2015 APIA Affairs Anthology

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APIA Affairs Anthology Trivial Truths

VOLUME 3 2015

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


Acknowledgments The APIA Affairs Anthology team would like to thank the Office of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs, and Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at the University of Florida for allowing this publication to come to fruition. We would also like to thank the APIA Affairs ambassadors and volunteers outside of our office for their tireless work towards the creation of the anthology. Thank you as well to Target Copy for being our office’s choice for the anthology’s mass printing. Our gratitude also goes to the APIA community at UF, as well as its alum, for the artistic visual and written work submitted to the anthology. Your work, vision and creativity is what makes this project possible.


A Letter from the Editor, Asian-Pacific Islander American (APIA) culture is a daunting body of work in its entirety. It includes intersections of different identities from different backgrounds, culminating into a pan-ethnic experience. Yet oftentimes, single words are used to define these works or experiences: Oppression. Passivity. Bravery. Empowerment. The figure on both this anthology’s front and back covers embodies this notion -- going from a naked silhouette to an entity entirely consumed by societally imposed words (for this anthology, the words are English). These words define the figure’s literal existence. “Trivial Truths,” this year’s theme, comments on this process of forming an identity, which is often thwarted by illusions of conformity, adherence, and creative suppression. The theme asks us as a community to examine and confront these issues, looking beyond single words to conceptualize APIA culture. When looking at these works within the anthology, you’ll find the theme concealed. But the selected pieces represent different facets of identity -- different forms of engagement seeking to render our Asian-Pacific Islander American identity, whether it be through cultural images, personal works, or something else entirely. So if you please, let this anthology guide you through the enigmatic nature of cultural formation. Let the featured visual art, poetry, and prose help reveal what we, as a community, cherish. Let it reveal what we hope to change. But most importantly, let it reveal the pain of our experiences and how this pain has shaped who are today.

Marcus Tran Degnan


table of contents

fiction / poetry / visual art

Family Dinner

14

32

Touch

Narayan

16

33

Untitled

The Lion Dance

17

34

Not Done Yet

Mirror

18

35

Untitled

Fuu

19

37

Uncertainty

Strawberry Field

20

38

Blue Moon

Hey, Pretty Girl

22

39

Lacquer

Not Your Babe

23

42

Definition

Blue Facing

24

43

It Takes a Wolf

Hang on Little Tomato

25

44

Paper Lamp

DENISE GO (UF ALUM, CLASS OF 2014)

NARAYAN KULKARNI (THIRD-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) BAC CHENG HUANG (FOURTH-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) LEONIE BARKAKATI (UF ALUM, CLASS OF 2014)

DAVID LEE (THIRD-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) LINH NGUYEN (UF ALUM) DEEDEE BARRIDO (FIRST-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) MARIA PITT (THIRD-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE)

THOMAS SIT (UF GRADUATE STUDENT) STANLEY CHENG (FOURTH-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE)

EMILY TRAN (FIRST-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) ANH NGUEN (UF UNDERGRADUATE) MARIA PITT (THIRD-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) VI LE (FOURTH-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) JESS BAUTISTA (SECOND-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) TAN HO (SECOND-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) MARCUS DEGNAN (FOURTH-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) KATELYN RATHBURN (UF ALUM, CLASS OF 2014) KATELYN RATHBURN (UF ALUM, CLASS OF 2014) DEEDEE BARRIDO (FIRST-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE)


fiction / poetry / visual art Art is Life

45

57

Old Picasso

Flying Whales

46

58

Reflective

Repetitions of the Pursuit of Happines

47

59

Circus

Not Done Yet

49

60

Fig

Exia

50

61

Clarity

Punctuated

51

Untitled

52

Show of Personality

53

Trivial Truths

54

Paradoxes

55

MARIA PITT (THIRD-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) TAN HO (SECOND-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE)

TIEN TRAN (SECOND-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE)

MARIA PITT (THIRD-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) DAVID LEE (THIRD-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) DENISE GO (UF ALUM)

ANH NGUYEN (UF UNDERGRADUATE) KATELYN RATHBURN (UF ALUM, CLASS OF 2014)

EMILY TRAN (FIRST-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) TIEN TRAN (SECOND-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE)

THOMAS SIT (UF GRADUATE STUDENT) EMILY TRAN (FIRST-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) THOMAS SIT (UF GRADUATE STUDENT) DEEDEE BARRIDO (FIRST-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE) EMILY TRAN (FIRST-YEAR UF UNDERGRADUATE)


Staff Editor-in-chief

MARCUS DEGNAN

Co-editors

ALICIA SOLLER KIM DANG MELISSA HUANG

Cover

SHIMUL CHOWDHURY

Page Design

ALICIA SOLLER


Family Dinner My family is a nuclear unit. Who knew tradition could be this radioactive? According to the Chinese zodiac on our takeout menu, my father is a tiger But my mother was born a dragon (and doesn’t believe in horoscopes). She weighs me across the kitchen island, Her perfectly moisturized and hardened hands slicing ginger With the precision of the military woman she could have been Had she not wanted to go to America more than she wanted To stay in our beloved homeland. Her nostrils flared, She breathes fire, asking what I have chosen to do with my personal life And my checking account. On a normal morning, I would share my dreams with her over Starbucks, Translating my accomplishments into quantified labels on a predefined meter Because for her, standardized tests are legitimate And my wit, while it makes her laugh without failure, can’t guarantee my success. She tells me she’s not a conventional Filipina -- she loves neoclassical furniture and Modern art, no plastic wrap or Precious Moments figurines or decorative Wooden spoons and forks. No nonsense, no clutter, Only pieces of beauty because her eye is keen for these Things She never had under a shanty roof in a small rural province Whose main export is human labor, rice grains, and caribous, Where Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma don’t exist. I have never heard her say she loves me out loud, But I’ve learned to read her silence in one hundred volumes Of something even deeper. She’s the woman who taught me Hooked-on-Phonics when I was three and the same woman Who bought me Melville, Bronte, Austen, and Thackeray when I was ten— But who questioned me when I chose to major in English and was Surprised I didn’t like the classics. But before I read Virginia,

My mother was the first feminist I knew. I used to wonder why I had never Seen her cry, but now I know vulnerability isn’t in her vocabulary. Don’t mistake her domestic talents for a lack of empowerment Because my father might be the doctor, but she was the architect Of the space he inhabits. She asks me to set the table for the dinner guests The napkins folded to her standards, Which were once held so high for me as a sign of love And have become malleable to preserve my sanity I tell her the wine glasses we never drink alcohol from Have been laid out, that dinner is ready at 7 o’ clock sharp.

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DENISE GO


Narayan Narayan. The names roll off my tongue like a slowly flowing river, a holy Ganges creating life for thousands, Like my namesake inspiring the sustenance and faith of Hindu civilization. My name, my heritage, my past, a reminder of the eons of tradition behind my faith, its resonant power speaking to me as if the Great Rishis themselves whispered me into being.

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NARAYAN KULKARNI

But the hushed murmurs I hear today Corrupt the natural hymns of the stream, Turning my song of existence into a commodity, To quench their lustful thirst for enjoyment As I struggle against their mechanistic mouths To find justice in my self-actualization. My name isn't simply four sonorous syllables connected in one word, But a reminder of the ties binding me to my past As my present self honors the creator of life and the sacrifices made To shape me into who I am today.

The Lion Dance | BAC CHENG HUANG


Mirror

When I look in the mirror, I see a person who is underestimated so many times that it keeps her young. Every time someone tells her she’s small, a wrinkle disappears from her face. Every time someone tells her to hurry up and get married, a stretch mark disappears from her thighs. Every time someone tells her she can’t, she’s too weak, she’s too quiet, she’s not smart enough, she’s doing good “for a girl,” Her teeth get whiter, her muscles stronger, Her joints more flexible, and her skin more supple.

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LEONIE BARKAKATI

They say Asian women always look so young.

Fuu | DAVID LEE


Strawberry Field LINH NGUYEN

4 am- our family awakes before the sun even starts to creep out of its bed and rise over the horizon for us to see it My siblings and I still half asleep as we crawl into the back seats of our station wagon Knowing that we would be able to get at least another hour of sleep as our dad drives us to the strawberry farm I can still feel and sense the freshness of the air before dusk The beautiful rows and rows of strawberry bushes so perfectly aligned in a field so vast especially for me a five year old little girl who could barely see over the bushes I remember being so excited, of course, only after I had finally awaken from my sleep Oh boy! All the strawberries I can eat at my fingertips! I remember learning how to take the strawberries off the bushes so as not to destroy the plant itself To make sure that it was exactly the way it had to be so that we can drop it in the large green trays that were given to us before entering the field. Trays that were almost a big as me Trays that were definitely bigger than my little sister My little sister beside me, picking each and every strawberry like we were taught One for me, one for you, one more for me Into my mouth, until I was full before it ever made it into the tray

I remember my little sister, struggling to carry the trays to my mom who was near the scale waiting for us My little sister would say: Me oi, cay nay sao ma no nhe qua giay, con khien khong noi luon Translation: Mommy, why is this so light that I can barely carry it. My little sister so young that she was still getting words mixed up instead of light she meant heavy Heavy, like my eyelids when I don’t get enough sleep Heavy, like the load that my parents carry with them to America to a land where nothing was familiar to them, but hard work Heavy, like the thoughts that run through my mind when I think about those days in the strawberry fields when I thought everything was so fun Not realizing that beyond those fields of strawberries, beyond those childhood memories Lies the real world where picking those little red, odd-shaped but really good fruits wasn’t just for fun. But hey, I was only five years old what did I know.

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Wake up! Wake up! Thuc giay! Thuc giay! Ngu quay a, my mom would say as she so desperately tries to wake me and my siblings up so that we could go to work


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Hey, Pretty Girl

|

DEEDEE BARRIDO

Not Your Babe

|

MARIA PITT


Hang on Little Tomato STANLEY CHENG

I. Our fish all died in a bubble bath. The neighborhood kids thought that it’d be funny to pour dish soap into our koi pond. I was twelve when I saw that mountain of bubbles and suds rising from our front yard. Dad cursed and swore as he pulled out all eight of the dead, twelve-pound fish from the water. In my dreams, before they died, the eight koi fish sat comfortably at the stone rim of the pond, lit candles around each other, and talked about the red spots on their backs while relaxing in the lemon-scented, bubbly water. In my dreams, all the stray cats in my neighborhood attended the funeral and gave little eulogies to our fish in the backyard: “I loved Jaws, he was the best fish-friend a cat could have. He was a bit shy, but we can’t really blame him for being coy. Anyway we’re going to miss you buddy.” In actuality however, Dad placed a large wooden board over their graves so that the stray cats wouldn’t dig them up and eat their corpses. He buried them near our garden. He explained to me that their bodies would provide nourishment for our plants. Told me that their essence would live on in the soil. Our pond stayed empty for months. Come winter, we harvested our plants and Dad cooked the vegetables for dinner. When I tell people this story. I tell them that we grew jalapeño peppers in our backyard, and I tell them that when Dad bit into one, he cried. We built that pond and had raised those fish together for two years. Dad rarely spoke of his feelings but I knew that he loved those koi. He wept at the dinner table, and brushed off Mom and my sister when they tried to comfort him. “It’s just the peppers. They’re just really spicy,” he said and then I got him a cold glass of milk. The truth is, we grew sugar snap peas, nothing special. We sprinkled salt and black pepper on them, sautéed them in a pan of hot olive oil, and served them with braised flank steak and large white mushrooms. The snap peas tasted like fish, and when I opened up their green skin, I thought little red scales were going to fall out of them. I feared that I might find guppies living inside them. Dad finished his meal and announced that he was ready to move on and buy more pets. I cleared the dinner table, washed the plates, and for the rest of the night my fingers smelled like lemons. Dad got new koi fish. Golden ones, silver ones, even ones with bright

Blue Facing | THOMAS SIT

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red spots on their spines. After we ate that meal of snap peas he never spoke of the soap incident again. His old fish were long gone. He had chosen to forget about them, and that is why I planted the tomatoes for Lillian.

“Shit, this doesn’t taste like a burger at all,” Lillian said to me. We were twenty years old, dating, and in my apartment. She dropped the whole-wheat bun by her apple slices and buried her face into her arms. “What kind of burger is this?” “It’s Quorn,” I answered. “Corn? In a burger?” she groaned. “It’s a meat analogue.” “Oh yum, that sounds attractive,” She said and rose seductively from her chair. “Say meat analogue again. Say it!” “Meat,” I said slowly. “Analogue.” “God,” she said and rushed across my small dining room table to plant a kiss. She sat on my lap and whispered in my ear, “Tell me more. Say something romantic, something vegetarian.” “Oh um, your body is so fit. Have you been working out, because I can see all ‘dem grains. No? Not sexy? Okay, uh, girl, your body is a tempeh, and I am worshipping it right now. Still no?” “Forget it,” She said and got off my lap to open the fridge. She grabbed a bottle of Heinz Ketchup. She read the label as she drowned the burger in the bloody condiment. “Hang on, little tomato. Stay on the vine until you're fat and juicy. Then we'll pluck you and turn you into ketchup.” The documentary we watched never mentioned how hard this transition was going to be, but Lillian was adamant about rescuing things. Forests, foreign children, the planet. “To saving the animals!” she said and she bit into the Quorn patty. She wiped the crimson sauce from the corners of her mouth and smeared it across her grin. Her lips at the time were the color of poached pear in bloody red wine. My Lillian, with hair like lemon meringue, sweet and gold, draping across her cream skin. Her cheeks were the complete visage of

III. Dad came to visit months after the funeral. He looked and dressed as a retiree should. Hair like ash from an old charcoal stove. His skin, bronzed from years of gardening, hung loosely from his body like fried batter on a dried bone. He smiled at me when I opened the door for him, and the forced grin revealed a row of teeth like roasted corn, dark yellow and splotched with charred black. I made lunch. An oven-baked salmon, with garlic cloves blackened above a parsley crust for scent and a crispy texture. I crushed a pinch of lemon zest and a handful of orange pulp to add a sharp citrus tartness for the wild onion salsa verde. For our side dish, I served an almond and cranberry green salad to create a crunchy base. I used raw button mushrooms to add something nutritious, and poured in a light honey mustard vinaigrette to augment the flavor. I also added sugar snap peas to the salad because I wanted to add sugar snap peas. Dad asked me his usual questions in between his open mouthed chewing. “Job doing well?” Yes. A mouthful of spinach fell. “Girlfriend?” No. Honey vinaigrette dripped down his chin. “Eating well? Staying healthy?” Of course. The salmon swam downstream towards the table. Dad nods, we swallowed our emotions in this household, if it’s bitter it’s healthy for you.

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II.

horchata, fluffy and white, sprinkled with light cinnamon freckles across her nose. She took another bite and the sauce blossomed on her fingers. What color were they then? I think they were green. They were cherry-leaf green nails dotted by the red syrup which had just touched them. “You look absolutely famished right now,” she said when she caught my consuming stare. She pushed the half-finished burger towards me. “Have some. Join me.” I shook my head and laughed. “Finish it, and tomorrow we’ll try the Portobello mushroom patty. How does that sound?” “Boo! Rabbit food and fungi.” she yelled and threw a tomato slice at me. I pelted it back at her and she laughed, my sad, sad girl.


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IV. “The sun has left and forgotten me. It's dark, I cannot see,” Lillian sang in the darkness of my room. She crawled under my bed sheets. “Hang on Little Tomato by the Pink Martini?” I shrugged and held her close. The song continued to play from her phone. “Just hang on, hang on to the vine. Stay on, soon you'll be divine. If you start to cry . . .” “I need sleep,” I said and attempted to turn the music off. “No!” She screamed and held my hands down with her thin arms. No scars on her wrists. No lattice cherry pie weave of cuts and red-dripping. She never left physical signs of her condition. She bit my arm. A mouthful of hot pulse and flesh between her teeth.

I plucked her off and turned on one of the dim lamps by the nightstand. “You taste like rice,” she said. Lillian removed her floral shirt, revealing thin pale ribs, and rested her head on my chest. Her eyes fixed themselves on the popcorn ceiling. There was a lull of quiet as I tried to stay awake. She was sad that night. Though I guess she was always kind of sad. Sad about how people behaved, sad about how the world was. Most things upset her. It could be grief about the petroleum oil in the ocean killing all the fish, or the stray cats starving from the lack of fish. Or children dying from mercury poisoning because they ate bad sushi at petroleum-oil gas stations. Okay, that’s not fair to her. Behind all the laughter, the vegetarian burgers, and granola-girl documentaries, Lillian actually did care. She thought a lot, and she cared a whole lot more about others than I ever could. “When I die,” she said softly. I cursed silently because I knew I couldn’t fall asleep if she opened up a conversation with something like that. “I don’t want to be buried.” “No?” “Yeah,” she said. “They pump you with all this toxic formaldehyde so you can look pretty in a casket, and all it really does is give cancer and lung problems to the funeral personnel. I don’t want to hurt people with my death.” “So cremation then?” I asked sleepily. “I’ll throw my body into the flames after you.” She shook her head at that too. “I got a filling in my teeth when I was a kid and there are other poisons and metals in the human body. All that bad stuff will go in the air if they cremate me. It’d be selfish to do that.” “So where does that leave you?” “Have you heard of The Infinity Burial Project?” she asked excitedly. “So you put this special suit on your corpse with all these mushroom spores on it. Then, after you’ve been dead for a while, the mushroom spores eats your body, hair, nails, all of it, and they filter out all the toxins. When the mushrooms are grown, they are edible by people. No environmental costs, nobody gets hurt, and you get to feed people. You can die without any guilt.” “That sounds gross,” I said. “That’s borderline cannibalism.” She rolled her eyes, “Just go to sleep.” “Yeah, thanks for the nightmares about carnivorous mushrooms.” She grinned and bit me again. She then raised her hands to the ceiling

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“How was the funeral?” He finally asked. No spilling this time. He had chewed these words till all the taste and sound had nearly worn out. I felt so little at the funeral. I was quiet throughout the speeches and the slideshows of all her pictures. I was even unfazed when someone asked the question “How did you know Lillian?” Well, I was the third-to-last boyfriend she had. Yes ma’am, not the cause of her emotional distress. It has been two years since we stopped seeing each other. Yes, it was nice of me to come by. Nice to meet you too. See? I felt nothing, just empty and silent and hungry. However, there was one moment of feeling. When I shook the hand of Lillian’s father, it burned, it seared, and I felt myself wincing. It was hot and painful. Lillian’s mother could be heard in tears over the casket. Many others were just as loud. Her dad though, was as quiet as I was, but he didn’t feel as empty. Behind his glasses, suit, and skin, I could feel his emotions frothing inside. All the grief, bubbles, and suds wanted to burst from his chest, but instead he kept himself strong for everyone. “Thank you for all the love. Thank you for coming,” he said with a sad smile. He let go of my hand. My fingers smelled like lemons for the rest of the day. “How was the funeral?” My own father repeated and tapped his fork on his empty plate. “The food was terrible,” I managed to finally say.


and looked expectantly at them, as if she were waiting for the fungi to spawn from her fingers, but it was just their shadows that grew.

I stopped the car at the graveyard and walked by the tombstones. The morning air was chilled, so I pressed my pleather coat close to myself. I passed by the flowers, the pictures, and the stuffed animals. Here Lies Lillian. Her family had ultimately decided to bury her. Her funeral wake served chicken nuggets, ham salad, and tuna sandwiches. All the things that she gave up on. It made me imagine a pharaoh being buried with their living servants as they passed to the afterlife. There were no mushrooms on her grave, but plenty of flowers, and after three months since the funeral, my tomatoes looked ready. I had planted many of them around her grave but one was the ripest and biggest. I told a few of her regular visitors that they were decorative, and that she used to love them. “In the 16th century the highborn Italians kept them as ornamentals, because they thought that the fruit was poisonous but beautiful. They called tomatoes wolf-peaches. Lillian loved that bit of history. She loved things with conflicting alternatives. Healthy or poisonous? Corrupting or cleansing?” Her loved ones nodded to me and left the tomatoes alone. “Whatever you say, considerate third-to-last-boyfriend,” they would think. I saw the biggest, ripest one, dangling from its vine. I plucked it gently and felt its pulse. It was red, warm, and beating. I put it into my coat and greedily stole back into my car. How would I prepare it? Stir fry it with white onions to create a sauce? That would mask so much of its flavor. Eat it in a salad? No, I spent three months growing this thing in my lover’s grave, I wasn’t going to eat it in a fucking salad. I bit into it. A mouthful of hot pulse and flesh between my teeth. I sank my jaw down into the tomatoes’ skin and flesh, down two years of stagnation, down the twenty stories Lillian passed through when she jumped off her apartment balcony. I bit into it and it tasted like meat, stringy, and raw. Red juices, that tasted of iron and blood bubbled and frothed out of my mouth. I will eat this. I will stomach Lillian’s heart. I will. But I couldn’t finish. It was too rare. Too tough and fleshy. I retched it all out. All the blood and seeds. It ran down my chin, into the front of my shirt, and

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V.

soaked my steering wheel. Three months of planning suddenly gone. I cried and I slammed the seats and the glove compartment and the radio. I tossed the remnants of the tomato around and sprayed its leftover juices across the window. “Why the hell did that taste like flesh!?” I screamed. I was drenched in the giant tomatoes’ red innards, but finally things were coming out again. Primal feelings more than just hunger and apathy. No more faux emotional substitutes. “Why did it taste like blood?” Because it’s a meat analogue. A what? A Meat Analogue. Deep breaths. I drove back home. I took a bubble bath.


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Touch | EMILY TRAN

Untitled |

ANH NGUYEN


Untitled VI LE Asian women have weak bones. It’s a scientific fact. It’s why we can’t drive well, why we shouldn’t leave the kitchen too long, or gain too much weight (our bones could not handle it.)

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Our delicate bones. In later years we may crumble. Succumbing to “natural” forces, we endure the wind guiding us, forcing us, pressuring us into paths we never chose to take. It warps our bodies into husks, milk-white, or rather tofu-white, for we must be just as malleable.

I’m Not Sorry

|

MARIA PITT

Why, to wake up as an Asian woman is to know your body constrains you. But still we endure. The kind of pressure that tells a girl she must be thin or nothing, preferably nothing. The kind of whisper that tells a woman she must cut herself to be beautiful, Damn those who say Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face -cuz we’re cutting our eyelids to spite our race! This external pressure alone would reduce weaker beings to rubble. But still we endure, the hurricane raging inside, no longer fierce tiger women,

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The joints would swell and corrupt, fluid fissuring our bodies until we are a mess of dust and unspoken words. Words that beat a marimba rhythm, urging us to speak our minds, but holding back because we should not cross those lines. Jawbones creaking only for a smile, not to forcefeed truth into anyone’s eyes.


I was young when I realized the beauty of our bones. Marveling over my mother’s hands, the way she shaped art out of food, and nails into art. Each brush stroke a dance of precision. Though she dyed her hair black, and crows walked alongside her eyes, her hands never shook. Not when they were crossing the ocean to chase the American dream, not when they left prints on my sister’s faces, not when they braided my hair, and not when they prayed. I was fearful I would have shaky hands when I grew older -diagnosed with moderate scoliosis, my body had already betrayed me once. Was I bound to have weak bones? Ones that were china and porcelain thin, so delicate they would break if breathed upon, because the exhale of the world is a fearsome one.

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we are reduced to mail-order brides, even the eye of it destroying confidence, wreaking havoc with our pride. But still we endure.

But I was, am, still young, as I realize my posture has been straight these 21 years. My hands have stopped shaking long enough to grip the meaning of strength passed down from woman to woman, so they can shape the air I breathe, and give life into the words I speak. My mother no longer corrects my slouching, for even she can see -my spine is strong, and my head held high. Asian women have strong bones. It’s a scientific fact.

Uncertainty | JESS BAUTISTA


Lacquer MARCUS DEGNAN

Adrian wrestled with the idea of losing his virginity on his first night in Ho Chi Minh City. While he waited for Cao to finish in the bathroom he recalled the fire-and-brimstone homilies about incinerating sodomites from his childhood. These sermons terrified Adrian when he was thirteen years old, and caused him to cry for weeks and swear a life of celibacy until marriage. Twelve years later, these religious restraints loosened as Adrian felt he deserved a sexual liberation while soul-searching in his father’s home country. Where else would he find an ideal Vietnamese man? Since Cao took longer then expected Adrian observed his surroundings to forget the guilt tempting him to back out. Cracks in the beige tile, a broken ceiling-fan sounding as if it’d unscrew itself with each painful turn, and mosquitos lingering in the humid air made Adrian feel sticky in his boxers. The bed contained numerous red and brown discolorations, making the fabric resemble the top of a greasy pizza. It was unpleasant, grotesque, but the only affordable accommodation. When the bathroom door opened Cao emerged wearing tight, white briefs that showed his lithe figure. He crept to the bed keeping his eyes locked with Adrian’s. Cao murmured something loud enough to be heard, but quiet enough to not show his teeth. Adrian’s impotent Vietnamese left the speech a mystery. “You are so beautiful,” Adrian said. Even though Cao couldn’t understand the compliment, Adrian needed to express his feelings. He wanted Cao to feel special tonight to lessen the weight of his Catholic guilt is ruining the mood. “Au-then-tic looking. A very authentic and beautiful Vietnamese man.” Adrian’s compliments mimicked the pimp’s advertisement of Cao at the brothel hours ago. Adrian recalled the memory while Cao settled between his bare legs that dangled from the stained bed. His finding Cao had taken place in a seedy bar hidden in a back alley of District 1 that Adrian had stumbled upon after landing in Vietnam. The room housed neon lights that flickered in pink and blue, covering all the attractive men in a saddening fog. American music played from a nearby stereo. Everyone seemed to either sit or stand around the cluttered tables, staring with silence at the obvious tourists. While Adrian surveyed this broken establishment, a round misshapen man latched to his arm.

Blue Moon | TAN HO

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* Now, kneeling between Adrian’s legs, Cao looked up and gave a smile similar to the one he offered in the bar. Adrian considered the expression cute, but he also wanted it to be more genuine. He wanted it to stretch the mouth as far as it’d reach. “I’m Vietnamese too,” Adrian said. “Only half though. By my dad’s side.” Again, Cao didn’t say anything. He blinked twice with vacant care, moving his small hands to massage Adrian’s inner thighs. His fingers pinched at the woolen material of Adrian’s boxers, trying to pull them down. But Adrian stopped their descent with his rigid hands. “You remind me of a Viet boy I had a crush on for a long time, especially when you smile,” he said. “He was my best friend growing up. Vinh wasn’t gay, but we kissed a lot before he got a girlfriend. I threw away their wedding invitation during my flight today.” Adrian moved a hand to caress Cao’s cheek. While Adrian accepted their intimacy as artificial, he felt the affection was still therapeutic and true. It provided him the comfort he sought. But Cao paid no attention to this foreign dialogue. He reached for the article of clothing in front of him again. Adrian aided Cao this time, displaying

his excitement. This excitement made Adrian tingle from his cock to the pit of his stomach with an addictive warmth. Adrian watched Cao’s lips widen. They spread, farther than before, exposing the inside of his mouth for the first time. But unlike the pristine white dentures Adrian expected from the natural beauty, Cao’s teeth were the color of polished ebony. Their alignment was straight, but the dark color contorted everything about Cao’s naïve appearance into something monstrous. “What the hell is wrong with your mouth?” Before Adrian could move away Cao dove to swallow Adrian straight to the hilt. Adrian yelled trying to push Cao’s head back with both hands on either side of his head, but Cao was too persistent. Adrian continued to shout despite feeling the comforting tongue slither against the right places. Though he wanted to enjoy the feeling, he couldn’t help thinking about the diseased-filled mouth. His constant shifting caused Cao’s teeth to scrape against him. In the back of his head, as if to distract from the futile situation, Adrian recalled the pimp’s false advertisement. “I tell you, he Vietnamese beauty!” Adrian tried to take a breath, closing his eyes to picture again the smiling Vinh. “Traditional beauty, I tell you!” But the image of Cao’s mouth conjured nothing but disgust, tainting the fantasy and the physical pleasure Adrian prayed would stop.

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“Pick any, pick any!” he said while motioning to everyone around them, “beautiful men all around!” Adrian followed the man’s short arm as it moved around the room. He spotted Cao in a corner and pointed to him. “I like him.” “I tell you, Cao Vietnamese beauty!” the pimp yelled. “He most Vietnamese. Very expensive, but most traditional. I tell you.” He leaped to Cao and pulled his arm like he would a mannequin. Adrian felt bad for the young man, but this guilt didn’t stop him from continuing with the purchase. Cao fulfilled Adrian’s appetite: a petit, young man with milky white skin and chiseled slants for eyes that Adrian always wished he had inherited from his father. And once he saw Cao’s faint smile at receiving a customer’s attention, Adrian failed to question his own impulses. Only a literal demon from hell could have stopped him now.


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Definition

| KATELYN RATHURN

It Takes a Wolf | KATELYN RATHBURN


Paper Lamp APIA ANTHOLOGY | PAGE 45

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DEEDEE BARRIDO I dance alone In my paper lamp Lit room, looking For a meaning In the shadows. Little Dragon drives me To a passion deeper, As I try to find the girl Who looks back In the mirror. She's always watching Like the face of the moon. "A purpose," she whispers, "I'm going to find it soon."

Art is Life

|

MARIA PITT


Repetitions of the Pursuit of Happiness TIE N TR A N

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The life that I lived This life that I'm living My unchanging life song Repetitions of sanity and madness Repetitions of joy and sadness Repetitions of love and separation My life repeats and repeats

Flying Whales

|

TAN HO

They're more successful than I had thought they would be, my aspirations Like a drifting survivor about to be rescued, I saw a light for this exhausting life An unbelievable love had come to me The things that I wrote and would write for her, simple, without strife For her I picked up my weapon, my pen, again I wrote and wrote in rife My honest words were for her But eventually, her smiles weren't for me Of course my faults were large, but it was still so hard I drowned myself that night in the fluid of the sea

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In elementary school I was a trouble maker Almost got a referral for hitting a kid Arguing for my case, my dad was my savior When I was ten, I punched my best friend in the face My mom was so worried, she cried in front of me Begged me each time I left home to behave, afraid of what I'd grow up to be I tried to be brave and gave up my ways for her sake But some things can't be undone Scarred with tattoos of my upbringing, I still fight with myself After all, the hardest enemy to defeat is oneself A feather caught in a manmade storm, I resisted the whirlwind saying it wasn't for me Told myself that the wanderings and struggles of youth were things that everyone went through I comforted myself this way and every night for my dreams I wrote down everything I knew


The life that I lived This life that I'm living My unchanging life song

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The wanderings and sufferings of youth were things that everyone went through I comforted myself like this, But pain still found me, tearing the fragile me down like a house of cards Cheated off of the fantasies I built from dust in the sky Like a child, I bitterly swallowed lie after lie Yet I'll continue writing with stained hands until I run dry

Repetitions of sanity and madness Repetitions of joy and sadness Repetitions of love and separation My life repeats and repeats This newfound family away from home means more and more to me every day They're the source of my elation Through my troubles and my doubts, with me they've stayed All the scars I received in the past, I tie back to the past From my mentors who strive until they're successful, I learned diligence I wake up to see the sun again in its brilliance The things that pain me, once revisited, are more manageable I remain gullible but malleable, changeable Just like my roommate who comforted me, guided me every time I was dejected, I offer counsel to myself, heeding the advice of the neglected The wanderings and sufferings of youth are things that everyone goes through I continue to comfort myself like this because I am the me that I construe I won’t be broken; I'll chew pain like gum Those dark nights raise me up again, my present beats to the sound of my own drum Repetitions of sanity and madness Repetitions of joy and sadness Repetitions of love and separation Regardless, my life is still my own creation

Not Done Yet

| MARIA PITT


Punctuated DENISE GO

APIA ANTHOLOGY | PAGE 50

Exia | DAVID LEE

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I once read how Yunior could not say ____ ____ ____ To deserve Lola, to save Leche, damn it. Dominicanas, Dominicanos -- Díaz, I scribbled your satirical postcolonial Footnotes on the margins of my narrative IDENTITY As a Chinese Filipina American woman who was born In New York, not Jersey, and raised in Midwestern suburbia So I am seized with an inexplicable Dickinsonian I’m Nobody! Hoping your magnetic exploration of Blackness and masculinity will inform my curiosity and happily, furiously, I am troubled, Haphazardly, enthralled at 10:00 p.m. -- digital humility Caramelized on softened spines, dog-eared poetics flattened In paperbacks tattooed with my Venn Diagram of Marcos and Trujillo -Maybe they’re incomparable. Can we contrast plátanos with turón? (Hold your exoticized italics, please.) Columbus with Magellan? We are a completely different people Under a vaster umbrella of Empire whose caustic boundaries Embittered the literature of the entire Southern Hemisphere Until today, when the suffering of Southeast Asia is erased from A privileged American perspective of the minority Report. I had sat in my English classroom wondering when we would read beyond The Joy Luck Club cameo, which none of my classmates found funny, but left me Insatiable for Food Pornography, explanations why My Femininity encases me as a Shrinking Cultural Edifice Because You could not carry the weight of a real Woman Warrior Where Heaven and Earth Changed Places. Flaubert, Dickens, Thackeray Did not Punctuate my brain the same way Hagedorn or Galang or Linmark did, Drumming the parenthetical rhythm of my stream of consciousness Parenthetically embedded by Márquez and Murakami when I recited Yellowed obituaries of Madame Butterfly and Charlie Chan To resurrect M. Butterfly. No voodoo spell involved, no fúku this time.


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Untitled

| ANH NGUYEN

Show of Personality |

KATELYN RATHBURN


Paradoxes TIEN TRAN Let my nasal clog to block out my senses Block out my senses so I don't do something I'll regret Disparity, anxiety, hate, the lowest I can get Time spent inflicted back until I'm afflicted

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What's with the thickness in the air? I cast the nonsense spell of making bad memories disappear and having good memories stay Not for happiness let alone comfort, long past, rather so I can live peacefully another day One memory forgotten for every step I take backwards How much more do I have to walk before we become strangers? I know now how to cope with myself, the greatest of dangers I dare to look back because understanding is greater than sadness If tears are a kind of entanglement, those who cry are actually brave Even if they stumble and falter after all they've gave Someone once said, “Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a special person to love a leaf� Perhaps when we love this leaf is when we should get up and leave I fake a smile, recalling tenderness Past times come back to life, imperishable memoria I keep wondering when will be the end of all this The pen is mightier than the sword they say I write to slay my enemies away Chief among them ambiguity Talk, elaborate, goddamn it, for clarity My fault is naivety April's fool to kindness, victim of niceness Confrontation is ugly, but from it arises a champion Why fight when you've already lost? This kind of winner...I've never wanted to be one

Trivial Truths |

EMILY TRAN

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To lose means to be missing a half, Yet also, paradoxically, gain a half I use injuries to recognize that the only constant is change I try to make a turn, live more beautifully, think differently Remodel, rebuild, reignite vividly Still, I indulge in imagination for only then can one resist despair


The empathy from people I give back to people Abandon the oars so I can paddle barehanded Navigate on my own, inches above water until I remember I don't swim Lost, having destroyed a part of home, I roam Feeling nothing, not even a whim

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My mistakes are many, so many I can only mention a few I pass rules for myself, yet fail to enforce them Fleeing, avoiding, coming back Here again in the cycle The one plus one package, a burden, something I now lack The situation has become my norm At least until I carve out part of my day, let what's been torn stay torn

How unusual, how uncanny Since when did I make the bizarre my specialty? I keep trimming it bald, my own life tree With what I cut down I build Constructing wood roads into oblivion on which I run I run in my head, for once, outrunning words and imagery Until now, now that I know how to write my own story

Old Picasso | THOMAS SIT


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Circus | THOMAS SIT

Reflective |

EMILY TRAN


Fig This place pulls me open Like the skin off a fig

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DEEDEE BARRIDO

Pop the flesh off Pink and sweet inside It feels so good To be alive I say I am I This is me My own, my jive Nobody else Can tell me How to Live my life

Emily Tran | EMILY TRAN