T∫B∫R TIDAL BASIN REVIEW Summer 2012
T∫B∫R TIDAL BASIN REVIEW Summer 2012
Tidal Basin Press Founded 2010 Washington, DC
Editors Randall Horton – Editor-in-Chief Melanie Henderson – Managing Editor Tori Arthur – Fiction & Non-Fiction Editor Truth Thomas – Poetry Editor Fred Joiner – Poetry Editor Marlene Hawthrone – Photography Editor Poetry Reader Jacey Blue Renner Adriena Dame DaMaris Hill
Tidal Basin Press, Inc. Tidal Basin Review Founded 2010 (as Tidal Basin Press, LLC) Washington, DC
www.tidalbasinpress.org A Publication of Tidal Basin Press, Inc.
Cover Art by Monica Ong, PenPal, Mixed Media (Front) Mother-Boy, Mixed Media (Back) Layout Design, Melanie Henderson
For broad distribution. Electronic version not for sale. To purchase print version, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tidalbasinpress.org. © All Rights Reserved, Tidal Basin Press, Inc., Washington, DC.
Joseph O. Legaspi
This Town, Empty Nest
Dollars and Sense
Fortune Babies, Mixed Media
D. S. Butterworth
Learning to Breathe
It Was a Tom Sawyer Fence Saraâ€™s Searches Land of Little Sticks Again
Darren C. Demaree
Some Live Hard Apple Candy #7
Perfect Baby Formula, Mixed Media
Feeding Our Sons Weekday Diner The Invisible Worm
Debra J. Stone
Gypsy Dancer Earrings
One Moment She Was There and the Next Lady with a Lamppost
Silent Treatment, Mixed Media
Postcard from South Kansas
Allie Marini Batts
Mother-Boy, Mixed Media Bo Suerte ARTIST STATEMENT FEATURED ARTIST INTERVIEW Pen Pal, Mixed Media
Brother Yao (Hoke Smith Glover, III)
My First Lesson in Black History: On Karibu Books and Other Activist Tendencies
CULTURAL PRIDE: Tell Me Where Y’all From! 61
How to Wear Hijab Security
Sonny’s First Fair One Johnny’s Stoop Song
Old Timers, Tranquilize, Mixed Media
Zackary Sholem Berger
Arahan Our Father / Avrom Ovinu The Passover Miracle / Hagode Shel Peysekh
Rain C. Goméz
Miscegenation Round Dance What I Know
Notes to the Pagoda Tree
Old Timers, Transoceanic, Mixed Media
For Coming of Age African Nostalgia in 35 Frames
My Pop-Pop’s Basement
Amaris V. Howard
Enter My Sanctuary, Become Become
Coming-of-Age in Sal Si Puedes Creation Story of Sal Si Puedes The Reply of Sal Si Puedes
High Desert Drought
Oral Rinse, Mixed Media
Of Identity Detour Ahead
We Swag before Doo Rags Dark Side
Whitening Solution, Mixed Media
Ricardo Nazario y Colón
Annabel Lee and Me The Moor of the Bronx
Note to Don Cornelius
Love Potion No. 8, Mixed Media
Scrape the Brown Bottom The Husband in Contrast Recipe for Consummation
Henry W. Leung
Fortune Cookie Factory On Americaâ€™s Page
THIS TOWN, EMPTY NEST Joseph O. Legaspi There are no children here. The adults are strangely erotic in their miseries. This town, wrecked, solemn, can be named Longing: un-plucked wild berries dripping along infinite roadsides. Longing dreams of honey-buttered milled bread of a conjured city. You, familiar with hunger, Come here. You, with feral memories of wood and stove and bed, on your leaving, exhale the poetry of an immigrant mother, the loneliest of beings.
LEGASPI âˆŤ 7
DOLLARS AND SENSE Peggie Hale Ones whimper of poverty, carry the sneaky scent of avarice and earthy whiffs of toil and sweat. Rancid gray-green of moldering need, layered grime of multitudes, crumpled fabric-paper. Portraiture of a dead president, half-shined with dollar menu grease, tainted with a bilious swallow of greed.
HALE âˆŤ 8
Fortune Babies Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 9
LEFT Jacqueline Doyle Left Handers' Day has me thinking about my struggle to maintain my lefthandedness against my father's implacable, daunting authority, and my difficulties in classroom after classroom my entire childhood. My entire life, really, as I'm a college teacher still in classrooms, many with those old-fashioned right-handed desks, a curving wooden bar supporting a one-sided writing surface. A left-hander's left hand and arm dangle to the left unsupported. A friend of the family was left at the altar. That is, his bride-to-be never showed up. We didn't go to the wedding, so I didn't witness it. They returned all of the wedding presents. He was the son of friends of my parents, not exactly a friend of mine. I never saw him again. I imagine something like that would affect you your entire life. It's fairly common, though, at least not unusual. "Left at the altar. How awful," everyone whispered. "How sad." Left-handedness was even more frowned upon, I think, in the mid-1950s when I started to write. Or so it seemed to my father, who did everything in his power to break me of the habit and enforce the use of my right hand. Intuitively I must have known that I needed to be left-handed. Why else did I so consistently deceive him, writing with my right hand at home and my left hand at school, until finally I triumphed and he conceded? He joked later, "That was the first time you defied me," but it wasn't completely a joke, because he was a man who liked to exercise iron control, particularly where his family was concerned. I was left. Not at the altar, but left by my first husband for another woman. His affair didn't last, and six months later he wanted to get back together, but I didn't trust him anymore and said no. I'm glad because if I'd said yes I never would have met my second husband. We've been married for almost twenty-five years and are still madly in love. The 1950s was not an era to be different, but in fact I enjoyed it, being one of the only left-handed students in every grade. In the 1960s everyone was different. We believed the world was going to be different too, better, filled with rainbows, and even though I was fairly young, I was caught up in the dizzying excitement of it all. Smoking pot and dropping mescaline, singing protest songs, marching against the war in Vietnam, dressing gypsy style in colorful scarves and skirts from the leftover bins in thrift stores. Technically I left him, I guess, since I moved out. It was very painful, but also an exhilarating summer in many ways. It was the late 1970s. I moved in with my glamorous German friend Sigrid, and we sunned topless in our bikinis on the roof of her ramshackle house in Ithaca, N.Y., listening to Robert Palmer tapes. I hadn't been single for many years. I was young and had a glow that summer that attracted many men. DOYLE âˆŤ 10
"Your nipples are an octave apart," said my new lover, measuring them with his left hand. He was tall and good-looking, with large hands and a warm smile. My ex-husband was beside himself. "Don't you think it's too soon? I don't think you're ready for another relationship." I lay in the sun listening to "Addicted to Love" and laughed. You could see for miles from Sigrid's roof: sky all around, hazy gray-green hills on the far-off horizon. Stray breezes dried the sweat on my hot skin, slick with coconut-scented suntan oil, leaving all of my nerve ends tingling. I was always secretly proud of being left-handed. I think because it was my first victory over my father. "The world is made for right-handed people," he'd repeat between clenched teeth, barely disguising his fury. "You're not going to fit in if you don't write with your right hand." Six years old and stubborn, I wasn't impressed by his logic. Even though my high-handed father hated his leftist politics, my first husband was oddly like him. He was autocratic, and six years older than me. He called me from Germany a few years ago (did I mention that he was German?) and we talked for a couple of hours and I remembered how authoritarian he was and was glad I wasn't still married to him. He was right-handed, and always right. A left-handed compliment is actually an insult disguised as a compliment. Usually intentional, but sometimes inadvertent. "Who would have guessed you'd be so happy?" my ex-husband said on the phone, marveling. "You're just like I remember you," I said. We paused, an ocean and three decades separating us. "Yes, who would have guessed," he repeated. Love came out of left field. I'd dropped out of graduate school, worked in Manhattan for several years, and was back in Ithaca in the early 1980s to finish up my degree. He was sexy, California Mexican-American, a creative writer in the MFA program, and too young. I was seeing someone else, a staid PhD candidate whose first name happened to be the same as my father's. Sexy writer with no financial prospects won out. There's a full moon this year on August 13, Left-Handers' Day. August 16 is my husband's birthday. He's still younger than me. Since the life span of left-handers has been shown to be nine years shorter than right-handers', our age difference may even out. About 10 to 12% of the population is left-handed. Most scientists agree that there is a genetic component in left-handedness, but neither of my parents was left-handed. I like to believe that we can shed our genetic inheritances and make our own destinies. Be the first and last left-hander in the family. Dance under the moon, sing, love, laugh. Pursue our own paths.
DOYLE âˆŤ 11
We moved to California and got married. Our son was born in 1988. I wondered whether he would be left-handed, but he's not. He turned out to be extremely smart. It was the pre-dawn of the "No Child Left Behind" initiative, and schools were already dismantling their honors and tracking programs. I was always making appointments, it seemed, to talk to teachers about their GATE programs for gifted and talented children. Many said they had them, but didn't really. "For your extracurricular GATE project, I want you to write a report on Bigfoot," his sixth grade teacher said. "Okay," our son said cheerfully. My husband and I looked at each other. Bigfoot? That year they were doing some kind of "new math" in California schools. At the parent-teacher conference the teacher said that whenever he couldn't understand one of the math problems, he had our son go up to the chalkboard, write out the answer, and explain it to the class. We bought him lots of books. Lots. Stuttering is more common among left-handers, particularly if they are compelled to change hands as children. Our son stutters, but we never influenced his handedness. We've always wanted him to go his own way. Only about 1% of the population stutters. The left hemisphere of the brain governs speech in those who don't stutter. Both the left and right hemispheres are active during speech in those who do. Despite, or perhaps because of his difficulties with speech, our son is an unusually good writer. When he graduated as class valedictorian in 2006, he gave a beautiful, halting speech to an audience of several thousand. He left amidst a flurry of honors for a university back East, where he majored in Environmental Studies. He's in Malaysia now, working for an environmental nonprofit, and drawing and painting. He wants to be an artist. A month after our son left for college, my father died. I started to write. And continued to write as if my life depended on it, as if this is what I was always meant to do. The words poured out of me. I stayed up late at night, enrapt, transported. I still do.
DOYLE âˆŤ 12
The heart is on the left side of the body. It's easy to forget it's there, until you put your right hand on your heart and feel it beating. I can feel the blood rhythmically surging through my body under my open right palm, as I write with my left hand. My left hand is powerful. I've always known that.
DOYLE âˆŤ 13
LEARNING TO BREATHE D. S. Butterworth Is it the meadow sloping down to the bluff where thistle and harrow brush a horizon of orchard grass and distant sea, where bent and dog‘s tail sway above knapweed and a stem‘s spittle mass opens to the tent a spider wove over the warren path, decked with fur, where rabbits cut close to the heather? Or is it wildrose adorned with mussel shell, snakeskin and foxprint that tell you you‘ve come to the edge of things again? The eagles could say something about the risings by their study of seal flesh, but keep their own counsel. Shipworm burrows are signs of the skiff freed by the water of summer‘s fullnesses. Yes, seas rise and fall, and the encroachment of waters sends you scrambling against the blackberries. Nevermind— paths will open up where imagination lights a need. And on the new tide wishes that sailed complete their circumnavigations with their haul: moons, words, winds, spices from far shores. And now with the flown moon you can hear minor gravity in the curl of the waves: breathe in the music of gravel and shell, cockle and whelk, as they stir shorebirds to sing warm times to the stars.
BUTTERWORTH ∫ 14
IT WAS A TOM SAWYER FENCE Gerald Yelle The fence: a peeling dirty whitewash wrapped around rust-buckets in the yard, tail pipes on engine blocks, trannies in pieces. You wouldn‘t think Tom could be this way, seeing he‘s so crisp at the office. What you don‘t see through gaps in the fence is the sawmill: the‘67 Chevy with 12‖ circular blade in place of back tire. It makes cutting firewood child‘s play. From the standpoint of one remaining oak, the place may have been a spot of virgin forest clear-cut in the space of an afternoon. In the kitchen, a 60 cycle hum drifts from flat middle C to middle C sharp. You barely hear it in between the faucet‘s drips. It‘s like being on a train with the window open and you hear a low WOW every other second as telephone poles rush by. But what if there is no hum. Only a tiny fan tied to a gas powered motor beating the air. The fact that Tom wants friendship all the while asserting seniority guarantees that you‘ll betray him. He tries putting off the inevitable, but you tell the brass they only need one of you. Maybe you want to apologize. Now the paper won‘t stack. Those damned mill moths landing in it. And the noise behind the disc drives: birds fluttering and screeching that turns out to be hundreds of butterflies: bright yellow, black and day-glo, large and small, flying in the vents of machines. You call the manager and leave. In the old days you‘d stay and make them pay. Now there are moths you don‘t want to deal with. You don‘t want to deal with Tom‘s kitchen. Or his humming. Or his flies.
YELLE ∫ 15
SARA’S SEARCHES Gerald Yelle What it was she was looking for –no one knows whether it even existed: some property of the X factor that triggers fair trade response –something to do with words defined by concepts of which the words themselves are examples –whole parts of her life would make her think it was there one minute and hide it from her the next. Some of us thought of people as places –as collections of locales whose coordinates drift up and down and back and forth around some generalized center –but Sara chose instead to view friends and relations –even strangers –as events on a larger scale –flashes of life transmitting some of their energy to others in sounds, symbols and meaning, but how it all worked –nobody knew. Maybe the endless loyalty tests –the setups, the traps, weeks at a time in hotels with her family –a promise of immunity –which led to her husband‘s tearful confession that they‘d given up the search years before and that it saddened him now to think of all his peace and quiet coming to an end because of some discovery. He said this with all of us, including her closest colleagues, around the dinner table. When we got back that night, it was over. The cause of death, our constant changing of the terms and definitions –she‘d done nothing except share some God‘s eye view of human life as random mayfly eruptions and extinctions –it was the part dealing with her influence on what gets passed on to the upper levels that most concerned the upper levels. YELLE ∫ 16
LAND OF LITTLE STICKS AGAIN Gerald Yelle Dawn‘s chirp unlocks the registry so that sheep can feel like bison, so that sewer trunks can feel like brainstems, and leave corbies the traffic to contend with. They could comprehend the solid yellow line, but a corbie eating a fry is like a man who doesn‘t know enough to tame the grossness of his appetite: He can feel a crumbling in the underpinning. He no longer responds to switches. Some of them swell the moley of a late summer‘s sky, a divestiture that ought to beckon to the tendril. A sadness in one in the shade of another. The hummingbird, having lost strength searching for a breach in the screen, recovers on the dregs of a beer. Corbies have to be careful not to dream too loudly, not to slam and collide. They have to make the sandwich so the ghost won‘t mistake them for the hummingbird. Twa corbies use the names they had last visit, when they altered clocks and flushed pipes, marring milk, milling in the quern.
YELLE ∫ 17
SOME LIVE Darren C. Demaree with the hang of flour raised above their eyes like a sheet pausing before the bed, the hunger buried in the steps that lead to the bread of life, the set free grains that take teeth, steel them for the coming wine, their frozen faces taken by the cloud of action, which when left to fall becomes a dirty floor, pretty enough to sprinkle the rest of a wasting
DEMAREE âˆŤ 18
HARD APPLE CANDY #7 Darren C. Demaree A Russian doll, my body, aging in the context of bright changeable colors, scarves that fit too tightly, a smile I could paint on, if Ohio was more accepting of that, such great layering, such extended efforts to find an exact, smaller me.
DEMAREE âˆŤ 19
Perfect Baby Formula Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 20
FEEDING OUR SONS Jay Rubin —for Irving, Sol & Ezra It happened once with me when I was six: My father and I flew back to New York To visit his folks on Brighton Court In Brooklyn. My Gramps, for dinner, picked My favorite food—Chinese!—and though we asked Specifically for sweet ‗n‘ sour pork, The waiter brought a similar but different sort Of pork. Defiant, I refused to eat: No mask Of any sticky sauce sufficed! Tonight, I‘ve failed to feed my baby boy an ounce Of milk from his own mom‘s breast. He cries And frowns and frets, small fists folded tight, Fighting off his father‘s charm. I bounce Right back to Brooklyn: Mine are now my father‘s eyes.
RUBIN ∫ 21
WEEKDAY DINER Jay Rubin —Oroville, California Eggs over easy, side a fried ham, Coffee with sugar and cream, dry toast: Every day‘s a Sunday morning feast. A waitress brings my plate. (I never ask For a menu.) The staff know the task: A corner table, a chair facing east, A copy of the Joaquin Valley Post I tip my brim, say, Thank you, ma’am As I eat, my eyes lift off the page. Others lift forks, dip spoons, wipe knives clean. I reach across the table, re-arrange The condiments, the salt-and-pepper scheme. I read about the war and all the dead, The rising price of rice and who‘s to wed.
RUBIN ∫ 22
THE INVISIBLE WORM Jay Rubin —for Val Remember that night I showed you God Back behind my house Our sweaters soaked with rain Cypresses twisting Wet wind howling I had to shout to say I love you In that brief blow That sermon of sound I swallowed your breath Your bashful name And now—now that you are gone Not even the rain Can wash you from my hands
RUBIN ∫ 23
GYPSY DANCER EARRINGS Debra J. Stone Melissa stole the earrings, or as she liked to call it, borrowed them from her mother‘s well-worn cedar jewelry box. The box held all of her good jewelry, anniversary presents from her husband who would then take her out to dine at Murray‘s the only fancy restaurant in downtown Minneapolis they could afford. Melissa‘s great great grandmother had stolen the battered wooden box from her slave master‘s mistress, selling the ruby ring inside, that paid for her freedom and passage to the North. In her mind Melissa could see herself as a gypsy dancer. The gold hoop earrings shaped like the head of a lion reflecting the flames of the camp fire and her long elaborate skirt whirling around as she moved to the fiddler‘s tune. For this reason she put the gold earrings in her back pack. How else could you explain a ridiculous thing to do, wearing stolen expensive earrings on a camping trip? It was June Matsumoto Williams who talked Melissa and Lynn in to camping up north at Itasca State Park. Each time June met a new person she used her full name leading to the question, what kind of name is Matsumoto, which she replied, it was her mother‘s name, and I‘m half Japanese. And that surprised people because she didn‘t look Japanese at all. June was a Girl Scout. Unlike other girls who reached puberty and found boys and high school activities more interesting, June stuck to Girl Scouts. She needed one more badge to demonstrate camping skills to the novice campers so she chose Melissa and Lynn, the most popular girls in the neighborhood, cheerleaders at Saint Louis Park High School. Their new sub division neighborhood looked like all the other recently constructed split level bungalows, pastel color siding with skinny new trees on well-fertilized lawns. All built by the same developer for families migrating from the inner city of Minneapolis to the suburbs. It was a peculiar circumstance that June and Melissa became friends. Her Japanese mother had no idea how to care for her daughter‘s nappy hair she had inherited from her black father and being a teenager, the long thick braids June had worn most of her life were not increasing her popularity in high school. Why Mr. William‘s people from North Carolina never taught Matsumoto about June‘s hair remained a mystery. Miss Lillian‘s Beauty Salon in North Minneapolis, where all well coiffure black women had their hair done, had a new customer and Melissa had a new friend. Being an only child June‘s parent bought her a car that made her a somewhat acceptable friend for two popular teenagers who had to beg to use their family cars. So with borrowed camping gear they drove an uneventful three hundred miles to Itasca State Park northwest of the Twin Cities. And it rained the entire Labor Day weekend. The tents dripped water, the sleeping bags were wet and soggy, most of the food was stolen by a STONE ∫ 24
bear even though it was strung from a tree (but not high enough) and the girls were sleeping in the car since the tents and sleeping bags were sopping wet. Bemidji was the closest town to get more food supplies that consisted of hot dogs and beans with a bag of potato chips and soda to drink. It was then that Melissa, after looking into the rearview mirror to apply some mascara on her eyelashes, saw that one of the gold hooped earrings was missing from her left ear. ―Oh my god my mother‘s gonna kill me!‖ Melissa shrieked. ―They were her anniversary present from my dad!‖ ―Well that was real dumb, said June, what are you wearing earring for anyway? Nobody‘s looking at you but a bunch of wet loons. Besides where do you suggest we start looking? ―Well, June we can start in this car for one thing and I can do without the comments.‖ Melissa was rather testy because in the back of her mind she knew June was right it was a dumb thing to do. They retraced steps back to the showers and toilets, looked through the wet sleeping bags and the musty smelling tents and found nothing. There was a wood pile near the tree where they had tried to tie up their food thinking the earring could have dropped there, but Melissa just picked up a couple of ticks that sent her squealing back to the car which June had to pick them off. Out once more the three came upon an elderly couple‘s campsite who helped them look for a while feeling sorry for Melissa‘s ignorance. The only thing they saw was a twelve point buck who took off so fast that when Lynn tried to take a picture she only got a shot of his rear end. The earring was lost forever. On the ride back no one said a word for three hundred miles. It was obvious with June‘s hair problem solved there wasn‘t much else to keep Melissa as a friend and Lynn was always more of Melissa‘s friend. And not too much time after the camping trip June had a white boyfriend, a new guy from Rochester Minnesota. It was something Melissa wanted, a white boy friend since there weren‘t any teenage black boys in the high school but she wasn‘t half Japanese she was just a regular black girl. Melissa didn‘t tell her mother about losing the gold hooped earring on the camping trip nor did her mother ask. She was preoccupied with other things. While Melissa was away ―camping‖ her father a foreman at the Ford Plant, walked out on them as her mother put it. ―He asked me for a divorce. He‘s been having an affair with that blond bitch supervisor at the plant, that woman libber!‖ That‘s what her mother called her and a bunch of other choice names too. ―He‘s gonna pay through his teeth for this,‖ Melissa‘s mother added just to make it clear she wasn‘t going to let her or her children live anywhere near the poverty line. Melissa put the one gold hoop earring shaped like a lion head in the bottom of her desk drawer underneath the blurred photograph of the twelve point buck‘s rear end. She never thought of herself as a gypsy dancer again. STONE ∫ 25
ONE MOMENT SHE WAS THERE AND THE NEXT Cherene Sherrard The award for best cinematography goes to: her body buoyant above the bulbous jade of the Congo swarming with primates some armed others swinging their auburn limbs like Pollock as they trapeze the trees. Above, her veil aerates, a slim parachute, believe it will weave into a net, that she will glide agile, land en pointe in the clearing and not, please. The camera tracks her acrobatics like a dream from which you are desperate to wake, before. Her hand brushes your cheek and it is wet, like the back of your neck where your shirt clings—castaway of a Carleton College coed unnerved by the welts it drew across her torso. As you dressed for this morning‘s business, you never expected her to resemble your mother. Her hand, sweaty, soft, brushes your cheek so like your mother‘s cool fingers when she left you beneath the baobab to get fufu you thought in your greedy innocence, or for shade. Her head-cloth is indigo with white-white rings interlocking: from the pattern, Mama Kuti could be your mother. No camera or cell phone captured her descent: it was not cinematic. In the time it takes to draw in one breath she, gone. Not like Liya Kebede, who runways in Milan, in Johannesburg, in New York, her arms arched and bronze, as they were when she spun in indigo sky. SHERRARD ∫ 26
The gorge angles in such a way that unless I pitch, like a diver, almost spelunk, Iâ€˜ll miss death and encounter something else. That is the risk you take to elongate splendidly, a spectacle that last longer than held breath. What I need is a boy soldier, a henchman, to catapult, to witness.
SHERRARD âˆŤ 27
LADY WITH A LAMPPOST Cherene Sherrard And it is her legs strikingly slung black and tan fantasy crossed at the heel in brand new pumps that remind me the under-armor of womankind has no traction with my generation. We go: un-hosed, sans girdle, comfortably free. We like risky business. The May 1957 issue of Ebony lay on an antique vanity— the afternoon remains of an estate sale. I imagine it laden with an arsenal of glass bottles, brushes, and other feminine poisons designed for appeal, like Hilda Simms, pinned-up on a lamppost in Harlem, her hair waves winsome, shellacked as her cheesecake smile, a tea-length skirt grazing her knees. I want to rip the cover, tape it to the oval mirror. legs that pretty and twisted, in hose (nylons) once found at Penney‘s: 10 for a dime.
SHERRARD ∫ 28
Silent Treatment Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 29
POSTCARD FROM SOUTH KANSAS Richard Luftig From the county road, the farmland is layered like a good haircut, itâ€˜s tresses flowing down over the hills. The windbreak beeches along both shoulders adorn the valley of corn. The grassland, dry, so dry that the straw-like stalks stand higher than my neck, their tempers waiting to burn themselves back to charred, fecund earth. From here it easy to see how first farmers fell in love with this place, this grass like first Eve falling from grace. I listen closely to the birds so noisy then silent, inviting me to be on my way but I pull off anyway to the side, eat an apple then leave the core for the first jay big enough, fast enough to claim it-- a door prize to show off to his more tree-bound friends.
LUFTIG âˆŤ 30
TWINNED Allie Marini Batts There I am, in her shadow. I am always wading these shallows, a t-shirt apologizing for the chunky heft of my thighs. Brown where she is blonde, brown-eyed, not nearly as pretty as it sounds in the song. The pool is as warm as bathwater and smells of plastic, the newly mowed lawn, and summer humidity. The little cousins have peed in it countless times, their rubber pants over diapers and sweet smells like fruit from the gummy rings around their mouths. I don't care; anything to break the blister of heat and distract me from her. She is arrogant; even her feet are cocky as they cool down in the water. She has an outie bellybutton and doesn't even have the common sense to cover it up, she sticks out her belly for everyone to see and juts her hip like she's the one in charge. And because she acts it, she is. She took mom's eyeliner and stole a Winston, rimmed her eyes and didn't even cough, not once, as the boys down the street on their bikes dug around for a lighter and flicked it for her. She just leaned into the flame. Like she'd been doing it forever. Mom says I'm a late bloomer. But when I'm in the other room she tells Aunt Cindy I'm an ugly duckling. I am solid and cautious. She is light and fearless. I don't understand how we grew out of the same cells at the same time. I look like everyone else. She looks like no one else. She knows it. I know this too: I will have to work harder. My grades will have to be good. I will need good manners and to know how to cook a Sunday roast. I will have to take parttime jobs after school and go to the science fair. She will cut class and be pretty. She will go to parties and the prom, and will never know how to make anything except macaroni and cheese from a box. She will get drunk and fall in love. I will get on the honor roll. I will take study hall and the SAT. She will sleep late and work at the mall selling graphic print t-shirts to girls who look just like her. In twenty years time, it will be my nephews peeing in the pool, their rubber pants encasing store-brand diapers and their mouths, ringed with Hawaiian punch breathing red-smelling sugar into the summer heat. I will be Aunt Cindy, childless and home for the annual reunion barbecue, driving away from my apartment and job in the city. She will be our mom. Smoking Winstons in a lawn chair in front of the doublewide, Coors Light at her side. Her frosted hair will be dull under the sunlight. Like ours, the father of her fruity smelling babies will be long gone, a feathery wisp of smoke eaten up by the air as it threads off of the channel of ash, beneath the pull of her glossy lips.
BATTS âˆŤ 31
Mother-Boy Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 32
BO SUERTE Monica Ong Mother, each day I look for you. Try to recognize you in soup and sepia. As it happens in other lives, you come to me in secret. There were no elegant stairs in your childhood home, and this young woman, the nanny. Just the way her brows bend with humidity. I easily identify all four of your sisters in their von Trapp dresses, and both brothers, sporting their crisp white linens. In your absence stands a son, slightly leaning, toes ablister from your brother‘s too big shoes. You tell me Grandfather was ashamed. He didn‘t want people shaking their heads, their tongues clicking: Bo suerte. Bo, which in Hokkien means without, or not enough. It does explain the hoarding, I suppose. Dusty magazines stacked into pillars. Grandmother‘s purse of purploined sporks. The way your long locks fell onto the kitchen floor like black feathers. Suerte, is Cathotlic for karma, cruel as hunger, heavy as stone. The fact of five daughters was of the immutable kind. Payback, perhaps, for an unsavory ancestor in an imperial court? Or something during the war that Grandfather never told us? Hidden like your graceful arms in a brother‘s long sleeves. Your boyface gazes at me. I place flowers at your feet, wet with puss. For the daughter, you, but not only you. Portrait as battle. The terror of asymmetry. This shortage of sons.
ONG ∫ 33
FEATURED ARTIST MONICA ONG MIXED MEDIA ARTIST
HTTP://MONICAONG.COM ONG ∫ 34
ARTIST STATEMENT: MONICA ONG for “Remedies” and “Old Timer’s Dis-ease”: Artist MONICA ONG presents a narrative apothecary called ―Remedies‖ created from archived images, original writing, and design. The series investigates the gender roles and suppressed histories at the intersection of Asian family life and medical experience. There are bottled cures for turning unborn daughters into sons, a set of whitening solutions, and folklore-based fertility treatments, each presented in individual vintage display cabinets. Remedies like ―Perfect Baby Formula‖ often start with photos purloined from her family‘s archives. This image features an infant naked from the waist down. The practice of photographing baby boys in this manner was common among her parents‘ generation, who relied on the photograph as evidence of the newborn‘s gender, a visual announcement of its masculinity. In an interview with her grandmother, it was clear that ―there are no fireworks when girls are born,‖ that the birth of daughters is often hidden out of shame due to the gender preferences that are strongly embedded in Chinese culture. Playing with such notions these remedies wonder out loud: Wouldn't it be interesting to create a baby formula that allowed the mother to transform her fetus into this symbol of familial pride? In asking these (absurd) questions, the artist in turn questions the cultural leanings that often pass as normal. In another set of remedies called ―Old Timer‘s Dis-ease,‖ she incorporates found images and dictionary entries in a visual elegy for her Grandmother‘s loss of memory, but also for the artist‘s loss of language and fading cultural imprint. In the attempt to preserve, to name, and to define identity, the artist comes to terms with the co-existence of inevitable erasure and eternal memory. As an artist and poet in new media, Monica Ong creates narrative installations that investigate social hierarchies and cultural silences in the context of public health. Monica completed her MFA in Digital Media at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006. Her research has included fellowships at the Oral History Summer Institute at Columbia University, and the Writing the Medical Experience Workshop at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also a Kundiman Fellow in poetry whose work has been published most recently in the Lantern Review, as well as forthcoming issues of Drunken Boat, and The New Sound: A Journal Interdisciplinary Art & Literature.
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MONICA ONG ON CULTURAL SILENCE
AN INTERVIEW WITH FEATURED ARTIST, MONICA ONG, AND TIDAL BASIN REVIEW EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, RANDALL HORTON (Interview conducted via email June 2012) RANDALL HORTON: When I visited your opening at the art gallery in New Haven in the summer of 2011, I was blown away by your creativity and how much culture is engrained in your work. How long have you been creating visual/mixed-media art and who would you consider some of your early and late influences? MONICA ONG: Well, it‘s funny. When I went to school, I had a very traditional fine arts background; yet, I found that narrative, text and writing were always part of my creative process. You will notice that my earlier works are almost entirely visual. However, I would always arrive at the visual through a process of either free writing or writing a poem about something that would then help me formulate what I needed visually. The interesting thing is that the writing itself has become an integral part of the art installation because of the role that language plays in my work. It‘s the most natural way for me work. This idea of having to choose between genres, to decide whether I was just a poet or just a visual artist, felt really unnatural. If this is how the work evolves, if it is considered a ―hybrid,‖ it really should not matter as long as I‘m honestly connecting to the audience. RH: So, are you saying that language, text and images are all intertwined in your approach to art? MO: Growing up, I went to Chinese school. The Chinese language is inherently visual and based on pictograms. So, I‘ve never felt there was a separation. When my family told us stories, they didn‘t have the most perfect English. Their way of conveying stories was very visual, through bodily expression, and also telling us stories with photographs; my mom also speaks half in Chinese and half in onomatopoeia. I am used to layered forms of communication. Family expression was visceral, sensory, where we related to each other in a constant state of translation. If I tried to have a conversation with my mother in one language, that would be impossible. Her Chinese mixes in Filipino words, which are mixed with Spanish, which they mix with other Chinese dialects, which I mix with English. So, this idea of mixed media is just sort of our life style. RH: It‘s how you live! MO: Exactly! For me, I think one the hardest things about going through a Western formal education is how things get separated and categorized, or even when you are filling out a submission packet to a journal or for a gallery, and you have to declare this is a prose poem, this is a painting. That was always really hard for me. I think that was something I really had to contend with as a creative person. ONG/HORTON ∫ 37
RH: You are interdisciplinary in your artistic approach and poetry seems to be the vehicle that guides much of that exploration. When did you first begin to experiment with poetry as a visual medium? Was that a fluid process? MO: Graduate school was fantastic. I was at the Rhode Island School of Design doing a digital media program, but I also had the opportunity to attend courses at Brown to hang out with the poets. I had a fantastic writing teacher who was based at RISD named Wendy Walters. She turned me on to some many great poets like Theresa Hak Kyun Cha, author of Dictee. I discovered poets like Anne Carson, whose large breadth of work is really layered. She‘s taking forms out of opera, classics, written correspondence, choreography, and the like to create texts that are like fragmented paintings, or literary dances, where she layers vignettes to create movements through narratives. I found that it was a natural evolution for me. Then, too, being able to see more and more artists doing this kind of work was good. I like Anne Carson‘s latest work, Nox, which is a beautiful artist book, where she comes to terms with the loss of her brother. An intensely personal journal is visually reproduced in this accordion-style book. You literally see archived correspondence, pieces of hair, and torn shreds of paper. RH: That‘s got to be very liberating as an artist to be able to do those things and not worry about how people categorize you. MO: Absolutely. I think from that point on, I started looking at other artist like Susan Howe. For her, it‘s not just what the text says; it‘s the spatial relationship between the lines and words, and what the constructs of language convey. And again, realizing there is a really rich space here that these poets and artists are exploring and I want to take it further. It seems the narratives I keep going back to are the tensions between culture, public health and medical ideas. We might think of medical ideas as scientific and logical, but they are loaded with so much of our political and cultural leanings. Look at the recent birth control battles and you can see there is so much happening emotionally that you kind of park at the door when you go into the hospital. When I watch these debates, it is so interesting how a roomful of white men in suits think they can define what women do with their body, not out of empathy, but for the sake of ideological or cultural preservation. RH: Hilarious, right? MO: Well, it speaks to cultural silences. If women are offended that this is happening…Well, the thing is, as an Asian American, we are really good at silencing ourselves.
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RH: In your opinion, is there a difference between cultural silence and cultural erasure? Can you explain how silence and erasure operate within your images? Do you pay attention to history and socio-economic situations when coming to your work? MO: When I think about silence, I feel in that sense, it is self-inflicted. We stay silent about it because that‘s how we grow up; I‘m not supposed to make a fuss about it. Whereas, I think erasure incorporates more external things. It is being done to you or us. RH: One cannot erase oneself; you have to have some help. MO: Exactly. I think sometimes, some of those things happen together. For example, sexual violences aren‘t reported in certain minority communities. Well, I think part of it is. If we silence ourselves, many things are not seen as an issue, because there are no statistics to support the fact that the issue exists. It‘s one of those things where in order to get a community to overcome a stigma, one has to be able to produce the kind of data that says yes, we need funding to address this. The statistics back it up and people are speaking up. It‘s just not that easy. As far as erasure, it‘s like when you go to Wikipedia and look up a controversial political figure and everyone has their version. Whoever can assert and support his or her version most vigorously is going to win. I think this will be up for debate more and more. RH: What is your position on art and the political? MO: I see a lot of art that tackles the political broadly. My approach has always been about the personal narrative, trying to relate with a person one-on-one, and more so encouraging the idea that this is how we as individuals can take responsibility. Even though the scale is so much smaller, I think it is, in a way, more powerful. My hope is that people come away with something they can bring to their own life. Even if it‘s just affecting that one person‘s life, or if it really encourages them and empowers them to speak, I feel like that one-to-one connection creates a domino effect. RH: How important is the idea of narrative in your work? I ask this knowing that one can come to narrative from the fragmented, the broken and the splintered. MO: I‘ve always loved those postmodern fragmented forms. But my work is also informed when I hunt for stories. I will record my mom talking. Whenever I travel overseas to see people like my grandmother, who recently passed last year, my work is informed. For like the last ten years, every time I could visit, I tried to record memories she shared. I remember asking her the question: ―Is it better to have a girl or a boy?‖ And she replied, ―A boy, of course. Because if you have a girl, it‘s such a waste.‖ For me, to be able to record audio versus writing it down was fascinating. It was the way she said it. I was kind of in shock, but for her, it was the most normal fact.
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I want to catalogue these memories. It sort of becomes a little library of things that I can pull together, to collage, to create a certain angle or approach. I used to collect information with a certain agenda, but usually discover more interesting things when I allow myself to be surprised. RH: Do you go into a piece of work for self-discovery or statement? Each time are you exploring a concept, do you wrestle with yourself? MO: I think, initially, a lot of the work started out with my experiences as an Asian American woman, and wanting to explore why I feel that I can‘t speak about so many things that come natural for other people and, really, questioning the cultural environment. How do I break through that? It really drove me to investigate more deeply with my family, because the first instinct is to blame the environment. When I look at kids going through rebellion and begrudging their culture, I can relate, but also want to turn that into an opportunity of discovery and reconciliation. It is important to ask, ―How can I reconcile these things and create a new paradigm, a new shift?‖ This work started out very personal, but it became much broader. My sister, who works in public health, started specializing in Asian American health and issues of stigma, lack of communication and mistranslations. For instance, she had to translate this food pyramid for diabetes awareness in the Asian-American community. While showing the standard pyramid to Asian persons, she would find the elders confused about the recommended diet telling her, ―We don‘t eat yogurt.‖ The chart didn‘t translate to the food they ate. It ranges from small details like that to heavier discussions about the aversion to openly addressing mental illness, where depression or trauma may be described as back aches or foot pain, which is another way of not talking about it. What I‘m saying is there is a rich space to create a dialogue that really empowers people to take ownership of their health issues by taking ownership of the cultural gaps. RH: The editors at Tidal Basin Review were really drawn your ―Remedy‖ Series which appears on antique medicine bottles. The bottles are beautiful and have an aged presence to them, each offering a special critique through a cultural lens. Although these critiques speak of the Asian experience, they can metaphorically stand in for other cultures as well. One would definitely be ―double consciousness.‖ How did this series come about and what do you think will be its legacy? MO: I‘ve always felt I‘ve had to challenge this narrative of the Other. In every election cycle, we will hear Republican-sponsored commercials talking about the Red Storm! Casting the other as threat; yet we are also exoticized, made in to caricatures of childlike passivity. The ―Whitening‖ remedies go back to a time when people used to call me ―Snow White,‖ because my skin was fairer than that of my cousins. My aunts would gloat: she’s going to have such an easy time getting married. You should be able to marry her off much more easily. I wondered why there was a privileging of this Western standard of beauty. Even
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with names, especially in the Philippines, there‘s glorification of Western names as seen in our family names: Chester, Alejandro, Pedro, Enrico, Dandy, Giovanni, and so on. I would ask myself, why is it that we are in this modern age and my aunts are telling me not to sit outside because I might get dark? They simply believe that no one would marry me. RH: Well, you know that happens within the African American community. There is this misguided Western thought, which stems from double consciousness or looking through someone else‘s eyes, that glorifies the image of the light-skinned woman as the ultimate beauty. MO: Another interesting thing I‘ve noticed is Asian people having plastic surgery on their eyes. What they will do is have a line cut along the lids in order to look like they have this sort of Western fold in their eyes. Otherwise, if your eyes are very flat, there is the concern that ―I have these almonds eyes that look very Other.‖ My mother recently went to my cousin‘s wedding and my uncle had it done. We were all shocked—even the men! Again, people trying to emulate this Western ideal of beauty, which leads to the question, is that an erasure or a silence? The consequences can be very fatal, because in other countries people will pedal fake bleaching solutions, which in some cases, have resulted in poisoning deaths, and have caused people to be severely burned and disfigured. While I make light of my uncle, I have to keep in mind there are some people who are desperate to escape their natural identity. RH: Last year, I was fortunate enough to have you read at the University of New Haven‘s Arts@UNH Series where you did a multimedia presentation. One image that stayed with me was the image, Mother-Boy, in which your mother posed as a boy. Can you talk about that image and the ―Portrait‖ series, which features digital collage portraits, derived from original photographs, old letters, and family archives? MO: I feel that was the photo that started me very seriously on the arc of work I‘ve done over the past ten years. I, honestly, was shocked when I figured out exactly what it was. I‘m counting the brothers and sisters, and it‘s not adding up. I ask my mom, ―Why is there an extra guy here?‖ She says, ―That‘s me.‖ Why was her gender erased? She said grandpa was so ashamed he had so many daughters. Neighbors thought he had to be the unluckiest guy on the block, because you have to be pretty unlucky to have five daughters (laughter). The thinking at the time about daughters was, Great, now I have to feed all these kids that are not going to be bringing in any income to our family. To them, when you have a boy, and keep in mind they are immigrants in a new country, you have breadwinners. Psychologically, the consequences follow you.
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Shame is a huge psychological and emotional barrier for Asian American women, especially when it comes to talking about needs, standing up for ourselves, and being able to assert our value and self-worth in a space. The presence of shame that my grandfather brought to that photo resonated with me. Even though my mother said it was no big deal, I‘ve seen the shame follow these women. These personal observations are echoed in many studies about our generation of AsianAmerican women. For example: Almost 16 percent of all U.S.-born Asian-American women have contemplated suicide in their lifetimes — compared to 13 percent of all Americans — according to new findings by the University of Washington. According to the World Health Organization, suicide ―is the fifth leading cause of death in [China] overall along with injuries, poisoning and falls, and it is the leading cause of death for young women in China. When you look at all the studies and factor in these little cultural things, I‘m thinking how do these not connect? I knew a lot of women dealing with self-worth issues, whether it manifested as eating disorders or dysfunctional relationships. I always felt like everything went back to this root of shame. When I saw the photo, there were so many ways a woman‘s gender had to be concealed. There was another bottle I did with this little newborn male with his pants off. There‘s this assertion of yes, he’s male! We want everyone to know! It is such a stark contrast to the way that females have to be hidden and concealed. It‘s funny, having been pregnant this year, everyone makes a big deal about the ultrasound. I‘m thinking as long as the baby‘s healthy, it‘s great. The ultrasound machine in Asia has become to the tool to determine whether or not a child will be disposed. Quite regularly, in India, Southeast Asia, parts of China, if it‘s a girl, it‘s gone. No questions asked. I see clues in my family‘s history. I try to use humor, because I feel it is good entry to talk about things. It makes it seem a little less threatening. If it starts out kind of light, you get people to think about it. Then, they step back and read about it in the Economist. They read there is a big ratio difference between how many births of boys and girls there are in this country and they begin to think, whoa! Then it kind of sinks in and they realize that it really is a problem. I used to try to hit people over the head in the past and it doesn‘t work. Audiences don‘t want people with a bullhorn yelling in their ear telling them outright what to think. If you can connect a personal, emotional story with someone, then I think when we look to our new generation and how we deal with gender and politics of the body, we can create a more constructive dialogue. And that‘s what I hope comes out of the work. What‘s great is it‘s not only made me open ONG/HORTON ∫ 42
to talking to other Asian Americans about these issues, but Iâ€˜m in dialogue with poets, artists, political people, African American and Latino communities. When I curated an exhibition at the art gallery in New Haven, we got stories from South American and Indian American communities. Suddenly, there is a flood of common experiences and challenges that belong to all of us, which we can work on together.
Monica Ong, artist and poet in new media, creates narrative installations that investigate social hierarchies and cultural silences in the context of public health. Monica completed her MFA in Digital Media at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006. Her research has included fellowships at the Oral History Summer Institute at Columbia University, and the Writing the Medical Experience Workshop at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also a Kundiman Fellow in poetry whose work has been published most recently in the Lantern Review, as well as forthcoming issues of Drunken Boat, and The New Sound: A Journal Interdisciplinary Art & Literature. Randall Horton is a writer, teacher and the Editor-in-Chief of Tidal Basin Review.
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Pen Pal Mixed Media 8" X 10"
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MY FIRST LESSON IN BLACK HISTORY: On Karibu Books and Other Activist Tendencies Brother Yao (Hoke Smith Glover III)
Photo: Melanie Henderson
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Preface A few years before our business, Karibu Books, began, while I was attending school at the New School for Social Research in New York City, a professor, Andrew Lukele, who worked for the African National Congress of South Africa in the struggle against apartheid, taught a class on the South African Revolution. He was a Zulu man, of short stature, who constantly amazed the class with his clarity on matters of ―the struggle.‖ When he spoke of the centuries of oppression and resistance of his people, there was a monotone in his voice. He taught us that the spirit of liberation his people had developed over time was dynamic and destined to succeed. He was right. Just a few years after I took his class, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and apartheid was abolished. As a young student, I came of age in Greenwich Village. Before I traveled to New York for school, my mother and father, who had lived in New York for many years, explained to me the city had many neighborhoods and the ―Village‖ was one of those ―special ones.‖ There was an artistic freedom and revolutionary fervor there. Later, I learned it was avant garde. Anything goes. When I walked past the men in Washington Square Park whispering ―weed, ses, ses,‖ it sounded like something back home, but the communists, with their tables set up distributing literature about the liberation struggles of people throughout the world, were not. The young people, dressed in black cloth like Muslim women with black lipstick and black make-up, said, ―freedom,‖ and I don‘t care what you think about me. The South African Struggle against apartheid was one of the most common and popular expressions of radicalism in the late eighties. I knew little about it, but had quit my job at Shell a few months earlier when a friend in the Black Student Union, who had also given me a copy of Frantz Fanon‘s The Wretched of the Earth, asked, ―How can you work for those bastards‖ (as Shell financially supported apartheid in South Africa1). The contradiction was obvious, with all the references I made to Malcolm X and Black Power, but I obviously didn‘t get it. I quit my job shortly after. Professor Lukele taught us about the long walk to freedom.2 Mandela had been imprisoned before I was born and was still imprisoned on Robben Island. Our comparisons between the South African freedom fight and the Civil Rights Era revealed one major difference: Jim Crow was gone and apartheid was still there. As young students in a radical environment, we were struggling to find something active, and in our present, that could grant us that spark and fire we associated with the core of the South African Struggle.
Walker, Matthew. ―The Cost of Doing Business In South Africa: Anti-Apartheid Coalition Boycotts Shell.‖ http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1986/0415/walker.html. The Multinational Monitor: Apartheid‘s Victims and Allies, 15 April. 1986. Web. 17 Aug. 2012. 2 Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom. New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston; Abridged edition, 2000. Print. 1
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“Each generation must exhaust the prior generation’s means of struggle.” - Professor Andrew Lukele I can still see Professor Lukele‘s perfectly-shaven bald head, which suggested he never had a hair, ever, and hear the almost whisper of his voice. His manner suggested he was not talking about protest; his presence was the opposite of people I had seen on TV, screaming, marching, and throwing Molotov cocktails. As young students, our rage was to break out of the suburban, corporate and middle class strictures which dominated our lives. Those ideas and that energy operated below his radar. Lukele taught us a discipline and structural approach to those ideas of freedom and protest which stressed the craft, form and discipline of ―the struggle.‖ One day in class, he shared with us a concept I did not fully understand until my fifteen years of black bookselling in Karibu Books ended. ―Each generation,‖ he said, ―must exhaust the prior generation‘s means of struggle.‖ Though the meaning of his words evaded me at the time, I now understand Karibu, more than anything, presented us with an opportunity to move beyond a set of outdated concepts within the African-American continuum of struggle. Karibu was that thing I found after leaving the Village that gave me a sense of struggle that was radical and located in the present. Our decision to sell books to African Americans spoke to the continuum of African-American history. Under slavery, in many places, there were laws against teaching slaves to read. In those times, literacy was seen by slaves and slave owners as a dangerous enabler towards the path to freedom. At the time we began Karibu, over one-hundred years after the abolition of slavery, reading was still charged with said power. ~ I was born in the house of my parents‘ dreams in Lanham, Maryland, the suburbs of Washington, D.C. It was a small quarter of acre plot on a quiet street in an integrated neighborhood with a nice green lawn in the front and back. First, they put up a large fence. Then, they placed insulation in between the wood paneling and the brick wall. In the basement, in what would become the library, they had shelving and a large customized bookcase built. In the summer of 1975, my parents woke my sister and me up to the sound of bubbling grease and the smell of fried chicken to take our first trip ―down home.‖ We came down the stairs sucking our fingers and holding onto the edge of a blanket like the character, Linus, in Peanuts. You take Interstate 95 to get to Waynesboro, Georgia. It is almost a straight shot, until you get down into South Carolina. 95 feels like home. The flat stretch of highway might as well be D.C., until you reach the two-lane highways too small to belong to the large cities GLOVER ∫ 47
above Richmond. There, you can look out and see far ahead to where you are going. The stretches of pine trees have a beauty too heavy for the highway. It‘s a long ride south following an imaginary inland line parallel to the Coast. By the time you reach Petersburg, Virginia, you know that D.C. is just a memory, an idea of a city with white monuments rising out of its center. You have left the capital of one of the richest countries in the world. The heat rises the further south you go. A field breaks into view or a man at a gas station speaks the bent tongue of that region of North Carolina. Rocky Mount, Fayetteville and Florence. Just below Florence, South Carolina, you cut in southwest onto I-20 towards Columbia and Augusta, Georgia. You are almost there. From there, it‘s a whirl around a loop, the Bobby Jones Expressway to Route 25, which takes you into Waynesboro. My father, who had not slept the night before, loaded up the car with our luggage, a small cooler packed with sodas, bags filled with fried chicken still warm in aluminum foil, and white bread stuffed in tiny plastic bags. A few hours out of town, when my sister and I woke up, we had a feast in the car. At sixteen months apart, we were like twins standing together in a world of adults. He drove the whole way alternating between excitement and grumpiness. From the backseat, we could hear our parents talk. As he got tired, my father would constantly adjust himself in the seat and often say that his feet were cramping up or that his back was stiff. When we arrived in Waynesboro, we all got out tired, stretching our legs and excited. My father had shown an energy which was rare in him. It was his first trip home since the family had moved to Lanham. I got out and ran behind him to the steps, and was already disappointed. The steps were tilted at an angle that made it look like an earthquake had separated them from the ground. The thin shingles covering the house looked like the drywall on the inside of our house. Inside, a stained and yellowing fitted sheet covered the sofa. There was newspaper on the floor. The plyboard flooring moved underneath our feet and I knew we were resting on stilts. The toilet didn‘t work and the smell made me feel like somebody hadn‘t cleaned up. My mother mumbled, ―I can‘t stay here.‖ I asked my father, ―Why‘s it so dirty here?‖ I got snatched up. It was hard to believe we had driven twelve hours to this crumbling mansion. The house, built across the street from the graveyard on the edge of town at the turn of the 20th century, was given as a gift to my great grandmother by William McCullough, the halfwhite son of a plantation owner, who had inherited many acres of land. She was his mistress and the mother of my paternal grandmother, Netha Lee Sullivan and my Great Aunt Trumilla. The house was falling apart and was not at all like my home up North. GLOVER ∫ 48
My father shook me like a rag doll and told me, ―Don‘t you ever say that shit again! You hear me? Don‘t you ever say that again!‖ I ran out the house and curled up against my mother‘s knees crying like a baby as she told me, ―He doesn‘t mean it. He doesn‘t mean what he said.‖ Then, my father‘s face came into focus as he began to descend from a cloud of anger. For the first time, I saw the shame and rage I have seen flash through the eyes of many people since. It was my first lesson in Black history. ~ In 1992, shortly after the birth of my first child, my wife and I decided to begin vending. There was little certainty in the confrontation with one of the great fears associated with becoming an adult. Pregnancy for young people in aspiring middle-class families must somehow be related to young black male imprisonment. The African-American community knows well the weight of raising another human being and the costs. At the time, neither of us had finished school. In years to come, I would often tell my daughter, ―Girl, you know you started Karibu Books.‖ But we weren‘t really a business then. Our vending stand, which later became Karibu Books, came with the small price of fifteen hundred dollars we used to purchase a license from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. We took another $500 dollars and bought inventory from the warehouse district, just above Union Square in New York, where I purchased incense while attending school. The pregnancy had put many of my dreams, and those of my wife, in exile. We were struggling to survive, which allowed us to dream of little else besides diapers for our child. Vending kept change in our pockets, created trips back to New York and, as an added blessing, paid for a dress for my infant daughter when we made a little money. At the time, my wife had a blue Nissan Sentra purchased for her by her parents when she came home from Lincoln University to attend Howard University. On our first day vending, we piled our boxes of oil, incense, t-shirts and hats into the back hatch and went out in search of a vending spot. The spot we chose at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Eastern Avenue on the D.C./Prince George‘s County line is still rundown. There was almost no foot traffic and no other vendors. Our only customer was a woman who emerged from a nearby gas station that didn‘t even have a neon-lit sign. She had gone inside to purchase something and walked down to us afterwards. She purchased a pack of incense for a dollar and that was the only money we made all day. Eventually, we began to develop other vending spots. Our favorite was on 4th Street behind Howard University just down from the Blackburn Center. There, our customers were the struggling college students, who, when they got a little change, would purchase a shirt, GLOVER ∫ 49
some oil or a book. On 14th Street N.W., just up from Clifton Terrace, a housing complex notorious for its crime and drug trafficking, we set up in a small concrete park next to a vendor, who had a stand called ―Kawamba.‖ Like us, he was a young college student and he gave us our first lessons in vending. He had traded in the regulation blue skirt, mandated by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory affairs as standard for every vending stand, for an embroidered cloth of deep maroon with a yellow flame that said ―Kawamba.‖ He sold mangoes, sugar cane, incense and oils, feeding off some of the immigrants in the community, some who had migrated down from New York to sell drugs nearby at Clifton Terrace. His stand was perfect. He knew how to retail. He always had a smile, greeted every customer and would gently turn a woman‘s wrist over so her palm faced the sky before he dabbed a bit of Egyptian Musk on her wrist. He gave us the information for an oils distributor in New York City with whom we quickly established a relationship. He also spent most of the days simply telling us what he knew about vending. Most important was his friendliness and smiles. Most of those days, we made little to nothing while it seemed he was the richest man in the world. Eventually, we settled upon Wonder Plaza, also close to Howard University, as well as, K Street, Foggy Bottom and a host of other weekend vending locations. Bowie State University, where I attended undergraduate school, agreed to let us vend in the Wiseman Student Center. In less than a year, we had moved from one stand to as many as three. Just a few months after I started vending, the addition of my business partner, Simba Sana, added a whole new dimension to the business. His accounting skills and background in finance from both his college education and job with Ernest and Young, formally established Karibu Books. Under his guidance, we inventoried our wares, established bank accounts and developed, among other introductory policies, a savings plan which paid each of us 8% of our sales while directing another 8% to a savings fund for future investment. That first year, we brought home maybe $8,000. Vending was a rough business, but by 2005, we had become the nation‘s largest African-American bookstore chain. ~ At Karibu Books, we consistently enmeshed African culture wherever we could into the fabric of the business. This approach led us to choose the name ―Karibu,‖ which means ―welcome‖ in Kiswahili, as the company‘s name. We also used Akan Adinkra symbols in our logo designs and had both African priests and African-American Christian ministers bless each and every store. We were connected to the community in a variety of diverse and unique ways. The partnership which held the business together was formed out of the African Development Organization (ADO), a small organization offering a range of study groups and other programs dedicated to developing the Washington Metropolitan Area African American Community in the early 1990s. At its core, the ADO, as a predecessor to Karibu, possessed an identical mission: to increase awareness of African and AfricanGLOVER ∫ 50
American culture within our community. By far, the most impressive of its programs was the Lorton Prison Study Group, held weekly at the minimum and medium security facilities for the first two years of the business. Karibu Books managed local boxers, sponsored a wide array of author events, book fairs and programs for children throughout its 15-year history. Karibu‘s complexity as an organization was an extension of the Post Black Power complexity. We came together reading the books of the African Centered movement and Black Power Movement. Chancellor Williams, Assata Shakur, Huey P. Newton, Don L. Lee (now known as Haki Madhubuti), John Henrik Clarke, Amiri Baraka and countless others fed us our ideas from the books they wrote. Baba Zulu, Baba Zak Kondo, Dr. Aklyn Lynch, Frances Cress Welsing, Brother Bey, Mary Cox, Anthony Browder, Dr. Jesse McDade Bey and other elders of the Washington Metropolitan Area Afrocentric community constantly gave us ideas through lectures or personal advice. We viewed the business as a vehicle capable of expressing a commitment to African American culture, history and community. Our focus on business and the pursuit of profit and capital was a simple extension of our need for independence. In this way, the business fundamentally addressed the lack of capital, which was as a consistent theme in the history of African Americans in this country. Karibu‘s business format served as a vehicle which could resolve not just conceptual tensions, but financial tensions, too. For me, it provided an opportunity to provide for my family and still continue to engage my activist tendencies. It enabled my partner to combine his financial and accounting skills with his love for African culture and African people. Karibu taught me booksellers are like those freedom fighters we read about in African-American history. At the center of our daily lives was a commitment to developing the business as a vehicle for African-American freedom. The ideas were broad and mystical with much of our work devoted to translating our activist impetus and conviction into practical financial tools. In this regard, the business was an experiment—and a successful one, in spite of its failure. In many ways, this essay, like Karibu, is an attempt to share the struggle to weave family, business and artistry so others who seek to integrate their convictions with their life‘s path may use our experience to increase a sense of unity in their own lives. Karibu taught me booksellers are like those freedom fighters we read about in AfricanAmerican history. Both aspire to influence the culture of a community to make it better. Freedom may be the most abstract of all human concepts, but all groups aspire to it. African Americans desire it in the broad strokes of society and are dedicated to the freedom of ―our people.‖ Booksellers, on the other hand, are dedicated to the free exchange of ideas. Like authors and publishers, they believe this freedom is at the core of what makes American society great. Karibu Books‘ idealism was rooted in a combination of these two pursuits. GLOVER ∫ 51
Bookselling is as much a political act as it is a get rich scheme. Mao’s Little Red Book, sold by the Black Panther Party, or the many Black Power biographies we read in the early days of the business, were more than books. They were examples of cultural movements and products of historical forces, which operated on both a personal and communal level. Books have always been used to spread ideas and politicize people as much as to entertain. Karibu began with the clear intent to politicize and distribute literature to African Americans, but soon found itself part of an entertainment industry. There, we shared the arena with African-American entertainers, celebrities and athletes. By the time the business collapsed in 2008, it was hard to know which was more important—the literature or the money. Those self-published hustlers, who dominated the market in the late years of the business, knew they would be rich and famous. Books were an industry they entered to make money. The difference was what I believe is a new development in the African American book industry, long viewed as an extension of the community‘s struggle for freedom. The slave narrative, viewed by many as the first form of African American literature, was as much a political act to help the community obtain freedom as it was a text. Many booksellers and other members of the publishing industry believe in the lofty abstract of human intellectualism, not simply because they are snobs, but because they must. The artistic nature of the industry demands a relentless precision to detail in the abstract. The money generated from the endeavor will always be there, but from the center of the process, one cannot depend on that. Jason Epstein, a longtime publishing industry executive, captures the predicament and market forces Karibu and all bookstores confronted just before the turn of the 21st Century, as he writes: Trade book publishing is by nature a cottage industry, decentralized, improvisational, personal; best performed by small groups of like-minded people, devoted to their craft, jealous of their autonomy, sensitive to the needs of writers and to the diverse interests of readers. If money were their primary goal, these people would probably have chosen other careers. But the book chains, offering steep discounts on popular titles, have driven hundreds of independent stores out of business, a process accelerated by Internet retailers, so that fewer than seventy-five major independents employing sophisticated sales staffs and stocking 100,000 or more titles survive (Epstein ch. 1, para 1). Epstein adds that, ―…literature is not a pastime like golf or bridge but a kind of religion whose gods are manifest in the works of great writers‖ (Epstein ch. 2, para 18). With a little over eight thousand titles stocked, Karibu, as the largest African-American bookseller, was still a small independent, though our six stores forced us to manage many of the operational issues faced by larger chains. We admired the Tattered Cover Bookstore and Powell‘s as a younger brother admires his older brother, and felt a camaraderie with those independents, who fell into that category Epstein references. Not GLOVER ∫ 52
only that, but we believed in the religion of great writers and were dedicated to selling their works and keeping them stocked on our shelves even when it didn‘t seem to be the best economic decision. We floated somewhere beneath the chains on the peripheries of a huge book industry in flux. Our difficulties were the basic bookstore difficulties: managing inventory, hiring good employees, staying on top of industry trends, managing operations, marketing, and developing financial structure and customer service standards. Yet, we also managed a customer base known for its aversion to the written word. The arguments as to whether this is true are beside the point. The real issue is the popularity of the perception, which worked for and against the business. Our customers were proud of the store and felt a sense of ownership. My partner was fond of telling the story of a woman who referred to the store as ―my bookstore.‖ For him, she exemplified the essence of our customer base. Another man, a photographer, took pictures of Toni Morrison, Terri McMillan, E. Lynn Harris and other notable authors who visited the store. He was always there like clockwork and was officially part of the Karibu family. The most inspiring customers were those who still appear from time to time and say, ―I bought books from you when you were still a cart in Landover Mall. When all you had was a stand.‖ On the other hand, there were customers fond of saying, ―I paid for your kid‘s education,‖ or ―I bought so many books from you, you should owe me money.‖ Unfortunately, the latter comments were as numerous as the former. We promoted the bookstore generally as a good business for all our customers, but were undeniably black at our core. The evidence was in our inventory. We focused on African-American books. In the din of postblack talk, bookselling is one of the last businesses that could actually survive with a simple focus on African-American culture. The three hundred million dollar African American book market is only a fraction of the larger national fourteen billion dollar retail market. Our assumption, that AfricanAmerican book buyers could sustain a chain of bookstores, extended from an idealist view of African-American culture and history. The stories we fed ourselves of African-American history, along with the Black History Month rhetoric of Negro first this and that, suggested that the community had a great potential, which often goes wasted. While this is obviously true, the amount of African Americans willing to leverage themselves in bookstores or other ―black‖ businesses is limited. We wanted to believe in the myth of African-American allegiance to black businesses and were guided by an almost ancient concept from the segregated past. We believed African Americans really wanted to purchase books from a black establishment, and to some extent, they did. The problem, however, was that price point, selection and convenience were forces that were just as powerful as black cultural allegiance, if not more so. The chains had coffee, discounts and literally millions of dollars of inventory in just one store. GLOVER ∫ 53
Karibu had long operated in close proximity to the chains. Both our initial locations in Landover Mall and Prince George‘s Plaza ―shared‖ the malls with a Walden Books and B. Dalton respectively. Later on, our Bowie stores occupied a mall with a Barnes and Noble, while the Pentagon City location was just across the street from an immaculate Borders Books and Music. An African-American bookstore is categorized by the American Bookselling Association as a specialty bookstore, which is a fancy way of saying it serves a limited market, as compared to general bookstores. As a specialty bookstore, Karibu operated on the fringes of the industry. My partner was fond of saying, ―We welcomed the competition‖ of the chains, and that our locations near a Barnes and Noble or Borders in fact increased our business. While I disagreed with the statement, it is clear that the challenges Karibu faced from the growing on-line competition and the changes in the world of bookselling were not limited to us. The final closure of Border‘s Books and Music in 2011 puts Karibu‘s demise in proper perspective. The original Borders began in 1971 just a year after I was born and eventually perfected a series of innovations in inventory control for booksellers and big box retailing (retailing that occupies an enormous amount of physical space and offers a variety of products to its customers—superstores). By 2011, just three years after Karibu closed, the company that had once created over four billion dollars of sales shut down. Borders‘ bankruptcy clearly shows Karibu‘s failure, and personal conflict that arose as a result, was an extension of the transformation of an industry. The value proposition in Karibu was obviously a flawed one. Events cannot make a bookstore run, though Karibu mastered this aspect of running the business. The hiring of a marketing director in 2003 led the company to eventually host over four hundred events a year throughout its six stores. The difficulty was management of the entertainment business. Books are entertainment, but bookselling is not solely an entertainment business. The need for signings, the dramatic covers with thinly clad women, tattooed bodies, combined with the endless requests for signings reflected a need for publicity, which came into conflict with an understanding of the technology at the core of the industry. Books more than any other technology have enabled human beings to communicate what is in the invisible space in their minds with the minds of others. Yet, it can be argued that African Americans (like many other people) are absolutely petrified by what is in their own minds, let alone the minds of others. The spectacle associated with the trade is the entertainment industry‘s attempt to capture the ever-decreasing attention span of human beings in a technological age full of cell phones and other devices dedicated to engaging the idle mind. The ―Karibu way‖ as we used to call it was our dedication to service, product and overall seriousness about our job. In the early years, it was our determination to open early and close late. We delivered books to customer‘s homes. In response to a missed order, we would sometimes drive down to Richmond to pick up books for a customer promised a next-day delivery. In the later years, we crystallized the concepts in our Customer Service Training: GLOVER ∫ 54
Greet every customer. Gain eye contact with customers before greeting them. Walk towards the customer or stand next to them before speaking. If the customer requests a ―good book,‖ ask them what they‘ve read before offering a suggestion. If customer requests a book, find the book and place it in their hands. Our goal was to meet our customers halfway. Give them an option that did not demand they take a step down in service, impression or product. What many liked most about Karibu was the ambiance of the stores, though we began as street vendors with just five hundred dollars in inventory and a tiny aluminum table. Many of our customers would say, ―It looks just like a Borders‖ or ―They keep those stores up well.‖ Unfortunately, it was very expensive, but as black booksellers in particular, and members of a mostly middle-class customer base, it couldn‘t be any other way. Retail is both entertainment and theatre. People go to the mall to entertain themselves. Customers, in particular, need to feel that the places they choose to spend their money reflect the best. Unfortunately, we had to operate at a standard in line with billion dollar corporate chains, while selling books, one of the least valued products in the AfricanAmerican community. Our decision to invest in bookshelves and build-outs, which cast the heavy corporate impression, reflected our determination to give customers no excuse for not supporting us. But we also knew black folks supported carry-outs and a range of businesses with sometimes downright terrible service. The result was feeling trapped in between good intentions and a difficult, expensive reality. Karibu‘s internal conflict at the end was simply the puff of smoke associated with the death of a dream. We lived that dream for at least fifteen years and had grown accustomed to the way it unfolded before us. We had leapt over the wall of fear and confronted the uncertainty of countless obstacles and what seemed like too much work thousands of times before. We were certain we would survive. Our confidence was fueled by the honest living we made doing what we believed. By the end of the business, owners made over six figures with benefits. Our customers were mostly cheerful, good everyday folks from the Washington Metropolitan Area, who, as some of the wealthiest blacks in the country, were able to support our business in ways perhaps no other African-American community could. But, their support was simply not enough. Our personal leverage, the customer‘s devotion and the countless days and hours of hard work required to keep the business running, were insufficient to counteract the forces of mis-education, the economy and the advent of internet technology and electronic books. GLOVER ∫ 55
Money was a central issue. Karibu was started to support a family and achieve a financial independence necessary for engagement in ―struggle.‖ As a community business, we soon became a light bulb at night for countless authors who wanted to be published. In the more established centers, we might as well have been integrating a school down South in the fifties. Our locations existed in malls. Some of the malls were ―black malls,‖ a term which could be pejorative and means ―predominantly,‖ as in a 95% and up African-American demographic. Ironically, even in these ―black malls,‖ the African-American merchants were few. In the more established centers, we might as well have been integrating a school down South in the fifties. There were always only one or two black merchants, three at best, in a center with at least fifty, sometimes over one-hundred, stores. The scene was almost nightmarish in Prince George‘s County, which boasts one of the highest incomes for African Americans in the country. At times, especially the most successful times, we felt as if our gumption and risk was a sign we knew something others did not; but, in retrospect, why leverage oneself in the ways we did for the risk of failure? I used to joke that if I worked as many hours at a part-time job as I did at Karibu, I could have been working on two retirements. The small amount of money African Americans spend on books is simply an extension of our aversion and almost hate for literature. Though this is often said to indicate our aversion to learning, in defense of African Americans, the book has been used to lie on us as much as it has been used to correct the wrongs of the past. Our educational experiences in America are usually a forced feeding of the history of other people and colonialism with little reference to who and what we are. When we are mentioned, our heroes are most often portrayed as anomalies. The one who got away, the one who rose above it all, the smart one. There is a deep-seated negation in even the most positive approaches to Black history. Lao Tzu‘s Tao Teh Ching offers a perspective: 2. The Rise of Relative Opposites When the people of the Earth all know beauty as beauty, There arises (the recognition of) ugliness. When the people of the Earth all know the good as good, There arises (the recognition of) evil. Therefore: Being and non-being interdepend in growth; Difficult and easy interdepend in completion; Long and short interdepend in contrast; High and low interdepend in harmony; Front and behind interdepend in company (Tzu 47). GLOVER ∫ 56
Even when we are taught the positive nature of blackness, it is still trapped in the world of relative opposites. We are instructed to be something besides ourselves in order to be our true selves. We are the exception, the opposite somehow attached to the negative. Karibu Books existed as a definition of these opposites. Positive because it somehow counteracted the negative in an industry where it is hard to survive on black sales alone. Here is the true reason Karibu Books and any black bookstore needs to exist. As institutions, bookstores distribute knowledge to the African-American community. And not only do they distribute it; they also broker, guide and give value to information that might otherwise be overlooked in other institutions. One might assert more of us would read books if more of the books had something about us. Here is the true reason Karibu Books and any black bookstore needs to exist. As institutions, black bookstores distribute knowledge to the African-American community. And not only do they distribute it, but they also broker, guide and give value to information that might otherwise be overlooked in other institutions. How many times have I heard someone say, ―You know all that stuff you read in books ain‘t necessarily true.‖ Or how often does one enter the home of someone who doesn‘t read and find not a single book in the house besides the Bible? On MTV cribs, how often does one see a library that is in any way as impressive as the cars? The truth is reading culture in the African-American community is a complex scenario with factors and influences dating all the way back to slavery. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson written in 1933 articulated many of the contradictions of African-American education that existed before our enslavement. The book is a companion piece to the Education of the Negro, also written by Woodson. Technically, The Mis-Education of the Negro deals with Negro Education since 1865, while the Education deals with the education of the Negro before 1865. At Karibu, both books were touted as Core Books or ―books every African-American household should have.‖ The art of handselling is the secret craft of introducing and pitching a book to a customer. Through display, handselling and discounts, Karibu consistently promoted the sale of thousands of copies of The MisEducation of the Negro every year. We used to say, ―buy it as gift, buy it for a friend.‖ By constantly promoting The Mis-Education of the Negro, we thought we could, in some ways, counteract those gigantic forces of history with our tiny bookstore. Part of Woodson‘s argument in the Mis-Education is that the majority of the education Negroes receive is impractical. He argues that much of the time spent studying books, culture and philosophy could be better spent if we would learn the ways of business. As a black bookstore, we stood in a peculiar place where we actualized Woodson‘s ideas about practicality, but also fed into the structure of ideas and culture full of impracticalities and fancies about entertainment, stars and ―celebrity intellectuals.‖ Though we made constant reference to, and even joked about, a wide range of people we encountered operating from the position of being mis-educated, our own estimates that we could somehow counteract all the forces of Negro history with our tiny bookstore reflected a mis-education of our own. GLOVER ∫ 57
The destruction of my business has made me question the fabric of reality itself. My wife and I have managed to maintain our relationship, nurture our children and, in spite of our financial difficulty, are still blessed in many ways. But, the challenges remain. I am not sure how one recovers from a loss of financial security and the dream of being able to produce some tangible accomplishment for his community. I have met with countless people who have already accepted the impossibility of building a black institution as a fact of life. In a naïve way, I assumed that the truth of our commitment to ―the struggle‖ was what held the business together and was responsible for its success. But it was the struggle that led me to learn the ways of business and embrace those elements of the industry, which existed outside of my narrowly defined image of the good work. One chooses a path certain of the outcomes and learns something very different from what he expects. I guess that is what is difficult and great about life. Maybe I was just another mis-educated Negro? Why else would someone start a black bookstore? Everybody knows black folks don‘t really read books like that. ~ On August 18th, 1991, a few days before my 21st birthday, my girlfriend and I traveled to Georgia with my father to walk the graveyards. We were in search of Black history. My great grandmother was buried just across the street from the old house in an unmarked grave. My father, who had only met his real father once, didn‘t know much about the name he had or the man who gave it to him. He was a calm and reserved man by that time. His request to make the trip was casual, uncharged and monotonal like Professor Lukele. We drove down South.
GLOVER ∫ 58
Works Cited Epstein, Jason. Book Business: Publishing Past Present and Future. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002. Digital. Tzu, Lao. The Wisdom of Laotse. Trans. Lin Yutang. New York: Random House, 1948.
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“TELL ME WHERE Y’ALL FROM!:” Introduction to the CULTURAL PRIDE Issue In early 2012, our editors invited writers and visual artists from every corner of the United States of America to tell us, and tell our readers, where they are from in the most specific and general sense of the preposition. The response to our call was profound in both quality and quantity of submissions received. The best of those submissions comprises the heart of this issue. Within the following pages, you will find the stunning work of writers and artists who boast, praise, meditate upon and complain about their respective cultures. They do so with a powerful acknowledgement that each of their respective cultural elements, such as: music, religion, place of origin, etc., has formed and informed their sense of identity. The work reflected in this issue represents a party of sorts, as we document the vibrant commonalities and differences, blues and bliss, hate and hope that define our nation. It is, quite literally, a sign of our early twenty-first century times—a good sign. Come celebrate with us!
TIDAL BASIN REVIEW ∫ 60
HOW TO WEAR HIJAB Aisha Sharif pull it twist it braid it twirl it tuck it tie it wrap it up drape it layer it flavor it gem it pin it zip it change it up print it pattern it stripe it plaid it mix it match it make it up dye it fade it red it gray it blue it blend it lighten up play it pose it shape it hold it dance it mold it work it up weigh it name it say it take it leave it love it wake it up mind it defy it wed it divorce it lose it find it give it up lie it dream it mean it sing it teach it speak it stir it up fight it pray it swear it take it fly it fly it stand it up
SHARIF âˆŤ 61
SECURITY Aisha Sharif I stood there, arms stretched up and out, TSA officer patting me down. I should have known better, worn short sleeves, tighter jeans, hot pink or baby blue, not brown, not black. I should have pulled this hijab back in a bun, worn hoop earrings, tried to appear less foreign. I should have let it fall, carried it like nothing, a shawl. Instead, I chose habit draped over ears, below my chin and ignored the possibility of not passing. I watched her press my head, my neck, behind my ears, my chest. Just making sure, she said, facing me, as if she could not see through this curtain of difference. She pressed and pressed, stared and pressed, not wanting to believe that I could be safe and Muslim.
SHARIF âˆŤ 62
SONNY’S FIRST FAIR ONE Andrea Walls We saw his father deliver him to his enemy, lacing him into his fear. 13 oz —Pure red, "The gloves." His daddy's leather, masquerades of measured violence. Yes, a boy's soft hands must break—into the chrysalis of men, of legendary fists. The street must remember his name, the day he sets his body as a boundary and looks into the punisher's eyes. "Son, a man is not afraid to look into another man’s eyes." Sonny bled for his place in his father's eyes. The street made adjustments. Sizing our boy, up.
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JOHNNY’S Andrea Walls We three queenettes got-a-penny— in a three-for-a-penny world of summer. Corners in every direction pushing sugar & smokes. Old whistlers, be, wolf-calling us out of our Christian names. Johnny, behind the counter, "yes-pleases" us. In his sunk-wood, chicken-wire, honeystacked world—we leave a dark cent in his palm. Copper-shine. Wag-tail. Peanut butter, molasses & soprano-howl— We jewel-tongue take candy-weight. We sweet-mouth melting trinities: Mary-Janes, today, devoured— Cherry licorice whips tomorrow.
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STOOP SONG Andrea Walls Sweetie's hair in my hands; My hair in Peaches' hands; Peaches' hair in Sugar-girl's hands; Sugar-girl's hair in the hand of God— We are, one-2-3-4, sister-girls, wild ivies climbing the concrete up from the city to Miss Betty's own front door. She keeps us on the outside, inside that world teaches us to slap-box if it's all in fun, to make a fist and come out wailing if it's for real. Sanctified: Sister‘s hair in my hand, sweet-braids of victory.
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Old Timers, Tranquilize Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 66
AVRAHAM OUR FATHER / AVROM OVINU Zackary Sholem Berger The world was flooded with death and to save it all a man built a poem of papers stolen from flame. He crawled in and saved his last breath then blew his own straight white page as a sail across the unscrolled sea. He sent out a letter to see if Yiddish death could memorialize an age. He died before the yud returned. Crazy to wish for revival when everything dies. Like Jesus, I am standing graveside but for resurrection I might be lazy or insufficient. Would revivification do the trick? Who died then who Sutzkever carried - capsuled - in his pen? How do you English a Yiddish nation?
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THE PASSOVER MIRACLE / HAGODE SHEL PEYSEKH Zackary Sholem Berger Have you ever seen one people taken out of another? I woke up once and felt all the Jew drained from me. I felt miracle prickling my skin. A horseradishkait no longer numbed my sense. Now I can freely be. Hobbled by particularism no longer, I can draw my inner child from every bloody river. Sorrow is the plague of the unrooted khreyn. Wit is the biting jelly of the khreyn-uprooted worm. I saw a person taken out of another. Half-asleep, the half-draped half-pregnant half-mother murmured ―a do-‖ adoring ot o do adonai a daughter The river stopped: Live in your bloods! Live in your bloods!
BERGER ∫ 68
MISCEGENATION ROUND DANCE Rain C. Goméz Yu ho he` (yu ho he`) blood color of boiled mudbugs, humid and ornery briny as brack water fed on father‘s gumbo and mother‘s buffalo meat Yu ho he` (yu ho he`) wey hey ya wey yo wey hey ya wey yo Ain‘t no way you can take the bayou outta blood. Ain‘t no how you can take away all the loss o‘blood. More than one story o‘ People survived more than one flood. Crawdad carried mud in hands when waters rose to make land. When waters rose, we packed bags, lost homes, returned to crescent land. Waves weren‘t always rising waters, at times tides came to separate and ban. When men in suits, crisp white linen sweating in Caribbean heat Came separating us like prickly cotton from shaft in September heat. Kinfolk whose lines were blurred ‗cross Uncle Jim found ways to cheat— Woven brackish blood, braided carries memory for all my relations. Weavings like basketry, strand for Euro, one Africa, third Indian Nations. Into a circle we moved to dance, taking partners, making alliances for survival. Delicate plans, fragile treaties‘ offspring, crumbled under statehood‘s arrival. Under rubble feet in fresh spring grass, rose Blindian children survival‘s creations. We danced circles of knowledge, undulating in-out double-headed serpent. Chahta, Atakapa, Natchitoches, casting nets in bayuks, harvesting verdant. In the time before the Frog People came, to dance into our circle violently making Woven brackish blood. I‘ve come to rattle the bones! Under waters where cypress roots grow— Ětranger blanc who brought people in iron chains shuffling dance, to plant and hoe, Took us Indian women to barter, to breed and teach foreigners the way of land. I‘ve come to rattle the bones! Rising up shilup, haint, makin‘ tongues you no understand. Wounds keloid over time wit age, so come my Pappy, Indian wit‘ nappy an‘ me light as sno‘ Woven brackish blood.
GOMÉZ ∫ 69
Yu ho he` (yu ho he`) blood color of red brick dust, sticky sweet like pralines salty as air in afternoon gulf showers fed on father‘s beignets and mother‘s bannock Keeping time to rhythm of songs drumming through thrum of heart Like rush of river meeting gulf, dancing, catching honor beats under each fall of feet Yu ho he` (yu ho he`) wey hey ya wey yo wey hey ya wey yo wey hey ya wey hey ya wey hey ya wey yo ~ he`
GOMÉZ ∫ 70
WHAT I KNOW Rain C. Goméz this is what I know dad wakes in gray orange breaking through salt mists on chalk dusted gulf his arms are brown his net frayed with memories of hands not his own but of his blood his knife handle made of smoothed cypress blade sharpened steel made while courting my mother— of it I know nothing more knife slides under gills of a mullet separating body quickly belly opens spilling guts onto pewter sand turning
black and brown with mucus and slime dad fills my pink plastic beach bucket with heads— across the shore sun has broken brackish air mingling with smell of fish heads— fiddlers scramble while gulls pelicans and egrets mill about mom and I fill traps with heads for blue crabs later in morning mom kisses father dressed in oil stained overalls and steel-toed boots—leaving for work as she fries mullet fillets and eggs for sister and my breakfast— this is what I know I can still smell fish on my fingers taste salt on my lips
GOMÉZ ∫ 71
NOTES TO THE PAGODA TREE Natalie Young I. Each autumn your petite leaves surprise with their smart yellow, a reminder of banana skins, not one shade different. II. I apologize for the way my dog gouged your thick bark, wanted to climb and grab the neighbor‘s cat from your arms. I apologize for stapling chicken wire around your trunk; it was meant to stop the clawing. Now I don‘t know which was worse. III. You are not the Maple. A vast and barrel-chested guard, a warning, he sloughs his enormous trunk in large hunks; the wind grunts lunging through his limbs. You are a cousin to the pea and your leaves aren‘t nearly as small as they seem. IV. When I move from this mountain valley of hard earth with plenty of snow but little water, you will be missed. You, who shouldn‘t be able to grow here. The arborist says you‘re a thirsty breed. V. The ground is burning and you must be cold. This afternoon you released a full yellow blanket from your branches—not delicate like a baby—wide and complete. VI. How do you gather the courage to let it all go in a single day?
YOUNG ∫ 72
Old Timers, Transoceanic Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 73
FOR COMING OF AGE Claudia Akyeampong Father, there is unrest in our home They whispered Mau Mau as they lowered you down They tell us of blood on your hands Your children
torn as fathers revolve there are too many sides no foundation
we feel the earth buckling They matched his speed fueled with confusion beat him and the chain unraveled beat him he is faceless in the uproar beat him there are no brothers here Running eyes crazed Stumbling lopsided against the current of fists and batons sternum broken from the stampede of flight
AKYEAMPONG âˆŤ 74
Coming out of clothes to avoid the blows from mallets from machetes from mouths that sound like his
AKYEAMPONG âˆŤ 75
AFRICAN NOSTALGIA IN 35 FRAMES Claudia Akyeampong thick yards of kente cascade on to the floor, scaling the wall behind. she slides one picture behind the next. its the same background in every photo, weathered and curling into themselves with time. I watch as she rotates her thumb around the faces as if trying to put herself there. index finger to chin, thumb to cheekbone. Sissi looks like mama in this one. tailored bu bu cut so short if mama had seen she would have prayed on her for weeks. from the Black and white she still can see sisi wearing bright colors in the way in which she stood. wide, hip thrown out where waist beads pushed out the curve, hand propped on it like wah look! she wears kente of sunset orange, deepest blue, and crimson. slivers of black thread wedged in between the stitches. its been a long time since. they seem to only connect over tears and news of someone passing. such distance. in front of me she goes to a quiet place sitting with her sisters big and full with life.
AKYEAMPONG âˆŤ 76
MY POP-POP’S BASEMENT Jeremy Bruno Before the deaths, before the fights and relocations, before the final splintering and diffusion of ethnicity, my mother‘s family used to gather in my grandparents‘ basement. The ―basement‖ was intended to be a garage. However, since Italian families tend to spend eighty percent of their communal time in the kitchen of any building, the garage became a kitchen, a dining room and a living room all in one. It was beautifully haphazard. The tile was scrubbed raw, a product of my nana‘s obsessive sense of order. The walls were unfinished in places, as was the ceiling, and over the counter, there was an open window to pop-pop‘s workshop where he fixed lawnmowers and hung salted pork, his own prosciutto. Two long folding tables split the room down the center, enough room to sit perhaps twenty people. Several aged refrigerators and freezers stored enough food for legions over months; my nana ran laps around the table between these machines and the sink, between the sink and the stove. Every so often, in a conversational lull, someone would pipe up: ―Need any help Rose?‖ While sauce bubbled on the stove, the kids helped nana pull sheets of pasta from the machine like cloth through a sewing machine. The family talked politics, gossip, births and deaths over plates of salty lunchmeats and cheese, over bowls of fried stuffed olives. Over cookies and coffee, pizzelles, cucidati and biscotti. Uncle Sal played the concertina for us. I was too young, too transfixed to recognize any dissent or special love for his musicianship from the others. It seemed to make him happy, to think he was entertaining. There were dozens of happy people slumped in folding chairs, happily full, happily chattering away, unaware of tomorrow, or at least, oblivious to it. I slept there, went there for breakfast, before school, after school. It was the bright center of my life as a child. The front of the house was steps from the Severn River. Pop-pop grew apples and pears and grapes in the yard, and tended the beds of hundreds of flowers. He used to play catch with me alongside the rows of tomato plants under the crabapple trees. The last time I remember visiting pop-pop‘s, he wasn‘t there. The funeral was as every funeral seems to be, set in the Cruelest Month, scents of raw earth and cut grass on the wind. I was oblivious to the reality. When we stood in the basement, dressed black in our very best, I was puzzled by the quiet sadness. I tugged on my Uncle John, pop-pop‘s brother-in-law. The most cheerful man I‘d ever known was red from crying. I must‘ve asked him to play. He couldn‘t muster a smile to soften the ―No.‖ BRUNO ∫ 77
After pop-pop was interred and his belongings divvied up, the house was sold. It was subsequently renovated, ruined. The funeral, I think, is a good marker of where the slow loss of my ethnic identity began. It happens to most immigrants. The language goes. As children take advantage of the ample opportunities of a more liberal culture, the native customs and culture fade. You start to have well-to-do Italians and blue collar Italians in the same family, perhaps in the same house. Class becomes an issue. You‘re suddenly capable of turning your back on your heritage. Immigrants have to deal with prejudice. My mother was called ―Jew girl,‖ a, efficient conflation of hatreds if I‘ve ever heard one, and less creatively, ―wop‖ and ―dago.‖ In the era of Motown, she danced with blacks at one of her school events and was called a ―nigger lover‖; I‘m certain those using such hateful language thought it was innate in the dago to seek their progenitors. The tainted races, with dark hair, skin and eyes, with sharp features, are naturally drawn together. My father worked for the post office when he was in his late teens. The older black men there called him ―gray boy.‖ He was neither white nor black, something in between. When it became convenient, however, he was blamed for everything the white man did to the black man in the 1960‘s. My dad kept quiet and worked hard. He listened. ―It‘s your world,‖ they would say. His world: the world of the nigger-lover, the wop dago, the gray boy, the politically convenient delimiter. Even today, in the company of self-identified blacks, Hispanics and people of Arabic descent – ―people of color,‖ as the NPR-totebagging, waxen poetic proclaim – I‘m still the gray boy my father was when race and ethnicity comes up, even though my skin is dozens of shades lighter. ―But you‘re Italian right?‖ is the refrain, excusing their present, pleasant company from the horrors of racism, slavery and prejudice. It was flattering for a while, to feel simultaneously included and excused. ―After all,‖ I‘d say. ―My family didn‘t get here until after slavery was over.‖ Sweet absolution. It‘s true, but irrelevant. Slave owners and their apologists – an expansive category once upon a time – were the problem. Only racists were racist. Only racists are racist. Among whites I‘m either disliked or loved for mentioning it, but both groups want to possess the Italian identity in their own way. Those that dislike the distinction make it clear that I‘m just another white person of European descent (both inclusive and disdainful, you‘ve got to love the self-pity and self-flagellation of whites in the context of race and ethnicity); those that love it want to be a part of it. I understand and share the former‘s distaste. I cannot supply the latter‘s desire when it‘s hard to find content in their perception of my ethnicity. Which brings me to the central question: how much or how little does my heritage, my ethnicity, my race, inform my creative work or perhaps, my life in general? BRUNO ∫ 78
Part of me wants to deny any influence. My experience probably differs very little from others‘ except in detail: food, language, customs. We danced this dance when we celebrated this feast day. We eat these cookies with that hot liquid. It can be, in diametric opposition to our often simplistic desire for diversity, terribly ordinary. But I cannot deny the amalgamation of detail into impression, the specifics of experience absorbed as formative. Perhaps the details do matter. The collapse of my family‘s ethnic framework is both disheartening and joyful: I lament the loss of the joyful mornings and evenings in pop-pop‘s basement. But I do not lament the loss of the binding ties of culture, imprisonment that comes with donning the mantle heritage, the colored lenses, the forgone conclusions, the complete transcendence of any system of merit; the culture is its own merit by the basis of its very existence, only in existence by past events. History and precedence become replacements for effort and ideas. We believe things are good only because they‘re different in hue, and the obscurity of the hue strengthens the value of this ethnic currency. We want to celebrate heritage as if it is somehow pure or brightly defined. Ethnicity and culture become standins for good art, good writing and good music. If I can tell the story of my people – abstraction in its purest form – it is good enough for the creative world for the sake of representational equity. It‘s largely an excuse. In Ken Burn‘s The West, after the torturous descriptions of human suffering at Wounded Knee, one of the Native American interviewees claimed that, when he visited the site, he could hear babies crying in the early morning, the implication being that his heritage somehow gave him a specially tuned ear to the magical echo of Native American suffering. That a man of higher learning could indulge in such preposterous nonsense illustrates the flaws of deep ethnic identification. What a dishonor to the truth of the memory of one of America‘s darkest hours. What a remarkably selfserving fabrication. There‘s a free pass for this brand of nonsense, which scales upward along the oppression ruler: the greater the suffering, the wider the bandwidth of acceptable speculative catharsis and tribe-specific flights of fancy. Should I, as a storyteller, reach back into my heritage and unearth my dearest dead to make you, the reader, feel something ethnic, a phantom of a phantom of my own past? If I animated my pop-pop, Felicia Arturo Mariani, would I push the sweetest sap from his blue lips, force him to embody my ethnic ideal, to relate some kind of pure spirit of being? He sat at the head of the table sometimes, when it was just the two of us. Pop-pop sipped a St. Paulie Girl – not table wine – when he cursed lying politicians on the news. For emphasis, he‘d gesture with his stump, his bad arm. His father accidentally shot him on a hunting trip when he was very young and his arm had to be amputated, so goes the legend. He hunted into his seventies, bought a cabin in rural Pennsylvania. He wore a bright orange cap when he went out with the ―good old boys.‖ He brought his cat with him to PA but rarely his wife. BRUNO ∫ 79
He made me fried bologna sandwiches, snaked hot dogs from the package for cold snacks. Felix was racist: He called the Redskins the Blackskins when they lost. His mother, my nani, spoke little English and still put her son through Villanova, got him a job. He was a chemist, worked for the Government Printing Office on North Capital Street, just a short walk from Union Station in DC. He was a man of the misogynist 1950‘s, produced four babies in the boom despite being turned away from the army during World War II. He could shoot as straight as any fully limbed man, but the army didn‘t want to take any chances. If I invoked his ethnic presence now, imagine how confused he would be. He lived his life as if what his family brought to this country was already a part of it: stuffed olives, stewed spinach-ricotta balls, the names Vento, Mariani, Bibi, Hauny. The corporal punishment of the old country that takes generations to weed out. The anger that comes with it. He did the work of integration in his lifetime – cognizant of it or not – and set the stage for his family to enjoy the best of their heritage and but not be burdened by it. But the years are long and our proclivities fickle. The focus shifts as time goes on and the distance makes things fuzzy. But not fuzzy enough to lie about my ethnicity, to dishonor the truth of my grandfather‘s choices, the superficially typical American man of the Greatest Generation. I believe we‘d call him stereotypical in our modern age. Considering the tone of our hollow modern quest for difference as media content, there‘s something substantial about a family‘s decision to integrate, to find the best parts of their culture and the new one in an equal fashion. Perhaps even now I‘m putting words in his mouth, writing my heritage as I see fit, with what appeals to me now. I do not deny that my ethnicity is real, that my family celebrated differently, looked differently, spoke differently, and that those details have been formative in some capacity. I do, however, try to keep in mind that my life, along with others who have been in this country for as long as my family has been, is not that of an Italian, and not quite that of an Italian American. But I hang on to the scraps that I have, for myself and for those interested. It‘s a relic of a bastardization, but I cherish the memories I have of feeling Italian. My mother tried her best after Felix was gone. I danced the tarantella in a bright sash at the armory, spent time with the folks at the Sons of Italy, cooked our nani‘s food (still do) and observed our Catholic traditions, distinctly Italian. Rhetorical deification at the expense of complexity is too high a price to pay for me, and I believe, for any artist. It‘s important to be mindful of this tendency as one is tries to be mindful of clichés and tired plot lines. My tangible ethnicity is a source. The intangibles are undefined and integrated anyway, so we leave those interpretations to the reader. As I get older, in memory I return to the house on spring days, when pop-pop‘s daffodils are in bloom, when Easter is just days away. He‘s slumped over a dry bed with BRUNO ∫ 80
a little spade, motions me over to help. Put on these gloves. Don‘t worry about the mud. Dig. We don‘t talk about identity, or politics, or ―life.‖ My mind is a child‘s. The day is warm, despite the breeze from the river. He smells like Aquavelva. My baseball mitt sits on the hood of his old Ford wagon. Mom‘s in the basement kitchen with nana getting dinner ready, any dinner.
BRUNO ∫ 81
ENTER MY SANCTUARY, BECOME BECOME Amaris V. Howard one white candle lit in grainy circular bark frankincense, myrrh, lavender oils sagestick and incense burning spirit smoke our communion, living words amethyst citrine onyx rose quartz crystals tall bamboo stalks in bronze vase with warm water rocks flowing fountain of earthstone and zen sand caught in mid air hand-carved hand, matching dark wooden pen resting inside ebony matted hair with cowry shell locked in heirloom halo once worn around the neck of an unfallen angel placed inside the cracks in our walls refined sterling silver ankh, a charm golden goddess Maat on mahogany with elastic strings copper adinkra gye nyame earrings to cry and pray, and pray and cry on chiseled djembe and cha chas made of seed pods a tiny striped multicolored clay bead open book on an empty lined page, trimmed in gold until we resurrect
HOWARD âˆŤ 82
COMING-OF-AGE IN SAL SI PUEDES3 Rosebud Ben-Oni —Baghdad Beach, Matamoros, Mexico Even the gulls scuttled from the surf: a grey arm erect and bit of shoulder wrapped in electrical wire— Workers hanging from scaffolds of a patiobar spotted the waves scattering the next body. This one a Brownsville journalist tied up in a metal drum and doused with slow-burning gasoline. We lit our sparkles and sang: Do not fall out of the panga, when the coyote asks you to make room— The waters are cold and the guns carry more weight than you. Wind chipped a glare in the carrousels, its scalloped mirrors pulled bloodless faces and fists of matted hair from combers. The police let their man submerge into a carnival scene. Only we are not afraid and watch him watching us in an endless circling: Senoritas kissing between lights that spark carnivorous noises of animal rhymes, attacking the side of our mothers‘ worried faces.
Sal Si Puedes means ―Leave if you can‖ and is not an uncommon name for colonias and other neighborhoods found in the United States and Latin America. 3
BEN-ONI ∫ 83
δ Belonging to him, I can wear sand still in rubberbanded hair, dip a leg into a five-star pool. At night he drips wax to preserve me. In the darkness I‘m no longer rawboned but delicate angles softened by our heat. I am still lit by morning, a razor grazes my hollows for his perfect line. I sear and bend until I‘m rosy as a daiquiri. I am sawdust in the eyes of other men My son will come-of-age as Corinthian leather and shoes and starched and the Sunday edition. δ I awoke on a mound of sand and demanded a manenough to bring shaved ice and a shot glass. He jumped from the railing as my sandals came off, the jellyfish outlining beer bottles. The surf slid toward our briar mound. His boots were wet, my bare feet fell away. Shells gathered like cemetery flowers where we‘d stood. A warning from where mermaids siesta in the shark‘s atrium.
BEN-ONI ∫ 84
CREATION STORY OF SAL SI PUEDES Rosebud Ben-Oni hanging off street corners lamps lighting the last kerosene accessible as the savage wants some howling girl against a narcotic wire the next rush against the shift-changing bell musket-chained born middle-aged the last migrant and virgin widow sterile absent legless in legacy foothold found none foolish to hold onto things
BEN-ONI âˆŤ 85
THE REPLY OF SAL SI PUEDES Rosebud Ben-Oni I don‘t speak broken English, Silly thing, So toilet-prude, Misbegotten by antibiotics, Baseborn of Europe. I am the mistress of fragmentation. Vestige of what‘s allowable but Hardly livable. Mosaic of outlander passings. My ruins and limbs are Parvenu to be archaic. Autistic to partake in restoration. Novel but not like neon-plated Tijuana, a peso who thinks herself a penny. Can‘t be museumed. History skips over my life. Confused that I speak intelligently? Think the pinched aren‘t polysyllabic? What if I said Shall? What if I experience— Linguistic momentum to earn Webster worth? Would you call it broken then in its 4th edition? What say my tongue— Blade rusted from stabbing where I pick my teeth— My cells are degenerates, no? Guess how many lives I have. Tear me down again— You‘ll grease rouge on my wounds. I was born with clothes ripped in the right places. BEN-ONI ∫ 86
I‘m not a prophet for the world. I wear the loin-cloth for self-loathing Purpose. Won‘t speak in tongues. Keep your languages, lingoes, slang. I lost my lips to a tracker long ago. I‘m not a foreshadow of the divine. Quit photographing my children for Exposés of The Second Coming. I‘m sleepwalking through your Op-Eds. I am not in your worldly terms. Your first word was remembered. I was born a muerto. You— Have yet to let me finish a sentence.
BEN-ONI ∫ 87
HIGH DESERT DROUGHT Ann Howells Our train eases into the station, squats on the track, panting. A broad adobe-colored landscape, beneath a polished-lapiz sky, greets us. No measurable rain since October, residents sigh, concern tightening their eyes. Sotol, cholla and ocotillo wither and brown at tips, prickly pear produces scant stunted fruit, and yucca, perennial desert survivor, grows leathery and limp. Even my mouth is dry, filled with words like parched, wizened, sere.
HOWELLS âˆŤ 88
Oral Rinse Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 89
BLUES RIVER DuEwa Frazier No one ever swims in the river where cobblestones disappear. Where Osun waits for honey and cinnamon holding her mirror up for you to catch a glimpse of your reflection in the waves. Pay Yeye for a love blessing. No one ever swims in the river that separates St. Louis from East St. Louis. Donâ€™t be caught in East Boogie after dark. You do, you betta come strapped. No one ever swims in the water traveling from Louisiana to Minnesota like ancestors during the Great Migration. Mississippi songs called blues floating on the backs of traveling souls. Creating a world from hope. No one ever swims in the mighty Mississippi River unless to get swept away in time and never return.
FRAZIER âˆŤ 90
OF IDENTITY Geoffrey Jacques — thank the beginning, the foundation of the unwanted — then there are those powered by ―Roots,‖ & evening serials that‘s what educated them: not the war, not the noise, not ideas, not vision yet with a clear or opaque chronicle, if you spend time there you‘ll find different, creepy, contemplative things — know the vehicle as color, that‘s one idea of time — weighted on top of another, like an umber façade on the other hand, again concerning color, as part of nature itself it need not be apparent does not have to be monstrous it can be the side of the eye
JACQUES ∫ 91
DETOUR AHEAD Geoffrey Jacques a differently valued official ideology pursues performance though history & biography ponder sexuality — the intimate mode framed by a market-arranged relation — pedagogy without looking conditional not consequent a different kind of work the sticky of sticky face only in America did I learn what it means to be a person of color & the rupture within that meaning a thing deeply amenable to the foul interplay of language resist: image-making underground a text in multiple locations the opportunity in a group will mistake the personnel director a categorically imperative ecology when A stands for what B represents paranoia stands in for personal essay our obsession is a lot like penetration a normalizing action across a table
JACQUES ∫ 92
composition & marginalization the full-fledged underrated stepchild — egalitarian popular roots — involves knowing the system will be allowed to evaporate the attack has been so scurrilous battling on your own turf broodily blowing the lid non-dualisms break the taboo the division of labor the paradigm people become traffic — fill in the blank — an intervention will encourage the range of who‘s in the rolodex but what happens depends on what‘s asked
JACQUES ∫ 93
WE SWAG BEFORE DOO RAGS Glenis Redmond I am from if you have to ask, never mind. If you don‘t come from no way cut into way, you‘d just spend my time by asking why. There‘s not enough meat hanging on metaphors for me to explain how my back got built -- not taken from slick pages, but fashioned from a tenuous foundation of make do. I am from before Doo-Rags -- stockings cut, tied and worn to bed, Murray-made waves. Father made them. Rode his rage right out of Jim Crow‘s South -- his bones set in Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf Blues. Wind and water: Hate-spit that beat and battered the spirit. Daddy played by ear, what he could not say. I come from -- it’ll learn you, if you‘ll listen to how music mixes fear and pride. Between the notes sorrow calls out -- drops of bitter blood. Mama always made it better. Sugar: white or brown. Stirred by hand. Our veins burned. Her table always set with grace and love. Bible verses circled. My brothers prayed short cuts, Jesus wept. We did too. Laugher holds the tears, fever swells and swollen limbs. I am from Spades: cards of strife. Getting cut. Going in the hole. REDMOND ∫ 94
Renig. We talk much smack, as we climb out of our past dug. We step on the family ladder rung after rickety blessed rung. Danced before we could walk, We stand upright, but rooted to pocket poor, but spirit rich, a life that taught how to tie---stretch. Make a dollar from fifteen cents. Common sense -- we had plenty, schooled us in bend, but not break, our eyes closed. Our hands tied around our lack. Curved around hambone hambone where you been? Hungry. We made songs to feed Our dreams deferred with words, to keep us from exploding. Our teeth clenched with everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed. We vow to free the caged bird. Shuck chains off like James Brownâ€˜s cape. We spin the edict of slave. No. We were never meant to survive We thrive. We real cool. We make do. We twist this. We flip the mask from scowl to mirth. We do what we do: Squeeze blacker berries to make sweeter juice. Our walk not a dirge, but dance. Each step. We do swag. REDMOND âˆŤ 95
DARK SIDE Glenis Redmond The shadow-side bore me, so I don‘t need to cross over. My skin is dark: the color of betrayal, the hue of a ship‘s hull turned darker by fetters, that held me deep in the Atlantic. I wear the purple rings around my wrist and ankles evidence of an involuntary journey. I vomit in remembrance. My bones still ache from the crossing. My heart is that of an elephant‘s memory, it weeps at the gate of no return. It will not let me forget that inside me two countries live: divided. My spine grows in a place where there is no middle ground. I walk the way of the Middle Passage and like my walk, my tongue is cleft and my native language is the blues. I sing nightmares fluently. I utter this darkness that possesses me. I dance my grief like the Dagura the song that tells the story of how my great grandmother got her light skin -some praise it as the color of sunrise. but I am not fooled by this brightness it makes me darker still, so dark that it covers up the chant of the Cherokee and the Sioux Nations, stories that are too housed in my bones. Look close and you‘ll see I am red, not just the red road, but Irish red, that led me here and tied to this uncertainty. Redmond holds a fury that I cannot fully name.
REDMOND ∫ 96
It is lost in the darkness of the waves. The blues and the purples envelope me on this voyage from the cradle of Cameroon to the shores of Carolina a deep and murky legacy -- too dark for anyone to ever own.
REDMOND âˆŤ 97
Whitening Solution Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 98
ANNABEL LEE AND ME Ricardo Nazario y Colón Corner after corner, the Bronx reveals before me—in grey morning dew, throughout sleepy worship afternoons. Under tenement shadow skies linger black birds waiting for dark berries to stain the ground. I sit on the corner of Poe Park, to imagine the cottage when there was nothing but grass. I push everything out of my head, the bicycles, the unremitting sirens, and the sound air makes when buses brake. I try to fall out, to let this place rush up, as it used to be before my people were forged. I am intimate with the lay of this land. My hands rise and fall across its stomach and I make cast of its hills. A thrill of wind races up my spine and I consider this feeling of being on my own again. The brood that used to pool inside me gives over to elation; the relief is remarkable.
NAZARIO Y COLÓN ∫ 99
THE MOOR OF THE BRONX Ricardo Nazario y Colón
I return to what has always been a gated community, surrounded by graffiti and its low art understory – a schizophrenic conversation – and swarm of pigeons bombarding the streets with their Manta Ray shadow – no one worries about the sky falling – the wind makes nothing out of feces. I stand here where the trees look older and meager like the people who are familiar to them. Few are the things that bear fruit, Pagodas, Magnolias and Sassafras; someone dried the willow groves – a symbol of my absence. I have come home 200 feet above sea level. I have never tasted the salt in the wind – each memory I hold is stale with faceless cut outs of people who were friends – this is hallowed ground – as life‘s legend proclaims – each generations shedding its skin for the next. Many measured their time by the art on the wall, how one generation ignores the other yet another protects the next. I return to the memories of blood dried on red brick walls, to missing memorials for bullets kissed with my name – where a simple push guaranteed a life – This is my Boogie Down, The Bronx of further over there – a place absent of tornados, where bodies swell if not for the thousands of witnesses who always hear something but never see anything – I stand here, ready to unbury what we all have never forgotten, waiting for another push – for I was guaranteed by a life unmarked and flesh that lays imbedded in brick layered walls.
NAZARIO Y COLÓN ∫ 100
LUNCH HOUR Valerie Valdes In the hot city, nobody walks without a purpose. The sun at its zenith splits the sky in two. Men and women sweat seconds after they exit air-conditioned offices. Legs bound by pencil skirts end in thick wedge sandals, sky-scraping stilettos, strides tight and toe-first, new world foot binding. Gray and navy suit pants stroll one hand in a pocket, the other wreathed in cigarette smoke, clutching a Blackberry, telling a story in gestures. Palm trees drop thin-skinned red fruit, pits gnarled and thick as walnuts litter the iron grating beneath, but no birds stoop to peck at them, crouched instead beneath crowded leaves. The air thickens, moisture teases with hints of rain denied by an empty blue bowl above. White stuccoed buildings line the street, circled by joggers running laps, eyes veiled in visions of lean muscle honed, flexed under taut skin. In the center promenade at the highend mall, fountains shoot cold geysers skyward, catch the returning water in tiled stone basins. No one stoops to drink, seeking youth. New mothers match Kate Spade purses to shoes, Dolce to Gabbana, join the J. Crew, push strollers that cost more than the barista earns in a week, frothing milk too hot for infant mouths. Children old enough to walk run stumbling forward, laugh, pinwheel hands. Metal peacocks overlook imported bamboo, straight-backed benches, manicured bushes and sculpted grass. VALDES âˆŤ 101
Tourists tote glossy bags, dart from Nordstrom to Victoriaâ€˜s Secret down an open hallway, covered and fanned. Sunglasses turn eyes into mirrors reflecting a warped black world curved as a legging-clad calf. Heavy thighs unaccustomed to exercise stand before the base of the elevator, slow portal to the retail pinnacle. For this, the Europeans came west: a sacred swamp, drained and filled. Seeking spice and silk, they found ring-necked pigeons fat on crumbs, music soft and disposable as tissues, potted plants, a brisk walk back to a small office, four walls, no windows, white tile sky.
VALDES âˆŤ 102
NOTE TO DON CORNELIUS celeste doaks 1 Soul Train was all the rage when I was little. Black folks paraded on stage in jumpsuits, bell bottoms and stacked boots; their afros picked out into the cosmos. While we Midwesterners wondered, California, how did you do it? How’d you make the zoot suit so cool? We envied your eternal sunsets, coastline kissing the Pacific, and most of all your train. 2 The Soul Train. That big choo choo blessing our TV screens telling us to go west and be free. But it was always your baby Don, the black boy from Bronzeville, Chicago‘s infamous South Side. You traded in your uniform for wide collars and plaid polyester pants. An ex-Marine who served your country and then us. Made your dollars selling cars and insurance policies ‗til you got called to the big screen‘s pulpit. And despite your own battles, you brought the King of Pop and the Godfather of Soul to a wide-eyed nation of rhythmic hearts. It was you Don, the scramble board— and a Chinese girl whose name we‘d never know, her hair a cascade of black waist-length snakes— that made us all want to pop and lock forever. 3 And what do we do now after hearing you put the gun to chin, surrendering to the rush of steel and cracked skull?
DOAKS ∫ 103
What do we do now that youâ€˜ve gone on to greet the angels and frolic with all the other greats? Oh Don, when we ascend to that final resting parlor upstairs, will you share your secrets of how to wear the mask with panache? Sometimes when it cracks, we want it to; giving the world a peek at blackness undone. Don, will you tell us what ever happened to that scramble board and where we can find our next sunset?
DOAKS âˆŤ 104
Love Potion No. 8 Mixed Media 8" X 10"
ONG âˆŤ 105
SCRAPE THE BROWN BOTTOM Cynthia Manick The sink is full of baby trout, speckled heads that shimmer at their seams, moving easily as arms and legs. They reach for slits of lime and bonedry celery in my mother‘s hand. There must be a dozen waiting to simmer in yesterday's broth. At this time of the month, dimes battle against the mustard jar like bullets in a jug. We live fresh as earth-eaters, using what is found half-price, home-grown, or dented. She stirs like an old hand working the soil, keeping mind the time. Her body remembers in fragments, like pieces of torn paper– Dove soap and pine, spiced rum cake, medium baskets of sweet rolls over hymns, number 2 pencils, gas bills, light bills, raised tones like voices over water, and bruised desire that leaves skin behind. She stirs with a throat halfclosed pouring out cans of tomato, fleshy hearts for the crock-pot base, knowing like my father‘s mood, the gumbo will last three days ‗till its drippings are swallowed clean.
MANICK ∫ 106
THE HUSBAND IN CONTRAST Cynthia Manick Slack-jawed veins are made stiff from cold rooftops in December. The body‘s mercury pools like a bucket of rooster feet I chopped as a kid. My palms are set rooms for electric saws, hammers, construction bags packed like a throat with grain. Cement slow- cooks behind the dip of my knuckles. Is this what the heart eats? If you jostle my bones, my fingers and toes will throw silver-plated ash. The horn of the 10:32 train disrupts my dreams of girls with pecantans, their skin tricked in pollen under orange trees, or the dark gingerbread of jazz I used to play in the mornings. At home you‘re in the kitchen among sweets and pearlshaped cloves, the burnt aroma of Uncle Ben‘s rice and sausage. Our seed with its rattle speaks in tongues. Etta James is on the radio and you‘re mouthing the words “you look so sweet and so doggone fine.”
MANICK ∫ 107
RECIPE FOR CONSUMMATION Cynthia Manick Your seasoned skin– one quart Egyptian the shade of balsa honey, one part Cubano with a dash of cayenne pepper, and one-half buttered South– is a scratch ‗n sniff insert more savory than Old Spice or Sara Lee; and I claw it nightly like peaches or sand to whispered chants of sweet meat sweet meat and bare back tongues in our bedroom, until shuck sheds like a coiled rope of dark stars. I drink it down pelvic-deep, so that my body remembers the brown bounty of your herbs and spine in the morning.
MANICK ∫ 108
FORTUNE COOKIE FACTORY Henry W. Leung Playing hooky, we met inside a crosswalk carapaced with the smooth, thick inner surface of a pheromone. The smell was animal fat. Butter-greased gears and dust-choked vent fans spun and grated from the corner factory, rotations from before our births and ever after. This was the Chinatown between church and gas stop, our fortune cookie heritage. But that‘s just sibylline confusion. We weren‘t ABC, already-been-chewed, America-born Chinese. We were wrathful village boys with more tongues in us than we knew. We roamed bakeries with bowl-cut bangs that stopped below the lips of countertops, and when no one was looking we peeled layers from the tops of muffins for our maws by instinct. Our parents forgot how to speak to us, cupping our hands as though in prayer. We trolled storefronts, but only small ones, sniffing sun-dried smells of fish, of home. To us, the butter was new. Standing in the crosswalk, we delivered gummy candies from our sweatshirt pouches, strawberry wrappers spilling around our feet. The cars diverged and hugged us like a felled tree in the road. We passed around a stolen apple for bites, but it was browning to the core. Inside: a dead white worm winding on itself. No—it was a seed burst into sapling, the apple so long decaying it had begun its next life. That sinister, constricting figure in the dry core: we didn‘t know it yet, nor would our ancestors have. So we raised it to the sun, perspiring, held it until, in the buttered pleasure of that space, we forgot our own scents and the direction we had crossed from.
LEUNG ∫ 109
ON AMERICA’S PAGE Henry W. Leung Vota dei discens lupus est agni reminiscens: Learning to pray to God, the wolf is remembering the lamb. Latin: the heritage we‘d seek as destination. In that world, each word has its own inflection, its thingness. Sentences scrambled, displaced—yet the same. It‘s the way you and I were raised— mazes in the hedges don‘t change, though the entrance moves. Dei lupus discens vota agni reminiscens est: God—wolf learns prayer— lamb‘s remembrance. You, my Korean-American friend —a ―Korean‖ American?—no, an American from Korean parentage—or a poet with Asiatic features—a poet studying— a poet masquerading as a med student— Hamlet: I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space were it not that I... Were it I, not that, not that I were it. That it, not I, were— You once memorized Neruda for a poetry class. I’m too visually minded, you said, to recite this. To recite like this. We faced each other at a picnic table, sitting back on our hands. You began in Spanish, Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche, and I must have told you then, leaning forward, in another language that I cannot fake, that I was falling in love, exactly as alien as I had ever been.
LEUNG ∫ 110
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Claudia Akyeampong has published work in Essence Magazine, Umoja Magazine, The African Magazine and The New African Woman Magazine. In 2008 she was awarded the Himan Brown Creative Writing honor for poetry by the City University of New York-Brooklyn College. She currently works as a Substitute Teacher in the Montessori school system.
Allie Marini Batts is a New College of Florida alumna, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has appeared in over forty literary magazines her family hasn't heard of. Allie is a research writer and Tallahassee tree-climber. She‘s pursuing a CreativeWriting MFA degree at Antioch University Los Angeles—oh no! it's getting away! http://kiddeternity.wordpress.com/. Photo: Christopher Batts
Rosebud Ben-Oni is a playwright at New Perspectives Theater, where she is developing a new play, ―Shamhat,‖ for part of their 20th Anniversary Season. Recently, her short story ―A Way out of the Colonia‖ won the Editor's Prize at Camera Obscura. Her work appears in Arts & Letters, Review Americana, Texas Poetry Review, and Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature.
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 111
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Zackary Sholem Berger is a Baltimore poet and translator who writes in English and Yiddish. These poems are taken from his manuscript, ―One Nation Taken Out of Another,‖ an adulterated Pentateuchiad. His chapbook, Not in the Same Breath, is 1/3 English, 1/3 Yiddish, and 2/3 pretty pictures.
Jeremy Bruno is a sci/tech writer living and working in the DC area. His creative work has appeared in publications like Bittersweet and Amaranth, and for a time, he wrote about ecology and evolution at Seed Media Group's ScienceBlogs. He currently maintains an archived website at Scientopia.org/blogs/voltagegate.
D. S. Butterworth‘s work has appeared in many literary journals. Algonquin Books published his non-fiction book Waiting for Rain, and Lost Horse Press published his poetry book, The Radium Watch Dial Painters, a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. He teaches writing and literature at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 112
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Darren C. Demaree is living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and daughter. He is the recipient of two Pushcart Prize nominations, and his first collection, "As We Refer To Our Bodies", will be released this fall by 8th House Publishing House.
Poet and journalist celeste doaks received a 2012 Lucille Clifton Scholarship to attend Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Her work has appeared in the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Asheville Poetry Review, San Pedro Poetry Review and many other literary magazines. Doaks received her MFA from North Carolina State University, and currently teaches creative writing at Morgan State University. Photo: Thomas Sayers Ellis
An East Coast transplant, Jacqueline Doyle has lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she teaches at California State University, East Bay. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have recently appeared in Front Porch Journal, Blood Orange Review, Rio Grande Review, and California Northern, and are forthcoming in South Dakota Review, Rosebud, and William and Mary Review.
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 113
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ DuEwa Frazier is a poet, writer and educator from St. Louis. Her work has featured in X Magazine, Reverie, Kweli Journal and others. She earned the Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at The New School. DuEwa is the author of the children's book Ten Marbles and a Bag to Put Them In: Poems for Children and two other volumes of poetry. She is the editor of the NAACP Image Award nominated anthology, Check the Rhyme. Visit her website at www.duewaworld.com.
Brother Yao (Hoke Smith Glover III) is an Associate Professor at Bowie State University in the English Department. As a poet he has been published in Crab Orchard Review, African American Review and other journals. Photo: Melanie Henderson
Rain C. Goméz, (Sutton Doctoral Fellow, English University of Oklahoma) won the First Book Award in poetry for Smoked Mullet Cornbread Memory (in edits Mongrel Empire Press), from the Native Writers‘ Circle of the Americas. Creative and Critical work has appears in various journals including Natural Bridge, Tidal Basin Review, SING: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas, Yellow Medicine Review, and American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Her most recent work is forthcoming in Louisiana Folklife Journal and Sugar Mule. She is working on her second collection of poetry titled, ―Miscegenation Round Dance: Poèmes Historiques.‖ CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 114
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Peggie Hale, a recent honors graduate of Howard Community College, she is currently a scholarship and honors student at UMUC working towards a BA in English. Published in the HCC literary journal, The Muse 2011, she is actively writing from her home in Aberdeen, Maryand. She gets encouragement from her friends, family and her own Robert Browning: Hodgie.
Amaris V. Howard is a passionate and prolific poet and enlightened activist currently enrolled in Chicago State University‘s Masters of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program where she is honing her craft in the literary and cultural traditions of her ancestors. Amaris has also opened for Toi Derricote, Jessica Care Moore, Floetry, Kanye West, Glenis Redmond and The Last Poets. Photo: H. Alex Sanchez, Renaissance Photography
Ann Howells serves on the board of Dallas Poets Community, a 501 (c) (3) literary non-profit. She has edited their journal, Illya’s Honey, for thirteen years. Her chapbook, Black Crow in Flight, was published by Main Street Rag. She has two Pushcart nominations and one Best of the Web nomination. Her work most recently appeared in Borderlands, Calyx, River Sedge, and Spillway. Photo: Travis Blair
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 115
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Geoffrey Jacques is a poet and critic who lives in Southern California. His most recent books include a collection of poems, Just for a Thrill (Wayne State University Press, 2005), and A Change in the Weather: Modernist Imagination, African American Imaginary (University of Massachusetts Press, 2009), a book of criticism. Photo: Sherri Barnes
Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Imago (CavanKerry Press). He lives in Queens, NY and works at Columbia University. He cofounded Kundiman (www.kundiman.org), a non-profit organization serving Asian American poetry. Visit him at www.josepholegaspi.com. Photo: Emmy Catedral
Henry W. Leung is a Kundiman Fellow and Soros Fellow finishing his MFA in Fiction at the University of Michigan. His chapbook, Paradise Hunger, was recently awarded the 2012 Swan Scythe Press Prize by James DenBoer. He writes a column for the Lantern Review.
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 116
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Richard Luftig is a professor of educational psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio. He is a recipient of the Cincinnati Post-Corbett Foundation Award for Literature and a semi-finalist for the Emily Dickinson Society Award. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally in Japan, Canada, Australia, Europe, Thailand, Hong Kong and India. One of his published poems was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Poetry Prize.
Cynthia Manick is a Cave Canem fellow. She holds a BA from Hollins University in English and Philosophy and a MFA from the New School. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in African American Review, Callaloo, Mythium Literary Journal, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and Tidal Basin. Her lost loves include George ―P-Funk‖ Clinton, Sly Stone, and Curtis Mayfield. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Ricardo Nazario y Colón is a member of a new generation of Kentucky writers destined to forge a New Kentucky Home. He is a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets and author of the books Of Jíbaros and Hillbillies (Plain View Press 2011) and The Recital (Winged City Press 2011). Visit him at www.lalomadelviento.com
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 117
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Monica Ong, artist and poet in new media, creates narrative installations that investigate social hierarchies and cultural silences in the context of public health. Monica completed her MFA in Digital Media at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006. Her research has included fellowships at the Oral History Summer Institute at Columbia University, and the Writing the Medical Experience Workshop at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also a Kundiman Fellow in poetry whose work has been published most recently in the Lantern Review, as well as forthcoming issues of Drunken Boat, and The New Sound: A Journal Interdisciplinary Art & Literature.
Glenis Redmond, a native of Greenville, South Carolina has lived in North Carolina amongst the Cherokee Mountains for the last 15 years. She graduated from Erskine College and completed a MFA in Poetry at Warren Wilson College. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and an NC Literary Fellowship Recipient from the North Carolina Arts Council. Visit: www.Glenisredmond.com and www.Loydartists.com. Photo: John Fletcher
Jay Rubin teaches writing at The College of Alameda in the San Fran-cisco Bay Area and publishes Alehouse, an all-poetry literary journal, at www.alehousepress.com. He holds an MFA in Poetry from New England College and lives in San Francisco with his son and Norwich terrier.
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 118
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Aisha Sharif received her MFA from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Much of her poetry and nonfiction explores how religious and gender identities intersect. Her poetry has appeared in Muslim Wakeup!, Touchstone Literary Journal, Poemmemoirstory, Callaloo, and Mythium. She is a Cave Canem fellow and teaches English at Park University in Parkville, Missouri, a short commute from her home in Merriam, Kansas.
Cherene Sherrard is author of the poetry chapbook Mistress, Reclining (Finishing Line Press 2010), which was the winner of the New Women‘s Voices Award, and Dorothy West‘s Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color. Her poetry and fiction appear in Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, and Many Mountains Moving. She is a professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Photo: Amaud Johnson
Debra J. Stone writes in her tiny room with a view looking through the trees onto the avenue below, all hours of the day and night; a blond Pomeranian warms her toes. She is co-founder and co-facilitates the Northside Writers Group in Minneapolis, a community-based writing group celebrating its 10th anniversary. CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 119
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Valerie Valdes writes poetry, flash fiction and short stories, as well as the occasional novel. Her work has been published by scissors and spackle, Every Day Poets, Birdville Magazine and others. She lives in Miami with her husband, her son, and enough cats to discomfit casual observers.
Andrea Walls is a poet. She is a native of Philadelphia, PA and a citizen of Camden, NJ—the ―city invincible.‖ She is an enthusiastic supporter of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and the Hedgebrook writer‘s community for ―women authoring change.‖ She is author of the chapbook, ―Ultraviolet Catastrophe,‖ and has been published in Kweli Online Journal, Solstice Literary Magazine, and H.O.W. Literary Journal, with poems forthcoming in Callaloo.
Gerald Yelle worked in the office products industry. Now he teaches high school English. He has published poems most recently in Citizens for Decent Literature, Prick of the Spindle and The Straddler. He is a member of the Florence (MA) Poets Society. Notes, comments and links can be found at geraldyelle.blogspot.com. Photo: Geneva Koehler Yelle
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 120
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Natalie Young is an editor and graphic designer for the poetry magazine Sugar House Review, based out of Salt Lake City. Recent and forthcoming publications include Tar River Poetry, South Dakota Review, Tampa Review, A capella Zoo, Terrain.org, and others. Photo: Nathaniel Taggart
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 121
Tidal Basin Press, Inc. Tidal Basin Review Founded 2010 (as Tidal Basin Review, LLC) Washington, DC
Published on Sep 14, 2012
The Summer 2012 Issue features artist, Monica Ong, and the works of 31 writers, many of them reflecting on their respective cultures. In add...