe forgets the stump remembers it is not your fault you were born the weaker one it is your fault you didn’t do better
PERCY by sara cooper
The moonlight slides along her arms like icicles dripping to life Like milk poured into coﬀee on a still morning Reflects oﬀ the water like a lost memory now awoken Fills the air between us with reverberations of silence Below us, a turtle’s shadow glides into the stream of moonlight emanating from the water’s core It carries the world on its back, submerging its home into the blackened water, into the night, A messenger, perhaps, a prophet There is touch in the air The brushing of the wind on cheekbones The caress of gentle waves on numb skin The night holds us together in stillness Contemplating our mortality I think this is as it’s always been Here, on this dock, Water-painted infinity And moonlight sitting between us
KNOT HOLDING ON by celine christory
DROWNING / S E L F - C A R E anneli xie
in many ways it feels like drowning. drowning, but not yet at the level where the unconscious body is floating peacefully at sea, but rather the level where panic is most present; in the frenzy of trying to gasp for air, of trying to push your head above the surface. trying to breathe. trying to stay alive. it’s like being curled up in a thick blanket on an early January morning, blinded by the white snow reflecting its stark shine outside the window. warm and fuzzy and comfortable and cozy, heavy and, horrendously hollow. in many ways, it feels like drowning. I wish I had a candle to light; a warm light in the cold dark. bob dylan and I’m on the dark side of the road; a void, a black haze, the thickest fog I could ever imagine. can’t see the path in front of me. it’s so blurry. I feel empty and at peace. it’s a weird mixture; one that I can sink into, comfortably. I don’t know how else to explain it.
it’s like the hour after the sun sets. when the sky turns deep blue and the colors start disappearing. it isn’t the pastel pink skies before the magnificent orange clouds set over the city skyline. it isn’t the thousand glimmering stars afterwards. it’s the transition period; the color disappearing oﬀ the streets, the rods and cones having to adapt. the ugly dark. the one that’s before stars and light and everything that is beautiful. I don’t know how else to explain it. it’s morrissey’s voice on a saturday night and “I don’t want to wake up on my own anymore.” it’s staring into the ceiling of my childhood room, and it’s the cream yellow walls of my college dormitory. the nothingness the emptiness the vacant vacuum and I’m stuck somewhere in between desolation and isolation. my mind is heavy. my eyes are heavy. my body is heavy. everything is moving so slowly. getting out of bed feels like a five-star mission. I don’t want to move. want to stay there forever. keegan asks me how I am. “bad,” I say. we listen to Lua in silence. “I’m not sure what the trouble was that started all of this, the reasons all have run away but the feeling never did / it’s not something I would recommend, but it is one way to live.” I do nothing on my to-do list and on my goals for the coming week I put “SELF-CARE” in big letters. in many ways it feels like drowning.
NOVEMBER 1969 by caroline alt
JANUARY 1967 by caroline alt
THE ART OF MOTHERHOOD | linda zixia liu
I Before bed, she checks the front door to make sure it’s locked. The light blue nightgown flaps at her shins. She settles in bed and calls her sister and after the call, falls asleep. In chilly winter mornings she opens the wardrobe and examines quilts. She picks three out purple for Dad, pink for me and yellow, for herself. At the breakfast table she listens to us complain: the malfunctioning heater thin windows and nights spent curling into a ball (or wanting to, but unable to, curl into a ball — blame the bad, aging knees — ). So she digs through the wardrobe again emerges with fluﬀy blankets and thick quilts and throws them on our beds. In the spring she shops at the fifth floor of Ito Yokado Mall. Bed sheets, quilt covers, pillow cases. She scrutinizes the patterns and asks the poor sales girl to show her one after another the blue floral, yellow dots, or pink and purple squares. She tries to bargain, but “malls don’t do bargaining.” She buys the prettiest home. With five fingers, she can tell if a quilt cover is comfortable. She runs them across the cover and spares three to rub the corner. How heavy should a warm quilt be? What’s the length of our beds? She knows, without looking on her phone. Cotton, silk, bamboo, or polyester? Cotton, always cotton it never goes wrong. Silk is for wrapping her pillow that massages her hair when she is asleep.
妈妈的艺术 In May she hears us complain again and goes to buy us clothes. She watches us frowning at her choices and she seems frustrated, sad. But nowadays she grows indiﬀerent. For she knows a month later, we will never take them oﬀ. II The art of motherhood is never simple. It requires you to understand life. But the price you pay to understand it, is in most cases life itself. In her forties she lost her father. In her fifties she lost her mother. She cried on her own and refused my comfort. She snapped as if she wondered why we were still alive. She has lost: she has lost her parents and thus in her battle with life. And for reasons only mothers understand, she knows — or she’d rather believe — that I don’t understand, and that I cannot love her the same way she loves me. That daughters don’t possess the power to love like a mother. I want to prove her wrong. To prove that daughter’s love is better, that her life wasn’t easier when Grandma was alive. I remind her of years of fights, high-pitched shouting matches, eating care, the endless travels between two cities, false alarms, real alarms, the ICU, the crematorium, and finally, the cemetery. Always revolving around another person, no time to herself.
And as I help her recall the conflicts and pain she grows quiet, wordless she shakes her head and sighs. One by one, in a quick succession tears slide down her cheeks. She says, “那时候我真是不懂。” “Back then, I really didn’t understand. What didn’t she understand? That Grandma had Alzheimer’s, which was why she became forgetful, ill-tempered, and ate less and less? That she would feel guilty after Grandma’s death, and wish she had more time to do it right? Or perhaps, that the years of daughterhood always comes to an end? That no one loves more intensely than the mothers? If once she didn’t understand — she understands it now. Is it motherhood, or daughterhood, or both combined that teaches her about our solitary existences, about independence and self-reliance? Is it motherhood, or daughterhood, that teaches her to love and to confront love’s vulnerability, to protect herself and keep her distance, to accept that there is something only she knows which Dad and I don’t? And does she ever wonder if I will learn it in time?
III Years of trials perfect the art of motherhood. She made it through a Chinese womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hardest years: the ailing old, growing child, a busy husband, and demanding work all at once, piled messily upon her soft shoulders. Now, she manages the art of motherhood gracefully. Her craft smells like crimson roses in full bloom, or scents from apple flowers, drifting in summer breeze. She runs the household, cooks, and does the laundry, she irons Dadâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shirts, and she begins to compliment more than she criticizes. She remains mysterious, remains unknown, and awaits the day when her daughter finally understands.
CHINESE TEA HOUSE by beryce garcia
BEYOND THE SUMMIT | 江 by azalea sun | 孙漠晗
HER VILLAGE tatiana ivy moise
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, and the village that raised her was certainly present that day in the hospital. Her immediate family had been regular visitors of this hospital for weeks now, but they were far from alone. Her aunts, uncles, neighbors, teachers, friends, pastor, dance instructor, mailman, local pastry chef, and I patiently sat in that waiting room, ready for something—anything—to happen. I was drawn there because she was my best friend. I kept her grounded while she lifted me up; I sang the lyrics while she danced to the music; I was the yin while she was the yang. Together, we made the perfect pair. Next to me me, her trustworthy pastor was drawn there because of his faith that a miracle would turn the situation around. Her slim ballet teacher was drawn there because of the passion they shared for the art of dancing that she exhibited at practice three times a week. The usually ornery mailman was drawn there because he couldn’t resist smiling at her wild hair when he delivered packages to her front door. The enthusiastic local baker was drawn there because the two exchanged a laugh and a free cookie every Sunday afternoon without fail. No, the entire world was not in that waiting room — but her entire world was. This was the village that had raised her since the beginning. Being in that hospital felt more like a dream than reality. Waiting in that cold plastic chair felt like the type of dream in which I could see myself sitting there, watching everything take place. It seemed to be almost an out-of-body experience of sorts, but the events that occurred were not created by my subconscious at all. Instead, it was the most unequivocal moment of reality I have ever experienced. I watched as medical professionals repeatedly went through her door, paying special attention to her due to her young age. Every time a doctor or nurse would enter her room, I would hold my breath until they returned to the main hallway. This happened so often that I became lightheaded, but I knew nothing could compare to the amount of pain she could have been in. So I continued. I reminded myself that if she was living with and suﬀering through terminal end-stage brain cancer with multiple glioblastomas, my slight dizziness was absolutely negligible in comparison.
The starch-white walls and stinging scent of hand sanitizer oﬀered no sense of comfort to those of us who needed it most. Small, square televisions were hung in the upper corners of the room, tuned in to various muted news channels with English subtitles turned on. The chill in the air reminded me of a winter so harsh that nothing could survive it, and if this hospital visit was a winter in and of itself, nothing did survive it. I had the stale aftertaste of bitter coﬀee trapped in my mouth, and no amount of flavorless gum I chewed rid me of it. Eight years later and I can still recall the exact time, the smell, the lighting, the taste, and even the temperature in that room. However, out of all of these details, the one I remember most is the absolute silence. I’m sure there was ample noise in the waiting room when the doctors came to tell her parents that their ten-year-old daughter had taken her last breath. I don’t doubt that as the news that she was dead quickly spread throughout the room, there were shrieks and sobs and perhaps even some screams. I know there had to have been monitors beeping and nurses speaking and lightning striking and fires raging and thunder crashing, because life as I had known it was ending. When life as you know it ends, it is loud and chaotic and full of pandemonium and madness. Moments like that should never be absolutely silent. And yet, it was. I did not hear a single sound the moment my best friend died in that hospital. In that moment, a piece, a chunk, a wedge, a slice, a sector, a unit, one of the largest elements of my life, was ripped away from me in complete and utter silence. I wasn’t alone; the community that watched her grow was right beside me. Each of us was feeling the same loss in diﬀerent magnitudes. I remember looking around and wondering how each of our lives would change after that. Would her pastor still have faith? Would her ballet teacher still dance? Would her baker still give out free cookies? How does the loss of a ten-year-old girl aﬀect everyone she touched while she was alive? It is always said that it takes a village to raise a child, but no one has ever said anything about how the village will continue after the child dies.
ODE TO INSOMNIA
YOU CANNOT HEAL THE POISON UNLESS YOU DRAIN IT ALL OUT OF YOURSELF, YOU CANNOT MOVE ON UNTIL YOU LEARN TO FORGET WHAT THE WHIPLASH TASTES LIKE, I AM BREAKING MY DREAM. THE RUST OF MY BONES CREAKS IN CLAMOR SPEAK REVIVAL DRINK FORGIVENESS I WANT TO TASTE THE SUNRISE IN ALL OF ITS BLOODY GLORY
HARRY POTTERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S SCOTLAND: GLENFINNAN VIADUCT by emma deary
ARISTOS ACHAION by michela gerardin
BIRMINGHAM BOYS by michela gerardin
COFFEE DATES april poole
On our first date, I order my first espresso. Ordering coﬀee feels like it can balance out the fact that my brother dropped me oﬀ because I don’t have my license yet. For my first date, I want so badly to seem sophisticated, even if the espresso is more bitter than I expect. I’m wearing my favorite outfit: floral jeans and my denim jacket, and chalky purple eyeshadow. You order a hot chocolate and tell me that you don’t understand how I can drink something so bitter. And even diluted with milk and chocolate, the coﬀee is still harsh against my taste buds. I don’t expect it to be so strong, but I keep drinking it anyway. I can learn to like the intense coﬀee. All I can think is that you are as sweet as your hot chocolate and as we sit with empty cups, drunk slowly so that we can make the date last, you look up at me and flash your intoxicating half smile. For the next two hours, we talk. We start with the easy things — how your soccer season is going, your board game playing session with the other guys in our friend group last night, how the paper for Mr. Wright is progressing. As time goes by, conversation shifts farther away from things we already know about each other, and into newer territory — the things you miss most about where you lived before you moved here freshman year, how I felt when my best friend started dating someone you and I both hate, what it felt like when you were the only person in our year to start the season on the JV team before they moved you up.
Eventually, eyebrows raised, you tell me that you don’t want to go and ask if I want dessert. I say yes, and you start toward the counter. I watch you lope up to the register and my heart swells with aﬀection at your lanky limbs and carefree attitude. I am still watching when you come back with a breakfast sandwich, a piece of chocolate lava cake, and two forks, and I have to laugh at how quintessentially teenage boy this is. “Are we going to eat both of those? I don’t know how I feel about mixing eggs and chocolate.” “There are eggs in cake you know — you’re already mixing them,” you tell me, but you slide the cake towards me across the table, and keep the sandwich for yourself, and it hits me that you bought me cake. No matter how desperately I wanted this to be a true date, I don’t believe it until this moment. Not only did you buy me cake, but you did it because you didn’t want the date to end. I don’t know if it’s the eﬀect of the cake-buying or the espresso, but I feel my heart vibrating in my chest, and I smile as I dig my fork into the cake, releasing the stream of warm “lava.”
IN BLOOM by madison miller
ÉCHAPPÉ matilda berke
During the Cultural Revolution, Madame Mao took control of the National Ballet of China. Government oﬃcials scoured the nation for children who showed physical promise, plucking them from their homes and placing them in state-sanctioned training camps. The dream where the moon filters through onto the dust & I find myself in my mother’s old studio. No longer bomb shelter, more flesh than cocked gun. The snow comes in veils. It is winter but the wood is warm. Imagine Mao Tse-tung sinking in every floorboard, stripped of his title years before Nixon. The tears unsprung, undried bloodspots smutted from rosy silk. Nylon gone transparent over tenements of skin. Clear & pale, with a phantom waltz to glass each windowpane. There is a body on the roof that doesn’t catch light anymore. A line of dancers spiral back & back: the path I trace with crumpled toes & hope (if I am allowed) that given long enough, these blistered walls will echo themselves into inlay. The banners dropped in mud. All mirrors robbed of likeness.
REFLECTION AT A WEDDING by margaret sun
ADORKABLE by paige tears-gladstone
LOVE POEM TO MY HOMETOWN
In sterile-light archipelagos cast down by street lamps I journey home, lead on by the next glowing orb, A route I could walk with my eyes closed. I used to travel it drunk oﬀ youth and stolen liquor: Feeling infinite, feeling indestructible, Finding beauty in the artificial light’s gaze, the crickets chirp a serenade. By now I have dressed the roads in my memories. I gasp at intersections where I crash into the spot once for old rough fingertips against mine. Ancient laughter echoes, worn sighs carry, ripened whispers reverberate oﬀ newly minted For Sale signs, halt at the roads’ end Scream secrets only to have them rebound from asphalt curbs. Once I believed my town was infinite. But now I see it is only point A on a map Extending indefinitely toward B.
Пока, родной язык sydney hopper
Parting Words to my Native Language Oh, English How can we part, When new words and phrases Delight me on a daily basis? How can I separate myself from your Twists of tongue, Your oddities, Your nonsenses, That never fail to set my heart on fire? I suppose I’ll need to discover some new magic, A linguistic flame to measure to you. But you are my first, My tried and true, I sure hope I don’t forget how to speak you.
HMONG EMBROIDERY (HANOI, VIETNAM) by tara oanh kohli
VIGNETTES IN TIME marley forest
I: On a mist-glazed lake in the early morning A loon sits quietly She is a witness to stillness For although the fish have begun to jump And the sun is stretching its fullness in the sky In her moment, all is solitude And reflection II: There is a storm tonight The thunder shatters the earth’s solidity and lightning cries blindly across the horizon In the rain, the direction of home is obscured And I am left to wander lost through the tempest Alight in her fury III: Trapped in the claustrophobia of her sweltering body A girl lies awake in bed. Staring through the darkness to the soul of the universe, She whispers to the eternal night: “I am lost I am lost I am lost”
MIST OPPORTUNITIES by doris lee
? by cindy zhou
THE LOUDEST FORM OF DARKNESS sarah shireen moinuddeen
Trigger Warnings: Violence against women, self-harm, blood Part 1: Writing a poem is memorializing a moment in time, it is carving an emotion into granite I wasn’t sure if you deserved that honor, that history should be forced to remember you in all your grotesque glory But slowly, I realized, that this poem wasn’t so much a poem about you, but more evidence that I existed after you, that I persevered after your chapter in my epic was long complete Part 2: When I am cold, I am in the habit of scratching my goosebump and hair covered arms Freshly shaped nails have the hidden ability to bring blood rushing like a dependable solider to right under my Indian skin, giving me the momentary illusion of warmth No one knows that I did not learn this trick in the cold outdoors while waiting for the sun to set I did not learn it in the woods while camping on a snowy winter night in the Appalachian Mountains I did not even learn it licking rose flavored kulfi oﬀ wooden popsicle sticks at midnight under watchful stars I learned it sitting next to you in the passenger seat of a 2005 Honda CRV, feeling you slowly steal my warmth with your empty words and your empty glares and your empty hands and your empty heart, telling me I was unloved, turning me into cold stone that could only feel momentary warmth when scratched Part 3: Every woman is covered in invisible wounds because of men like you Men who believe they have a claim to our happiness, that they can steal it from our veins like mosquitos sucking warm blood, like hunger demanding residence in our empty bellies, all the while believing that we will gladly give it to them because we are taught that it wasn’t ours to begin with Many of my invisible wounds are self-inflicted— you will never feel them on my skin, you will never see them, you will never even realize they exist— they are too deep within my chest where I asked myself what I saw in you, told myself you could do better, convinced myself that you would do better, but most of all, begging to know why I stayed Many wounds are not invisible, many of them are not self-inflicted They are black and brown and take weeks to fade into dark purple, into nauseous yellow, into Indian brown skin — but they will never heal; I will forever feel each one of them burn when I think of you Part 4: There was a time when I would have said you destroyed me, that you took everything there was to take and burned to ash the rest that was too heavy to lift. But It has been years since I have seen you, It has been months since I have wondered where you are, And it has been weeks since I last remembered you, and now, all I can say, is that at one time you may have had me, but now I have me, and we have won this war.
LANDLOCKED matilda berke
Shanghai is a water city, a liquid, a fluid mosaic of streets packed with cars and bikers unmercifully jostling for the privilege of motion. Over time, you learn to force your way to the other side of the road. The sewage, trapped and steaming under dense tongues of heat, becomes commonplace. You accept wetness as a way of life. Puhuitang Lu — my grandparents’ home — runs capillary oﬀ a highway to nowhere that Deng Xiaoping built to accommodate Xujiahui precinct traﬃc as part of his postdictatorial reformation. It’s the kind of neighborhood you don’t name “decrepit” until you drive under the Huangpu River and emerge on the coastal plain of metropolitan Pudong, a district uniquely polished with newness. The Puxi side of the river is an unplanned jumble of chain stores staﬀed by lone men in ribbed undershirts. There are potholes in the asphalt, and every side street looks like a back alley, but its residents defend it with a fierce pride. My mother refers to it as history, and who am I to say any diﬀerent?
I don’t know much about this side of the world. I know that the Chinese have little regard for the notion of personal space, I know what the plastic seats in cabbage-colored taxis smell like, I know how sleek high-rises tumesce into old concrete complexes. I know that everything built here was government-planned. I know how to respond when my relatives bludgeon me with aﬀection, even if I can’t quite make out what they’re saying. I know how to identify each of the dishes thrust upon me. I can barely speak Mandarin, but I know how to diﬀerentiate it from Shanghainese. In more ways than one, I’m limited to the sparsely-inherited fluency lingering at the edge of my memory. There’s a traditional seafood market across the street from the apartment complex. After my cousin got over being displaced as the family’s Youngest Child and token center of attention, she made a habit of shepherding me through traﬃc to visit the animals. I was fascinated by the rows of cloudy tanks, the gleaming bins of live shrimp frantically breaking the surface, the sluggish catfish and sullen carp and the fish so native to Shanghai rivers that they lack English names.
These things are true, but they are not complete.
Her family lives in one of the first complexes built on the block, a fortress of peeling walls and flickering lights and elevators smudged so heavily with fingerprints and cigarette smoke that I’ve always preferred to take the stairs. Each tworoom apartment is piled high with the breed of plastic fans that come free on street corners. Their silk contemporaries (culturally authentic, if you go back far enough) are massproduced, marketed as tchotchkes for tourists and the generation so divorced from old Shanghai that they might as well be tourists. My grandfather, Daduda, hammered one of the more decorative specimens to the wall above his calligraphy desk. It still hangs there like some grotesquely large moth pinned through its abdomen. Daduda’s artistic ambitions had been nipped in the bud after Mao’s hong weibing murdered several of his brothers and forced him into a factory. After he taught me the basics of Chinese painting, I spent three hot months diluting ink into drippy vistas — bamboo-covered mountains and goldfish flitting around the tiled pond down in the courtyard — in a facile attempt to feel kinship.
On one of these routine expeditions, I had the distinct privilege of encountering a swamp eel. These organisms, which bear more resemblance to deep-sea hagfish than eels proper, are some of the simplest fish in the natural world: finless, nearly eyeless, composed of gastrointestinal tract and rubbery skin. I was infatuated. I carried the eel home in a plastic bag and, to the rest of the family’s disgust, housed it in a bowl in the kitchen. I woke up the next day to find my new pet floating belly-up in soiled water. I was convinced that it had been assassinated in some vile plot against the Anguillaformic nation, so my grandparents oﬀered up a baby turtle they’d bought at a street fair. It grew preternaturally fast on a diet of raw chicken and Wonder Bread — so fast, in fact, that it outgrew every container in the house and began to develop a collection of oozing sores. The prognosis looked grim. We decided to give it a premature sailor’s burial in the courtyard pond.
I was faced with an unpleasant truth: the aquatic animals I adored simply didn’t belong in city apartments. They hadn’t been bred for domesticity like the puppies in storefronts across America, they’d been plucked from their homes to be overrun by steam, by smog and sickness, by the unyielding hunger of Shanghai’s swelling masses. For the rest of that summer, I loathed the bloated shopkeepers and restaurant patrons whose appetites seemed unsatisfiable. I mourned every sea cucumber and gudgeon and hairy crab that passed under my nose. I grew to hate the unresolved strangeness of caged beasts and savagely fresh food, the lack of civilization that I thought it implied. I gradually stopped visiting my grandparents. I refused to wear the qipao my mom bought for my middle school culture fair. Puhuitang Lu became a slum suﬀocated in my past, and I was left wondering why my maternal history was bursting at the gills with barbarism and backwardness — why no one ever did anything about the stink hanging in the streets, why the East China Sea looked like a storm drain, why Shanghai felt like a fish left out too long in the sun. These things are true, but they are not complete. There is nothing evil brewing beneath Shanghai and spilling into its atmosphere — no particular callousness, no sorcery. Likewise, there is nothing in its bones with the power to bring me genesis. It is simply a city caught between times:
a disparate mass of humanity left coughing in the dust of imperialism, of communism, of master after master. Perhaps the Chinese, a people often and incorrectly accused of complacency in being owned, yearn for identity even more than the rest of the world. My mother told me that my turtle managed to nurse itself back to health. It’s probably still paddling around in the silt at the bottom of the bricked-in pond. I wouldn’t know; I’m no scholar. I’m just a landlocked observer skirting around an expanse of heritage deeper than I will ever understand. My Shanghai will never be the city my family has breathed for centuries, and diaspora has stripped me of the right to mold it into what I want it to be. But even I am not immune to the primeval gravity of homeland. I belong to the coast as deeply as all the women before me, to the sewage sweating under the sun, to the brief halos of salt spray and sand, to the dirty sea. I belong to the natal wildness of tradition and everything that washes up on the shore alongside it. I am evolving in reverse, growing limbs with which to feel and float, teaching myself to love the graying waters that lapped at my mother’s and grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s feet. I am leaving the land, I am holding my breath. I am drowning and relearning how to swim.
TALL TALES camille brunetti
the angels never cried and the nights never died quite like the people did
MASTHEAD EDITORS IN CHIEF Laura Maclay ’18 Rachel Pak ’18 Noor Pirani ’19 ART EDITORS Eve Montie ’20 Abby Ow ’21 POETRY EDITORS Haley Cheek ’20 Cheryn Shin ’21 PROSE EDITORS Erin Kelly ’20 Sanjana Thakur ’20 LAYOUT EDITORS Claire Cannatti ’20 Vivian Hou ’21 TREASURER Jackie Xuan ’20 PUBLICITY CHAIR Taylor Balfour ’21
ART BOARD Efua Akonor ’21 Emma Deary ’21 Luna Fang ’18 Nadine Franklin ’18 Michela Gerardin ’21 Tulani Reeves-Miller ’21 Antonia Rocchio ’20 POETRY BOARD: Camille Brunetti ’20 Haley Cheek ’20 Elisabeth Clemmons ’20 Linda Liu ’19 Katherine Paik ’20 Lulu Al Saud ’21 Aiyana Smith ’21 PROSE BOARD Camille Brunetti ’20 Alexandra Cronin ’19 Emily Dromgold ’21 Justine Duan ’20 Michela Gerardin ’21 Maya Mubayi ’20 Margaret Olmsted ’21 Aiyana Smith ’21 Kiana Stacy ’20 Jane Vaughan ’18 Marie Zhang ’21
ART CONTRIBUTORS Caroline Alt ’21 Leila-Anne Boehme Brusseau DS ’18 Celine Christory ’21 Sara Cooper ’20 Emma Deary ’21 Beryce Garcia ’20 Michela Gerardin ’21 Doris Li ’20 Madison Miller ’21 Tara Oanh Kohli ’21 Seiyeon Park ’21 Emily Prechtl ’20 Anya Sheldon ’20 Azalea Sun ’21 Margaret Sun ’21 Paige Tears-Gladstone DS ’18 Cindy Zhou ’20 POETRY CONTRIBUTORS Matilda Berke ’21 Camille Brunetti ’20 Emily Dromgold ’21 Jay Fickes ’18 Marley Forest ’18 Sydney Hopper ’19 Karina Ithier ’20 Rachel Kisken ’20 Linda Zixia Liu ’18 Sarah Shireen Moinuddeen ’19 Michelle Shen ’21 Cheryn Shin ’21 PROSE CONTRIBUTORS Matilda Berke ’21 Genevieve Fisher ’21 Tatiana Ivy Moise ’21 Sama Mundlay ’20 Noor Pirani (website) ’19 April Poole ’19 Seren Riggs-Davis ’21 Sarah White (website) ’19 Anneli Xie ’21
With special thanks to Crimson Press the Wellesley College English Department the Wellesley College Art Department & El Table