WELLESLEY REVIEW THE WELLESLEY REVIEW | issue 17
THE WELLESLEY REVIEW POETRY | PROSE | ART www.thewellesleyreview.org
Cover art by Isabella King. Fall 2017 cover art by Tara Kohli.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Weather, Seren Riggs-Davis
I Fratelli E Il Duomo, Francesca Keller Sarmiento
Colorado Sky, Renee Purtscher
Remembrance, Linda Liu
Continental Dream Sequences, Seren Riggs-Davis
The Lost City, Katharine We
Ibadan: Challenge, Fatoumata Bah
Survivor’s Guilt, Anya Silva
Ibadan: Carry-Go, Fatoumata Bah
Josie’s Question, Erin Kelly
Stranded, Christine Arumainayagam
What I Don’t Say, April Poole
Individuality, Renee Purtscher
Say Her Name, Breslin Bell
Untitled, Tara Kohli
Helen Reddy, Mila Cuda
Someday, Anna Beyette
Untitled, Isabella King
Spot on the Sun, Nadine Franklin
La Jaula de Oro, Alicia Olivo
What I Could Buy Instead of a Pack of Marlboro Reds, Mila Cuda
Portrait of Grandpa, Cindy Zhou
GAEL, Breslin Bell
Recursion, Kate Kenneally
Cotton Candy, Joanna Linn
Untitled, Isabella King
Sensory Exclamation, Genevieve Fisher
Untitled, Isabella King
Untitled, Isabella King
In the Endless Eye, Emily Fu
Untitled, Isabella King
Single Exposure Self Portrait, Leila-Anne Brusseau
Between the Hours of Ten to One, Sara Mundlay
Yelloweyes, Grace Owens
Gently, Marley Forest
The Uncanny, Izzy Labbe
Untitled, Isabella King
Eyes, adine Franklin
Found Poem: Professor Nolden, Sydney Hopper
The In-Between, Alexandra Jones Twaddell
WEATHER seren riggs-davis
The older I get, the more I seem to be talking about the weather. As if this is what being an adult is: carrying on in life’s monotony, the only unpredictability being the weather. Maybe we’re all just bored and that’s why we talk about the wind and the sun and the snow and the sky so much. We envy the sky for its ability to change daily, its ability to be whatever it wishes, even two different things in one hour. We long to transform in the way that the sky does from something glum and dark to a canvas of light blue. The clean slate that the sky returns to before painting itself with deep plum and orange’s fire as the sun descends behind the earth, changing again. And just as quickly stars appear and her canvas is illuminated by a smiling crescent and a thousand diamonds. And we all just sit here, marveling in her beauty. The way she can make a simple black backdrop look interesting astounds even our greatest painters. But she is always changing, she reinvents herself in cotton clouds and fog that sweeps from the sky to touch the ground. And just as quickly she allows the sun to consume the earth and radiate with golden hands outstretched to the petals of the gerbera daisies. I think we all talk about the weather so much because we wish we were more like it. Carrying about our days with a sense of spontaneity, creating art as we come and as we please, being applauded for our work. Maybe, at the end of the day, it all has to do with our envy of the weather’s power to choose its own identity, as we stand grounded, unable to break the cycle of our own monotony, unwilling to accept the fact that all we ever were and all we’ll ever be is insignificant.
COLORADO SKY by renee purtscher
CONTINENTAL DREAM SEQUENCES audrey fok
I. Maybe it was how I dreamt of myself lost in the beast for three days like Jonah. That in the darkness of the belly, I wouldnĘźt write about it like it was a hymn to the aftermath. But I hear if you look hard enough, even the clouds are made of blades. And like riptides, it has to do with knowing what to do but not how to do it when the drowning comes. II. My mother strains thunderclouds in the colander and then wonders why our kitchen floods so often. IĘźll have you know that the women in this family made the word mercy . They held up half the earth and when they walked out under it, the sky found its knees like deer held at gunpoint. If this is what worship sounds like inside out, it is knife against knife. Do you hear it?
IBADAN: CHALLENGE by fatoumata bah
IBADAN: CARRY-GO by fatoumata bah
STRANDED christine arumainayagam
Waves crashed and foamed over the beach, sucking seaweed and seashells, sunglasses and small children into the depths of the ocean forever. Every now and then the tide would regurgitate something that didn’t belong—an umbrella, a cow carcass, an old man named Grant who had lost his left leg in a bloody, vicious, riveting battle against a great white shark (he won). Grant was a sailor. He was a poor sailor, which meant that his handmade boat couldn’t withstand more than a few tame waves, and it certainly couldn’t withstand a storm. When Grant washed up on the shore, he left a trail of red streaks on the sand. He coughed his lungs out and when they fell splat onto his palm, he quickly swallowed them back up. He panted and then screamed when he remembered, for the fifth time that day, that his femur was no longer connected to his hip joint. In fact, it was swirling rapidly along an ocean current off the coast of Australia (but Grant didn’t know that. He just knew it was no longer a part of his body). The beach was deserted that afternoon and it was St. Patrick’s Day. Grant was not wearing green. Actually, he was not wearing any clothes at all. The only reason he became aware of his nakedness was because sitting not more than two feet away from him was a bright orange cat with golden beady eyes. The cat’s golden beady eyes were staring down at him contemptuously. She flicked her tail impatiently, as if to say, Well? Are you going to get up now? Of course Grant wanted to get up, but he did not think it was possible, given that he only had one leg. He told the cat as much, and then wondered if he was going crazy; maybe it was the horrific blood loss. The cat gave no sign of comprehension, but Grant felt relieved at hearing the sound of his own croaky voice. So he continued to talk to her, and the waves continued to ebb and flow behind him, and Ambrosia—that was the cat’s name—continued to stare at him with her intense, orb-like eyes. Before long Grant had told her his entire life story, his heartbreaks and his triumphs, ending with his dream to one day arrive at America and build a fortune for himself. Money, he explained to the cat, made the world go round. Not that you would know anything about that. You’re a cat. It was getting late. A chill had settled over the beach. Grant had been silent for quite some time, but he felt a deep affection for the animal that was sitting beside him, keeping him company. But then Ambrosia stretched luxuriously, scraping her claws into the sand, and walked away, just like that, leaving Grant alone and distraught and dying. Grant’s boat lay next to him, overturned, his belongings strewn all over the place. Scattered along the shore were small silver glinting objects—coins. Thousands upon thousands of coins, just out of his reach, glinting maliciously as the sun set.
INDIVIDUALITY by renee purtscher
UNTITLED tara kohli
Pinpricks of light, twinkling like fallen stars, speckle my vision. The night is pulsing — gusts of warm air wafting lazily off of Hoan Kiem lake, crickets chattering in the banyan trees, glasses clinking softly, barely audible above the rumble of motorcycles and peals of laughter, drifting carelessly from the sides of the road. Somewhere, a pagoda bell trills. The night is crackling with static, tension creeping through the shadows. If you pause for the right second, and cock your head at the perfect angle, you might just catch it in the corner of your eye, mocking, enticing, leaping away the second you spot it, laughing at you as you whirl around trying to catch it. The night is alive. And deadly. From my vantage point, safely tucked away in a tiny alcove, I watch. I can see for miles. To my right, a silky serpent winds its way stealthily out of sight, slithering sinuously into the cover of the trees. The Red River. To my left, strange shapes loom out of the darkness, sharp and elongated, round and scruffy. Skyscrapers. Trees. I know that somewhere, under the canopy of shadows, the lake bubbles over with amusement at humankind. In my mind’s eye, I picture it, the gentle hum of voices rising on a puff of air as I swoop in closer, the fragrant aroma of roasted coffee beans and pork grilling slowly in a banana leaf, swarms of people crawling around its edges, minuscule ants, growing, as I float nearer. The night is balanced precariously. I can practically taste the tension, the mischievous sparks in the air, buzzing with energy, fizzing, frantic to ignite — something, anything — to wreak havoc, destruction, with such lethal precision that you are left breathless with wonder at its beauty.
It is as if I am a baby bird, an oriole, perched gently in a glistening nest of glass, warbling to myself as I wait for a balmy gust of wind, a mere whisper of breath, to topple me, toss me, spin me — down, down, down — into the realm of static and shadow. But I am not afraid. I have long grown accustomed to such heights, soaring on the gales, dancing through the giddy torrents of rain, peering down all the while, tempting mortality, laughing death in the face. It is monsoon season. By now it is two hours till midnight, the night purring in satisfaction, stretching itself luxuriously over the city with the lazy blink of a piercing amber eye, and soon even the lake will fall into a deep slumber. I am alone. For a moment I am lost in thought, frozen, hypnotized, the dizzying spiral of lights blurring before my eyes, whirling — faster, faster, faster. At first it is merely a tingle, starting at tip of my spine, just below the nape of my neck, and creeping coyly down to the tips of my toes. It is softer than a sigh. Fainter still, than the whisper of shadow clouding over a grandmother’s weary eye, as the frigid harvest moon spreads her silvery shroud over the once devastated rice paddies, and her grandchildren have yet to return from the war. It is a wistful murmur. I know that somewhere, far across the river, is my mother.
SOMEDAY anna beyette
Today I looked in the mirror. And I was reminded Of a smaller me. Hair unkempt, Shirt untucked. Listening to my mother’s words, As she re-braided my disheveled locks. “Someday” She told me “You will be able To keep your hair pulled back, Your blouse unstained, Your knees unskinned.” I’m looking in the mirror now At that same Puckish grin. I guess Today Is not that Day.
SPOT ON THE SUN by nadine franklin
LA JAULA DE ORO alicia olivo
CHARACTERS Gloria, a Mexican woman in her 60s. Manuel’s mother. Vulgar and religious, stone and tears, a living contradiction.
The elderly woman, GLORIA, hears the sounds of men barking and dogs growling nearby. Cries of a woman who has been caught like an animal. GLORIA closes her eyes and pulls out a rosary from her shawl. She prays.
Matthew, an Anglo-Saxon American man in his 40s. Manuel’s partner.
VALERIA: She would later tell me that it was Our Lady who looked over her and protected her from them. That she prayed and God heard her for the first time in a long time. I never believed that kind of bullshit, but that’s what Doña Gloria told me when I found her the next morning after hours of hiding. [She walks onto stage next to GLORIA’s hiding place] Who am I to take that belief from her? We’re here for the same reason, after all. All of us.
Ejido Juanillo, Tamaulipas, México, América del Norte, El Mundo
VALERIA goes and sits by GLORIA and they wait out the hunt, until the sounds of the border patrol fade, and night becomes day. They get up, and start walking through the brush.
Manuel, a Mexican-American man in his 40s. Gloria’s estranged son. Tired and sickly. Valeria, a Mexican woman in her 30s. Gloria’s companion. Weary and cynical. A loving mother.
Houston, Texas, United States, North America, The World
GLORIA: It’s hot.
and the space in between
VALERIA: It could be hotter. GLORIA: It feels like the sun is burning us alive.
SCENE ONE Darkness. The sound of static fills the air, and it’s almost as if you could hear an old melody playing, until it fades into the sounds of cars whizzing by. Lights fade up, and in the center of the stage are people – young men, women and their children, an old woman stands out from the crowd. They all are silent, and it is soon obvious by the rectangular spot of light on them that they are inside a moving truck. The sound of air become fainter, and then stops. The people look up, worry etching their faces. A door opens, and they grab their belongings, and run out. Police sirens, border patrol is here. The elderly woman, lost, stumbles through the brush of a dry desert forest – a vast wasteland. Out of breath, she stops and hides beneath a bush. VALERIA: [offstage] This is how I found her, lost, scared. The woman built of stone and grimaces terrified for her life.
VALERIA: Calm down, it’s only March. It could be much worse. You could’ve decided to cross over in July. That would’ve certainly killed you. GLORIA: Excuse me? You have no right to be speaking to me this way! VALERIA: Yeah, I don’t have a right. In fact, I don’t have any rights here at all. And you don’t either. GLORIA: I didn’t mean that kind of right, smartass. A sensible and polite person would apologize. I don’t even know why I’m with you. VALERIA: You’d be lost without me. I’ve crossed this land many times before.
GLORIA: I could make it on my own.
That’s why we cross: for our families.
VALERIA: Ha! I’d like to see that. We’re hundreds of miles away from where you want to be.
GLORIA: [pauses, and then catches up with Valeria] Why didn’t you leave me? Who are you crossing for?
GLORIA: If God’s willing, you can always find a way.
VALERIA: My sons.
GLORIA: So why did you help me?
GLORIA: It’s true. You wouldn’t know because you’re just another one of those heathens— VALERIA: Hey, ma’am? Be quiet. That’s none of your business.
VALERIA: You reminded me of my mother. When we first crossed the border together, when I was five or six, we took this same path. We got lost. And then we were found, by an older woman who had crossed before. It would be fair if I could return the favor to someone else.
GLORIA: May God forgive you for your beliefs.
VALERIA: You don’t even know what I believe in!
GLORIA: No respect for your elders, no respect for the Lord above—
GLORIA: You’re a better girl than I first thought.
VALERIA: [stops] That doesn’t mean anything. I don’t believe in anything at all. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. If I were truly a bad person, I would’ve left you back near the border. I have no reason to be dragging you around with me, wasting my time. GLORIA: [stops and turns to VALERIA] So leave me! I can travel a million miles without your help. VALERIA: A million miles from here lands you in an ocean, ma’am. GLORIA: So then why are you helping me, if you insist on speaking to me in this way?
VALERIA: [rolls eyes] Whatever you say, ma’am. [beat] If you don’t mind me asking, why are you crossing? GLORIA: My son. He’s dying. VALERIA: [faces grows solemn] I’m sorry to hear that, truly, ma’am. GLORIA: I am, too. VALERIA: Is he getting taken care of here? GLORIA: Yes, he’s in a hospital. He’s got papers. VALERIA: Oh, that’s good for him.
VALERIA: Because that’s what any decent person does.
GLORIA: Yes. He doesn’t have long, I think.
GLORIA: Speak to me rudely?
VALERIA: I’m sorry, but what do you mean by, “I think”?
VALERIA: No. [starts to walk] Well—Yeah, no. I meant helping you. Some people, when they cross, they only think about themselves when something like a raid happens—and by themselves, I really mean them and their loved ones.
GLORIA: [ashamed] It’s that, um, I haven’t been in touch with him for a while. VALERIA: A while?
GLORIA: Twenty years or so.
Lights fade out, and the sound of static return.
VALERIA: Oh my God. GLORIA: It was, it’s my fault. I couldn’t, I was a fool.
VALERIA: You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to talk about it.
The sound of static brings us the beginning chords of an old Vicente Fernandez song. As the light come up, we are thrown into the past. A living room. The walls are painted with colors that once may have been bright, gaudy magentas and teals have now faded into murky shades. The furniture is old-fashioned and worn out, with crocheted doilies covering the sofas, and if trying to hide this fact. A wedding photo hangs on the wall, but has been allowed to gather dust and grime to the point where the audience cannot make out their faces.
GLORIA: Why not? We’ve got a long way to go, don’t we? VALERIA: Sort of. It’s a few hours to the nearest gas station. I can call my oldest son to pick us up from there, and we’re not far from Corpus by car. GLORIA: Corpus? VALERIA: Corpus Christi. I live there with my sons, and we have a car. [hesitates] I can take you to Houston, if you need me to. GLORIA: What? VALERIA: I’m completely serious. An old woman such as yourself won’t make it to Houston on foot. GLORIA, stressed, takes out a box of cigarettes from her bag and lights a cig. VALERIA wrinkles her nose in exasperation. VALERIA: You brought cigarettes with you?
In the living room, a man in his mid-20s sits on the sofa. The young man is MANUEL. GLORIA: [offstage] We had lived in that house since his father, Gael, and I married back in the day. He died when Manuel graduated from the secondary school. I worked hard to raise him right, put him through technical school so he could get a job. And then, he told me he was leaving. GLORIA, in her 40s here, walks onstage to the right of the sofa. MANUEL: Look, ma, you ha— GLORIA: How dare you? MANUEL: [stands up] What?
GLORIA: They keep me calm. VALERIA: Are you kidding me? It’s a miracle you’re not dead yet.
GLORIA: I cannot believe you are doing this to your poor mother, after all I’ve given you, all that I’ve sacrificed to give you a good life… I thought I raised you right. MANUEL: And you did. You took care of me, and now it’s my turn to take care of you.
GLORIA: I’ll die when God needs me to. VALERIA: Jesus Christ. GLORIA: [oblivious] Indeed.
GLORIA: No, that is not what you’re doing! You’re leaving me, abandoning me.
VALERIA: [awkwardly] Do you still want to talk about your son?
MANUEL: You won’t even listen to me! I’m going to Texas. I’ll get a job, I’ll send you money.
GLORIA: But when will I see you? MANUEL: [shuffles awkwardly in place] I’ll try to come as often as I can. The refineries are only a few hours away from here, driving. GLORIA: We don’t have a car. MANUEL: I’ll save up for one. I’ll take the bus. GLORIA: Why are you doing this? What did I do? You think I’m a bad mother, that’s what you think. Is this not enough? [She gestures to their surroundings, their humble home.] I gave up everything for you. When I became pregnant, I left my studies to marry your father and be a good mother. I didn’t want you to grow up that way I did, with a single mother who was shunned by the rest of the town… I didn’t want you to grow up with that shame. MANUEL: Yes, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay here for the rest of my life! GLORIA: [ignoring him] So I gave you both my full attention, my entire life, until your father left us… I took care of you. I wiped you, I bathed you, I fed you. I clothed you, I took you to school. I worked so many long hours so I could put food on the table and pay for your tuition. I watched you grow up, my son, my darling, my only child. You were so small when you were born, I was afraid you’d breathe in too deeply and pop your lungs… And now you’re leaving me, too. MANUEL: Yes, I am. GLORIA: What is wrong with me? Why does everyone leave me? Don’t you love me? MANUEL is stunned. Silence. GLORIA: Am I not good enough to be your mother? That’s it, isn’t it? This life, it was never enough for you. MANUEL: No, it’s not! Why should we live like this when I can help you live in a better home? Look at the walls, the paint is peeling. Look at floor, it’s dirt and gets damp and muddy whenever it rains.
GLORIA: You think you’re too good to live in the dirt like the rest of us, right? You’re were always so arrogant… [As she speaks, GLORIA begins advancing to MANUEL until she is standing right in front of him.] MANUEL: I’m not—I don’t think I’m better than you, mother. I just want to leave this place. GLORIA: Then get the fuck out of here. Go, go! Maybe you’ll find something better than all of us, than your friends, than your country, than your own blood over there. Leave. GLORIA backs away from MANUEL, and sits on the sofa, facing away from him. MANUEL stares at his mother. He stoops down, kisses his mother on the cheek, takes his backpack, and exits. He does not look back, for fear of crying. GLORIA is now alone. GLORIA: I don’t blame you. There’s nothing left here now, except for me. There’s nothing left. The sound of static returns, as GLORIA sits on the couch. The beginning chords to “Esta soledad” by Carla Morrison play in the air, in the dust in the air. She doesn’t cry, but the sadness and regret is evident in the way she holds herself, aging her into the elderly woman Valeria met. GLORIA: Years passed. For the first few, I was angry at him. I went to church for guidance, but God wouldn’t say anything. I got by on what the federal government thought I needed for pension. It was enough. The town changed – people left, and new people arrived – traffickers, since we’re less than a mile from the river and the other side. It got bad. Friends passed, and I became even more isolated. VALERIA: [offstage] Did you regret the things you told your son? GLORIA: Don’t be stupid, of course I did. But I had no way to reach him. I didn’t know what his address would be, or if he would come back. He didn’t. I don’t blame him. VALERIA: Then, how are you gonna find him? GLORIA: His… friend called me one day.
The sound of static returns.
MANUEL: [chuckles darkly] I’m not going to have much use for them, Matty. Besides, I’ve never seen you watch Independence Day without me forcing you to.
MATTHEW: It’s a shit movie, Manuel.
We are no longer with Valeria and Gloria. The scene is now a hospital, cold and sterile. At the center of the stage, a hospital bed and a chair. In the bed, a middle-aged man lays –it’s MANUEL, and even though he’s only a couple of decades older than the last time we see him, he looks completely worn out. In the chair, another, slightly older middle-aged man –his partner, MATTHEW. They are deep in conversation. There is a thick anxious tension in the air. The static sound fades into a dialogue.
MANUEL: It’s great!
MATTHEW: The record player?
MANUEL shuts his eyes, tired and relieved. MATTHEW puts the notebook away, and then MANUEL speaks again, surprising him.
MANUEL: To Karen. She was always being jealous about it. MATTHEW writes his response in a small notebook that he keeps in his lap. MATTHEW: The video camera? MANUEL: Johnny. MATTHEW: I’m sure he’ll like it.
MATTHEW: Whatever. [tentatively] Do you want to talk about the house tonight? MANUEL: No, no. Not tonight. Too tired. MATTHEW: That’s okay! I completely understand.
MANUEL: Are you going to stay for the night again? MATTHEW shuffles uncomfortably in his seat. MATTHEW: I wasn’t plannin’ on it. I could, though, if you want me to. MANUEL, with his eyes still shut closed, waves him off. He’s heard this a million times before in their relationship.
MANUEL: As long as he doesn’t know it was mine.
MANUEL: It’s fine, go ahead. I’m sure you have a lot of work to do, with me taking up your time.
MATTHEW: What about your VHS tapes?
MANUEL: [confused] I thought you were keeping them.
MANUEL: [snaps] What?
MATTHEW: Why are you being so passive-aggressive?
MANUEL: Well, I always thought of them as our movies. MATTHEW: Oh.
MANUEL: I’m not being passive-aggressive. [sighs] I’m just frustrated. I wish your job could understand what was going on. We don’t have much time together left.
MANUEL: You don’t have to keep them, of course.
MATTHEW stands up, body stiff. MANUEL continues.
MATTHEW: I mean, I’ll keep them if you want me to.
MANUEL: I’m sorry.
MATTHEW: It’s okay. MANUEL: Are you going to keep working on your big presentation? MATTHEW: Yeah, yeah, sure. I’m going to be giving it at the end of the week.
MATTHEW leaves, and MANUEL is left all alone, confused at his partner’s question. MANUEL: I’m sure it doesn’t miss me, though. I’m sure about that.
MANUEL: I’m glad. I hope you get the promotion after it.
MATTHEW: Me too.
An abrupt scene change again. GLORIA and VALERIA are now in a car, with the latter driving. The scenery is whizzing by, rolling fields of farm with the occasional small town. The radio softly plays old classic Mexican pop, Jose Jose’s “El triste”. GLORIA hums along as she open her pack and lights up a cigarette. VALERIA rolls her eyes, and opens GLORIA’s window. A roaring sound of wind spooks GLORIA, and her cigarette flies out into the highway.
MANUEL: I’m not being passive-aggressive, by the way. MATTHEW: I would hope you wouldn’t be. I’ll see you tomorrow. MATTHEW gives MANUEL a peck on the lips. MATTHEW begins to leave, but the pauses in the doorway.
VALERIA: My apologies, I didn’t mean that to happen. I just didn’t want the car to smell bad. I hate the smell of smoke, and it’s bad for my children.
MATTHEW: Hey, Manny? MANUEL: Yeah, Matt? MATTHEW: I know you don’t like me to ask, but do you miss home? MANUEL: Of course I miss home. [teasingly] I don’t trust you with feeding the cats every day, that was my job.
VALERIA: Yes, but the smell will stick! GLORIA: Calm yourself, woman.
GLORIA: Everything is going to turn out perfectly.
MATTHEW: [awkwardly and drawn out] Yeah. There is a long pause. MANUEL looks troubled and deep in thought. MATTHEW is regretful about asking the question in the first place. He checks his watch and then his smartphone until MANUEL answers.
MATTHEW: [relieved] OK. OK, that’s good. Good night.
GLORIA: Your children aren’t here.
VALERIA: I am calm. The one who shouldn’t be calm is yourself.
MATTHEW: No, not your home here… I meant –
MANUEL: Yes. I do miss it.
GLORIA: Valeria! That was my last cigarette.
VALERIA: Are you serious? That Matthew guy didn’t even tell you where they lived! How are you supposed to find your son that way? GLORIA: I’ll go to the hospital. VALERIA: [breathes in deeply] I don’t mean to be rude, ma’am, but there’s a LOT of hospitals in Houston. We can’t possibly go check in with everyone to see your son is there – I mean, we technically could, but that would take hours. I
need to get back to my children.
VALERIA: It sounds like his partner really cares for him. I’m sure he hasn’t.
GLORIA: Her man. VALERIA: I don’t understand. GLORIA: When I was speaking to the man on the phone, I couldn’t understand stand half of what he was saying. He spoke to me in very broken Spanish, and the words he spoke in English just went over my head. It was like radio static to my ears. But those two words I did manage catch. “Her man.” VALERIA: …There’s a hospital named Memorial Hermann in the city. GLORIA: Yes. Yes! That’s where my son must be.
The music from their radio fades. Back in the hospital. MATTHEW and MANUEL are in the middle of an argument. Again, MANUEL is in bed while MATTHEW is sitting up straight up. Tension. MATTHEW: We need to talk about the house. MANUEL: No, we don’t. MATTHEW: Manny, there isn’t much time. MANUEL: Time? Before what? Before I croak?
VALERIA: How do you know for sure? GLORIA: I don’t. But if God made me hear those words through the white noise, it must be because Manuelito is there. VALERIA: You know I don’t believe in that. GLORIA: But you believe in the love of a mother for her children, correct? VALERIA: Of course. Why do you think I keep coming back to this place? If it wasn’t for my kids, I’d stayed in Puebla that very first time they threw me back. Silence for a moment. There’s a new song playing on the radio. You hear the piano introduction. of “Volvere” by Diego Verdaguer and Amanda Miguel play. GLORIA: There isn’t a lot of time you’re given to spend it with your children. I wish I could’ve put aside my foolishness before Manuel left. I hope to the Lord he hasn’t been as alone as I have. VALERIA, with her eyes on the road as they have been throughout the scene, smiles.
MATTHEW: Yeah, we all know this. MANUEL: Yes, we do. You know who especially this? Me. MATTHEW: Manuel, who is the house going to? You have to decide. MANUEL: No, I don’t. I’m too busy dying to decide. MATTHEW: Stop being dramatic! Please, we need to do this. MANUEL: No, we really don’t. Why do you need to know so badly, anyways? It’s not your house. It’s mine. MATTHEW: I need to know if it will be mine. MANUEL: You’re not making any sense. I’m going to sleep. MATTHEW: Manny, please. MANUEL: Work on your goddamn presentation or something. MANUEL slowly and painfully covers himself with the bedsheet, and MATTHEW carefully – but nonetheless forcefully – pulls it
away from him.
could still fuck you?
MANUEL: Why did you do that?
MATTHEW: Hey, don’t talk like that.
MATTHEW: I care about you, Manny, it – I want to know if the house is going to be mine.
MANUEL: “Hey, don’t talk like that.” What is wrong with you? I’m literally dying, dying Matthew!
MATTHEW: I’m aware!
MANUEL: Then why are you doing this to me?
MANUEL: You’re not going to have it. You don’t need it.
MATTHEW: I don’t love you anymore! I’m sorry. Do you know how exhausting it is to care and look after for someone you don’t love?
MATTHEW: Yes, I kind of do. MANUEL: For what? You have your own apartment. It’s not like you’ll be raising a family or something. MATTHEW: Manny…
MANUEL: You didn’t have to cheat on me to tell me you didn’t love me anymore. Decent people just say, “Hey, I don’t love you anymore.” MATTHEW: [softly] I’m sorry. I’m going to make it up to you, I promised. I called –
MANUEL: Get out.
Silence. A dawning of realization happens in MANUEL’s eyes. MATTHEW stays silent. MANUEL: Are you kidding me? You said you weren’t going to do this again. Are you fucking kidding me? Who is it? MATTHEW: I’m sorry. MANUEL: Is it whoever you’re working on the presentation with? MATTHEW: Manny, I loved you so much. So much, you – MANUEL: It’s Richard, isn’t it?
MATTHEW: What? MANUEL: This is our goodbye, Matthew. I’m going to say, “Get out,” one more time. You’ll leave without a word. Then I’m going to cry. Maybe Karen will show up. I’ll say by to her kid, Johnny. And then I’ll die. And you’ll give them my stuff. MATTHEW: Manny, listen – MANUEL: I don’t listen to liars. I’m done with that. Now, get ready. Any last words? MATTHEW: I’m trying to tell you something important, Manny –
MATTHEW: …I’m sorry. MANUEL: You’re seeing fucking Richard? Richard, the guy you always complained about over dinner? MATTHEW: Look, it wasn’t like I was seeing him while –
MANUEL: Too little, too late! Get the hell out of my sight. Have fun with Richard, dick. MATTHEW: Manny…
MANUEL: While what? While I could still walk? While I
MANUEL puts his pillow over his head. MATTHEW, deciding to respect his former love’s last wishes, leaves silently. MANUEL begins to cry. MANUEL: [muffled] Fuck you! White noise begins to increase volume over MANUEL’s cries, until it crescendos and is cut by abrupt silence, as if someone had muted a video. GLORIA appears in the doorway with VALERIA. VALERIA pushes her gently in, and GLORIA carefully walks over to the sobbing MANUEL, who doesn’t seem to hear her. She gently, lovingly, places her hands on the pillow and lifts it from his face. MANUEL, stubborn, keeps his eyes closed. GLORIA speaks, but we cannot hear anything. MANUEL opens his eyes, no longer crying, and stays still, shocked. He then throws his arms around his mother, who hugs him in turn. They’re both crying together, sobbing, really, but you can’t hear them – it’s like seeing the most painful scene in an aquarium. They don’t know what will happen to them. What matters is that they’re finally together. End of play.
PORTRAIT OF GRANDPA by cindy zhou
RECURSION kate kenneally
The recursive function calls upon itself It splits its problems into smaller ones, The fragments forming fractals of wishful thinking, And in its hour of need, it looks inward, Fibonacci spiraling toward its base case until ERROR: maximum recursion depth reached The recursive function calls upon others, Helpers, to shoulder computation and complexity It takes a breath and takes a step and Runs, sustained by dear friends, pair programs It admits its weaknesses, but takes pride in its strengths â€œI came, I divided, I conqueredâ€? The recursive function grows trees in its spare time A gardener, offering information a home It takes apart towers and builds them up again An architect, preserving every rod and disk Magical and powerful and beautiful, A mathematical leap of faith, It binary-searches for self-validation And finds it beyond its proof by induction
UNTITLED by isabella king
UNTITLED by isabella king
IN THE ENDLESS EYE emily fu
Time doesn’t pass in the Bois. The morning after Mama died, I crawled into the forest after Skeetah and Randall. Skeetah didn’t have China then and none of us had mama. I ran fast and my arms raced and shook with the wind, my feet sinking into brown, gritty earth, leaves pawing at my stretched limbs. Tears dripped down my body and mixed with my sweat, my skin wet and sticky. I heard the sound of my brothers’ footsteps and glimpsed Skeetah’s torn blue shirt, Randall’s dark muscled leg twisting and turning. I couldn’t stop running. Each stride tugged at my heart, pulling it towards my core, the firm seed within me, drawing me to the ground. My heart was coming out of me, disappearing, leaping into the forest, beating in the spaces between the trees, the branches, between me and mama, between me and my brothers. I looked for something to hold onto, but I didn’t find it. There was no thick trunk, sappy, yellow fruit, or a fragrant flower to orient my soul and attach me to a small point in the sky, keeping my bounded. No petals laced my bud and protected the seed that was me. I was falling. I was Medea flying from Corinth in a golden chariot driven by dragons and sent by the blazing sun. I was mama, dying on the bed, her eyes hurting, her body breaking and crumbling. As I surged forward, pieces of Esch were falling off and my heart beat again and again, awakening, wild, alive. The forest moved me and the green made me alive. My feet pounded the earth. Time stopped because I was getting away.
wet and strips away the houses’ thin wood and blows around flimsy trash around the pit. Trees lay detached from their roots across the pit, the smell of wood and bark rubbing against our skin. Water is wearing away the Bois, flowing through the gaps between us, flushing our minds, rushing into crevices of rock, eroding time. Wet is disintegrated dirt, wet is the color of the Skeetah’s eyes, wet is China’s blood. There is stillness in Skeetah’s burning eyes. Like water, Skeetah reaches towards China, her fire lighting up the pit, but he doesn’t resist and fight. Skeetah doesn’t fight the water that is taking China away and coming to rest above us. I hear mama moaning the day she was birthing Junior, tears strewn from her face, her soul grasping onto us and her eyes breaking into hundreds of glass pieces spilling over the trash-strewn pit, daddy pushing me into the water. I remember clinging against Randall and holding onto his strong arm, grounding myself to the earth. I see Skeetah and China at the dog fight, Skeetah whispering into her ear, make them know make them know make them know make them know, China’s yellow eye meeting Skeetah’s dark eye, sun piercing through the darkness, their love beating everything. On the pit, Skeetah waits for China and we sit with him, waiting for Skeetah, for China, for the night, for the water to fall, for the end of time.
“Their pickled hands joined the masses, and Jipi contemplated his own.”
“China,” Skeetah says gently. “China, China, China, white China, diamond China, China, China, China, China.” Randall, Junior, Big Henry, and I sit on the pit next to Skeetah. We watch the dark, ruined buildings and torn wood papered everywhere in the Bois and the orange sky staring fiercely, its frown melting in the whites of the sky. I watch Skeetah. He doesn’t look at me. He is navigating the earth, looking for water, Katrina’s water, entering the pit, dulling China’s blood, making her alive and suffocating her heart. He is listening to the water beneath us, hears it soaking into the beaten ground. Katrina’s water freezes up the land. Water makes wet the trees. Water pats the ground
As I stare at Skeetah, Big Henry moves closer to him. His arms want to reach out and touch the tender spot on Skeetah’s thin back. Big Henry raises his arm slowly, but then he sees Skeetah’s face- dark and still as a black fawn walking through the prairie. His face is a smooth stone, all edges smoothed out. Big Henry drops his arm and it hits the ground, brushing dirt onto his huge, flimsy shorts. Randall, Junior, and I don’t move, but our minds are filled with Skeetah. I turn away from Skeetah’s attentive, waiting face, and I glance at Junior for a moment. His brown hair zigzags across his face desultorily and his mouth opens and closes, open and closes. He is a fish trying to speak, breathing underwater. I can see his post- sleeping drool on Randall’s
white shirt. Junior’s eyes are tender and glassy, but they pierce from his black pupils. They are staring at me. I look back at Junior and I feel his small hands, his thin shoulders, his body crooked and bending. He tucks into Randall’s long arms and Randall holds him steady. Randall stares straight ahead, like Skeetah. There is saltiness in his black eyes, beads of pain, and warm light fuses with the dark. His arms are holding Junior, but he’s also holding me for the first time. He’s reaching for Skeetah too. I can feel it. For the first time, Skeetah looks at us. He is proud. He is desperate. He is burning like Jason. “She is mine,” Skeetah calls. We know. China’s coming. China’s not coming. “Skeet,” I whisper. He stares at me and I call to him with my heart, my rooted seed, my baby growing within me. The winds don’t whistle. It’s very quiet, a vacuum in nature, greenish and brown. I edge closer and closer to him, my butt edging across dirt and debris, my hands flailing. The water’s rising, it’s coming, China’s coming. I reach for Skeetah’s hands. His stillness comes onto me and my body shakes its stiffness off and I push myself towards him. He doesn’t resist. I am holding onto his hand, his arm, his legs, the denim of his ragged, holey shorts. My hands are sweating, and I hold him. The water drips by, and I can’t hear. Skeetah doesn’t move; his eyes are wide open, and again they watch the space in front of me where there is no China, no water splashing and playing. Where is China? Skeetah doesn’t hold on to me or put his arms around me. He is so still. There is only green and brown. I close my eyes.
Suddenly, my body is being tugged. My heart is being pulled. Skeetah’s body inches towards me by one degree. His hand grips back. He holds me stronger and stronger and my eyes open, and I feel China’s fire. My lips turn upward a little and my body is smiling, my baby brushing water playfully inside of me. My eyes open and I see Skeetah looking down on me, his expression plastered deep with concern, sending ripples of sparkling water towards me. Our arms wrap around each other, holding onto one another. My heart is holding onto his and his heart is holding onto mine. My core, my seed at my center is building, getting stronger and stronger, connecting me to my Baptiste heart, my Medea heart, my China heart, my heart like mama’s, my mama heart. Big Henry joins us and his big, soft arms close around both of us. I feel the tenderness of his skin. Randall and Junior come to us and they lean themselves next to us, all of us touching. We are holding each other, and the water in the pit, in the Bois, is rising and falling, rising and falling. Skeetah is coming back and so are we. I am making solid those lost pieces of Esch, setting my heart to my own beat, tasting sweet fruit. I am as strong as a warrior, as strong as Medea loving Jason, China fighting blood and viciousness, Junior swimming in empty air, Randall keeping me from falling, and Skeetah loving China and loving me. We are flying on damp ground, uprooted trees, broken homes. The hurricane is neither behind us or in front us, but it crashes into us endlessly. I look through us, and I don’t know where time is.
SINGLE EXPOSURE SELF PORTRAIT by leila-anne brusseau
YELLOWEYES grace owens
This is not a true story. If any of it did happen, I wouldn’t know, because I wasn’t there. The girl with lemon-yellowcolored eyes lived in limbo, smoking out of her bedroom window with her knees curled up in red light. Sheets of red gel over the lamps. I didn’t know her then. My clearest image of her is shirtless in that cavern, dancing. I don’t remember it, the memory is hazy, the false memory of her ribs and shoulders in the semidarkness. But the sound below our feet became light, and she was clear to me. Yelloweyes showed me scraps of things that don’t exist in this world. She moved through time a little differently. This girl with yellow eyes never looked at the moon, not even when I pointed it out to her. She did not look up. Yelloweyes was in love with burning to death, a romance with death, a romance. Dancing close to the end of it. She courted violence. No, now I’m talking about myself. Forgive me. Yelloweyes sitting on the edge of my bed. Yelloweyes, can you see the way her shoulders move, up and down, up and down, her skin is thin and translucent. Yelloweyes, I wonder if she would sing a little hoarse, in the karaoke bar that we did not make it to. She leaned right over the bridge and vomited into the river. Yelloweyes leaned over.
I’m making it all up. Yelloweyes sat on her desk and I knelt at her feet. Starting with her feet, I wound flowers all around her body. She played with two lighters, holding them together to make the flame burn bright. I put daisies into the laces of her white shoes. I tucked a sprig of clover into her sock. I tied white lilies around her belt loops. I pushed rose petals down the waist of her jeans. I arranged a series of irises, folded over the collar of her shirt. I wound a long piece of ivy around her neck. I tucked forget me nots behind her ears. She ran her hands through her hair and the flowers fell right to the floor. At the end of it, she drew the dogs that chased her and unraveled holes in her, dogs painted in lines of thick rich black with unending teeth. No witness. I watched her burn her forearms with wax until they turned red and I did nothing to stop her. For hours I watched her burn herself, hours without end. The clocks had all stopped. I watched her over and over again, even when I was not there, and the patterns spinning from her veins opened a gate in me, cut open a chain link fence in me, dissipated a seal in me. In one window with a torn paper shade, we sat as useless as played cards. We put a stop to the night.
Yelloweyes as a child with a lot of time on her hands. A child. Yelloweyes poked holes in my questions and theories with her fingers. Unraveling the guts with her fingers. Flesh, burning holes in flesh.
-when you find your own eyes in a picture of your mother that your father so carefully positioned with the callused tips of his fingersand to know he took that photograph before you were born and before he was so close to being an old man? that you can look back through time printed on a silver paper slip a moment in time with your eyes over her cheekbones you do not like art because it makes you nervousyou do not understand its subtleties and its meanings but you know that these painted ladies are all dead, and that the self-portraits are the only record of someoneâ€™s physiognomyand that everyone else just has to be remembered you think that if you had to you could remember his face foreverthe lines, dashes, and shading and how it felt to trace from cheek to hairline -you remember his first cold touch and the split second you wondered if he was really alive at allif any of you wereso you had to cut him open for proof. all of those timesand you still cannot decide between familiar or not. only that you end each story the same way Steinbeck did in the chrysanthemumsthat she hid her face so that he would not see her crying, like an old woman.
EYES by nadine franklin
alexandra jones twaddell
You see her In the rain or The snow How she rides her bike. Faster And you remember How you are As young as you are old As blue as youâ€™ll ever be green The sky is As it is. At dusk Making you believe that you Know things But dawn bends soon
I FRATELLI E IL DUOMO by francesca keller sarmiento
REMEMBRANCE linda liu
You were worried that I would forget you, grandma. I am worried, too. I wrote down your name, again and again to remember your presence in my life. For almost a year, my life had been in stagnation, I halted everything – growth, change, and age, forbade life from restarting, and nursed the memories of you in me. Though I knew you were dying, news of your death still shocked me like electricity. Your final three months alive were bereaved of consciousness, penetrated by tubes. You laid lifeless on the white sheets, they said your brain was dead, said you felt no pain. I didn’t believe it, I still don’t. My mom, aunt, and uncle prayed for you, Life like that wasn’t worth living, they said, they prayed for you to move on. What was it about life, dear grandma, and if was you, why wouldn’t you let it go? Sometime before you passed away, you left me money, from the meager amount you’d saved, you said that this is for your favorite , something for her to forever remember you by. You used the words forever and remember. I remember you. Your rice noodles and dried shrimps, your sweet, red radish with sautéed pork, your powerhouse heart and bossy ways, and all your curse words I never dared to use. I remember you, you loneliness and fear of old age. Death is like lights go out, you said, you sat quietly next to me and played finger games with yourself. At the end, grandma, old age still maimed you, and life sailed you on. I remember you. How you picked up the fallen jasmine flowers and put them in a ceramic plate; how you told me to smell them, how they smelled better than perfumes.
You never said goodnight before bed, you always said goodbye. You looked into my eyes, searching for things I didn’t know existed. You never wanted to let go. You asked for forever, grandma. Is there such a thing? The day I stopped hurting was the day I began forgetting. This year I felt your presence less, is our time finally up, grandma? Since your departure, I fell in and out of love a couple times, this year I cut my hair, got new clothes, and threw away pairs of middle school jeans. My dad bought me a new watch, said I should look grown up. I cannot stop growing, grandma. I have tried, but I have failed. And once I started growing again, you slipped away. Memories of you blurred, your laughter quieted, the jasmines dimmed, as if you had also decided to let go. And you were worried that I would forget you, grandma. I am worried, too. But why are we worried? What do we fear? To discover that life’s empty, love’s meaningless, all strife, tears, passion, and blood – all are rewardless – in the end? And if this is the truth of life, let us ignore it. Let me keep battling life with all the strength I have all my remembrance of you – your love, your boldness, stories of your name. Let me remember you, grandma. Meanwhile, let us move on. But when will I see you next? In which incarnation will we, together, walk this world again? I wrote down your name, again and again. We shall move on, grandma, and we shall remain. We shall hold on to the “forever” – let me hold on to it, it and everything. Forever shall be my present tense, and you, dear grandma, don’t leave me alone.
THE LOST CITY by katharine wu
SURVIVOR’S GUILT anya silva
the year my classmates died started it started - I can’t remember memories, yes, but nothing linear, just flashes, moments that stick the teacher pacing around class ticking off deaths on his hands the orange spoon I stare at while my best friend tells me who died a sophomore girl crying into a towel next to the pool swimsuit wet with chlorine and tears school announces a death via twitter and everyone dives for their phones calling friends desperate are you safe here’s how the year ends the deaths slow, the stream to a trickle until one death a year becomes a relief but one death is still one too many and. (and here’s the thing - the year doesn’t end)
JOSIE’S QUESTION erin kelly
Her mother cried on the day everyone wore black to church. She kissed the top of Josie’s head over, and over, and over again and said that Jeremy was in Heaven. It was then Josie realized that she needed to find Heaven. There was something she forgot to ask her older brother before he left for Summer camp. Josie knew that Heaven was high in the sky. Even higher than the clouds. She tried jumping on the trampoline. But then her legs got tired. She tried climbing the tallest tree in her backyard. But then a branch got wobbly. She even crossed the street by herself to look for the magical flying bus that took Jeremy and his friends to Heaven. But then it got dark. Josie was scared of the dark. When Josie arrived in her front yard without having found Heaven, she almost started to cry. But then she saw a hot air balloon drifting towards the stars. The next day Josie asked her mother to take her to the balloon stand at the park. She said yes. Josie knew she would. After Jeremy went away to Summer camp, she forgot how to say the ord “no.” Josie bought a green balloon. Green is Jeremy’s favorite color. Their mother smiled and Josie felt happy. The last time she had seen her mother smile was when Jeremy was waving goodbye to them on the magical flying bus. They hadn’t known it was magical or flying then. When Josie got home she ripped a piece of paper out of Jeremy’s special doodle book. She wrote nine whole words on it. Then she taped her special words to the green balloon, let go of the string, and watched it fly all the way up to Heaven. Josie spent more days than she knew how to count sitting underneath Jeremy’s favorite tree and waiting for an answer to her question: When your gon can I slep in your bed?
WHAT I DON’T SAY april poole
TW: Mention of eating disorders w/o any specific behaviors mentioned She sits across from me in the McDonald’s off the highway where we used to stop on our road trips when we went to visit her family. Meeting her here now feels like a meeting between divorced parents passing their kids between them at the rest stop halfway between them. Her fingers twist her straw wrapper into knots, the way she always did when she was nervous. It looks like she’s stopped biting her nails in the last year, and they’re painted. They never were when we were together. She has a cheeseburger kids meal in front of her and I have my usual ten piece chicken nuggets. I don’t say does this mean you’ve recovered from your ED. I don’t say you look healthier. Instead I say, “Where are you living now?” I never thought that would be something I’d have to ask her. I don’t say I wish you were living with me. “With my new boyfriend. In New Orleans,” she says, and I feel it like a punch in the gut. I wasn’t expecting that and I wish I had considered the possibility. She said she needed some time to be single but I guess her recovery time from our relationship was shorter than mine. I wonder if this is why she said we should meet up while she was in Virginia, so she could give me my stuff back. I don’t even want it back- I liked knowing she had it. It felt like I was still with her in some way. Our breakup will feel truly final when I get in the car to drive home, a box of stuff I haven’t seen in a year on the passenger seat beside me. I should have told her I was busy this weekend and she’d have to mail the stuff to me. It would have been much less painful than this. I don’t say I miss you. I don’t say D.C. isn’t the same without you. I don’t say I want to kiss you. I do say, “I’m happy for you.”
SAY HER NAME by breslin bell
HELEN REDDY mila cuda
7 O’Clock– I am all inner monologue and flat pepsi, faded red lipstick & eyes to match the shade heavy swollen scatterbrain. Do you hear herø Helen Reddy in a lavender turtleneck, Glory. 7 O’Clock– I see you now. Had you (or I) been hiding? I am woman hear me roar hear me snarl hear me sweetly soul sing Loneliness and Innocence are names only we can give ourselves. Deny the boy who calls you a broken butterfly, you never soared around him on purpose.
UNTITLED by isabella king
WHAT I COULD BUY INSTEAD OF A PACK OF MARLBORO REDS mila cuda
-a bus ride to New York -two and a half cartons of orange juice -used Doc Martens -angel cards -floss -an email confirmation for a GoFundMe donation -mittens -a month of Spotify -settled breakfast -1/60th of a plane ticket to see my love -more Kaveh Akbar -an elbow splint -tulips -permanent ink -a pillow case -water -morning spree at the Garment District -Vaseline -strawberries -stamps for the neglected pen pal -handfuls of time -an undone gag reflex -Altoids -a subscription to a literary magazine -my fatherâ€™s pride
GAEL by breslin bell
COTTON CANDY joanna linn
It’s alright to stare at our humanity, to look at the palms of our hands and admit, yes, we did clench our fists too many times and yes, we have scars from mistakes we attempt to disguise, and yes, the burns from boiling words that passed our lips and dissolved people’s confidence like cotton candy, sugar spun of pastel pink and baby blue that scorched into the sticky scent of something burning bloody on the stove, cooked into a blackened mush of muddied beliefs and ground up dreams–it continues to burn. This is our existence; the child attempting to help but spilling the paint all over his clothes, a daughter who never grunts more than a yes or a hello, the woman who worries more about her own self-identity, the mirror on the wall than the lady crying down the hall. Concoctions of self-concern stirred with the inability to learn with a small sprinkle of fake stability–this is our tonality– reaching for cookies on the shelf no matter if they will make our stomach turn or if they’ll make a mess our mother will have to clean up, stuffing our faces with sweetness that we crave no matter who else has to pay. It is easy to let others pay the price of inconvenience, cheer for others’ strengths but secretly attempting to manipulate their weaknesses, walk into a room and want to be the queen, the star of this show with nothing to show but a costume of paint-stained clothes and clenched fists and hair scented
with smoke and cookie crumbs mumbling about something, perhaps something about cotton candy. Here, on this stage of society, each of us try to steal each others’ lines, to catch the script of the world and call out “Mine!” This is my spotlight, this is my place, you belong backstage sweeping up my cookie crumbs, crumbling people’s pride away. From the beginning of our days this was the situation, Code Red, Emergency, we have a small child overdosed on narcissism, call the doctor to inject him with a small dose of humanism and rationality because if a psychiatrist can convince him to hold hands at age two and not bite people at age three, and to say please and thank you at age four then perhaps we can prevent this sickness called sin. Perhaps if we vaccinate him with proper habits, if we shoot him full of motherly love and tenderness he will never ever fall ill to humanity perhaps. but perhaps for now, it is simply enough to let go and say Not mine
The scent of sandalwood still lingers on my wrists even after I’m gone My mouth still holds the taste of nicotine that you gifted to me with complimentary lips All I could hear was how rapid your breathing was How fast your heart was beating with my ear to your chest I could still feel your arms around my waist Your hand counted my vertebrae one by one And every hair that you tucked behind my ear to see my face, must have been about 28 I counted too, the times you said “I love you” All seven in one night, not another since
UNTITLED by isabella king
UNTITLED by isabella king
BETWEEN THE HOURS OF TEN TO ONE sama mundlay
TW: Sexual assault
into her ear, “I hope you enjoy yourself.”
It was only ten.
He wandered back into a game of beer pong, and she wandered around, trying to locate anyone she knew, to no success. The steady vibrations of chatter became a buzz, a cacophony of EDM and drunken cries of “Shots!”
She had already ditched the group of friends that nervously brought her along to this stuffed, sticky room. Faithlessly she abandoned them for the half-drunk bottle of Bombay Sapphire unclaimed in carved, Persian-style table in the corner. Every time she bent over her shorts rode all the way up and she half-heartedly tugged them down but knew, from across the room, that someone was watching. Avoiding the eyes of acquaintances proved easier than expected. Everyone shuffled aimlessly, leaving one sweaty room for another, or for a bathroom, or the even darker, louder outdoors, guided only by their glowing joints. Casually, he looked her over through his thick, drawling eyelashes. Her shirt slipped, but unfortunately her hair covered anything that was worth seeing. The lighting helped- every now and then, someone would open a door to a bedroom and fluorescent light would illuminate the scene. As she grabbed the bottle and poured herself a largerthan-appropriate drink, he moved decisively into the space between them. “Careful, it’s gonna be too strong for you.”
At around eleven, she found one of her original party of five. His hair was tousled, his face wet. Why was everyone sweating? They chatted and bantered and flirted, coded in layers of history references because they were both taking the same Cold War class. Neither friends nor acquaintances, she remembered. And unusually never single at the same time. Suddenly aware, she impulsively grabbed his hand. It was larger than hers, an expanse of callouses. He let her grab it. He pulled her, not an insistence but a question, to a bathroom off the kitchen. Inside it was quiet, but soon the sloppy sounds of their kissing filled the room. On the sink, on the toilet, her legs wrapped around his torso. Bright, but hazy. Fast, not intimate, hands grabbing, not stroking. Their shirts – both well designed to show off his arms, her stomach- flew and everything escalated. She paused for a second, “I feel like this has been a long time coming.” Dismissive, eager, he replied, “That makes it better.”
“I can handle it.” Her grimace confirmed as much. Stupid sophomore, he thought. Every time they met, there was more and more to tease her about. Her obvious anxiety, her pretentious references, the slight gap between her teeth, it was just all too easy. Once he had asked, softening his voice to silk, if it really bothered her, his teasing. Sometimes, she admitted. There were a few sore spots, which quickly, as soon as he was in front of his friends, became targets again. The thing was, he knew she thought she was smarter than him, and it was definitely not true, and it was definitely in her best interest to make enough fun of her now, before she went to college and really pissed people off. Confidence had to be earned. They hugged awkwardly to acknowledge their meeting and parted. Before she left to go find her friends, his voice slipped
But when he started kissing her neck, and she had nothing to do with her body, she just stared straight ahead at the off-white cracks on the walls. They were sitting on the toilet and she offhandedly wondered about its last shit. Someone rapped on the door, “Get out! I have to piss!” snapping her vision back into focus. Almost too quickly she got up and pulled her shirt off the floor. She handed him his; he looked away. Decisively, he fled, closing the door behind him with a thump. After a moment, she headed back into the thickening crowd. It could have never happened. He wants to pretend it never happened. It never happened. He walked outside and found their mutual friends and resumed the party, happy, drinking, ready to drink more, to keep drinking.
It was only eleven and yet time loomed, each minute needed to be entertaining. People kept rushing through the living room, the bedrooms, outside with glazed eyes. In the middle of the room she wondered- where are my friends? She couldn’t find any so she took another shot. Everyone seemed uncomfortably older or too distant to be friends with. The music paused for a brief moment, protests swam into the empty air, it resumed. Some asshole wanted to put his phone on, his music. It was that asshole. They made eye contact again. He gestured, grabbed her hand and she followed. She just followed. Each step involved a drag, a stumble, but she persisted through. I mean, he was older. His hair was so thick. Yes, he was arrogant, but who wasn’t? Surely that’s what she would have been thinking, had she been thinking.
“No, definitely not.” She slowly moved to the toilet, dabbed with the paper, and waited. When she paused, he pulled her back up and against the wall, and, to his credit, he did go more gently. More thoughtfully. Her breath became shallower and for weeks after she would recall that memory just to feel that twinge. When he decided he was done, he sat down on the toilet and she leaned against the counter. He pulled down his pants and there it stood. Beige. Unusually tall, with black, dark, wiry curls supporting it. She didn’t know what to do so she just stared at him. “What, you think I’m just gonna finger you and you don’t have to do anything back?”
“Their pickled hands joined the masses, and Jipi contemplated his own.”
They walked into a different bathroom and kissed, lightly and swiftly, against the sink, on the counter. He pushed into her mouth and grabbed her hair, and unknowing what to do she followed his lead. His tongue slipped in and out but he stopped, for a second, to survey her. “Shit, you’re so wet.”
Am I, she thought. Unsure, she registered it as a good thing. Absentmindedly, she gave herself kudos for having the forethought to shave. His finger, thick and stocky went in and went to work. It was rough, it was too rough, it was too fast and hard and aggressive and she just couldn’t understand why some people’s personalities had to be so aggressive. She just closed her eyes and grimaced and tried to enjoy what she could. After a few minutes he paused. She stood up and looked down. Three drops on the white tiles. Bright red flags. “Are you on your period?”
Silently she just looked. The room spun, so she sat down in front of him. Briefly she closed her eyes and sleep pulled her backwards, she jerked awake. Was it a request? From her to him? A brief plea, an excuse to leave the situation? In those moments, sitting there, thinking about it, he pushed her head down, and prompted her, over and over with his steady, unwavering hand. It doesn’t really matter how long this went on for. After a few minutes, he seemed dismayed by her lack of enthusiasm and left her there. On the way out, he passed his lab partneralthough he personally could not stand the guy- and said, “She just blew me. Go for it dude, she’s really easy tonight.” So on her way out, she was interrupted with a broad smile and a “How are you? You having fun?” “Sure.” Her best friend and her boyfriend entered the room then and the four of them lounged around until someone called the couple outside. He moved on top of her, heavy, cushy, somewhat reminiscent of the last time they had hooked up. Someone unknown was passed out next to them. The lights were on, family portraits lined the walls. He tried to take her bra off and struggled, gave up, she sighed.
After a while they ended up in that same bathroom. And she just blew him. When he came it was so hot and sudden and on her face, dripping down her chin, white, thick, sticky, viscous, so hot. She ran to the sink and started scrubbing and scrubbing and it left but she was still scrubbing. She could still feel it on her cheek, its weight on her chin. He left while she was still washing her face. Many people had dispersed, the living room was empty. The music had faded. On the couch, pushed to the side, she met another junior whom she had hooked up with a few weekends ago. He was so charming, and drunk, and happy, and after a while she asked, “Would you mind if I kissed you?” “I would like that, actually,” His lips, as always, were soft, plump, tasteless but cool. She traced the stripes of his shirt with her finger and smiled at him and as they kissed her alarm rang on her phone. It was one. “I’ll walk you out,” he said, taking her hand. They strode out to where her ride was waiting. Embarrassed, she gave him a kiss and said, “We should hang out sometime.” “Yeah, I’d like that.”
GENTLY marley forest
We are healing ourselves, you and I In the light from the lit stove, in which we blew fire into life In words of poetry and cups of tea In silence that is comfortable if not sweet in its sadness in forgiveness, in all its forms we are healing ourselves tonight so tomorrow we may start again
UNTITLED by isabella king
FOUND POEM: PROFESSOR NOLDEN mila cuda
Ok‒ Liebe leute! I’m just going to stand here in stoic indignation. You, Americans, throw your commas, on the page, like, poppy, seeds. Another bandaid. Another question. How will Jens stand against the existential voidø I still think LOL means lots of love. No one ever wants to ask me questions. Ißm cooking soup for the president. Donßt ask whatßs in it. That was a lovely silence. Masculinity isn’t strong enough to travel on its own. Please make a mistake. Words donßt like to be lonely either. The poetry is in the language.
MASTHEAD EDITORS IN CHIEF Laura Maclay ’18 Rachel Pak ’18 Noor Pirani ’19 MANAGING EDITOR Sanjana Thakur ‘20 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 EDITOR Claire Cannatti ’20 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
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
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
With special thanks to Crimson Press the Wellesley College English Department the Wellesley College Art Department & Punchâ€™s Alley
THE WELLESLEY REVIEW | issue 17