a brown/risd visual & literary arts magazine
vol 12 issue 2 | spring 2012
Obscure Diane Zhou ‘14 oil on canvas
letter from the
Dear Reader, The beginning of this academic year marked the 12th year that VISIONS has been in print. Founded in 2000 by Dean Kisa Takasue, the magazine aimed to build a stronger and more visible Asian/Asian American community by showcasing the diversity within our community. Through the years, the magazine took proactive steps to improve its quality and has amassed readership that extends well beyond our community. So when Larry, Margaret and Celia joined Katherine as editors of the magazine this semester, we knew we had big shoes to fill. When we began work this semester, we adopted three goals: to create more opportunities for artists to interact, to promote their work beyond traditional channels, and to increase collaboration with other groups. Guided by these goals, we’ve hosted a successful interactive art event on the Main Green, collaborated with other groups to sponsor events such as Brown’s first Pacific Islander culture night and a charity art auction for China Care, and launched our blog, which will allow us to talk about art beyond the print medium. As you can see, it’s been a busy semester here at the magazine, but this is just the beginning.
We want to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful e-‐board and staff who have put countless hours into putting this magazine together. Our work here at VISIONS would be for naught without the support of the Third World Center and our fellow student groups in RISD. Last but not least, this magazine would not be possible without our fantastic contributors. So as you flip through the pages of the Spring 2012 issue of VISIONS, we ask you to stop and think about the people behind the words, lenses and brushstrokes. VISIONS is more than a magazine—it’s a community. All the best,
Larry, Margaret, Celia, and Katherine 03
editor-‐in-‐chief larry au '14 art & photography editor celia chung, risd ‘13 layout & design editor katherine ng ‘14 managing editor margaret yi ‘12 associate managing editors christina pan ‘13 / james eng ‘14 publicity mary fei ‘14 / sharon sun ‘14 networking carol kim ‘15 / stephanie kim ‘12 risd representatives sue kwon, risd ‘14 / leslie lee, risd ‘13 webmaster winnie wang ‘14 copy editors james eng ‘14 / carol kim ‘15 / christina pan ‘13 / sharon sun ‘14 / brandon wang, risd ‘15 photographer alan shan ‘14 printer brown graphic services a very special thanks to the third world center kisa takesue, director of the stephen robert cam-‐ pus center the office of student life undergraduate finance board creative arts council the risd asian cultural association pan asian council asian american heritage series east asian studies ann hall contributors and staff mission statement VISIONS is a publication that highlights and celebrates the diversity of brown and risd’s asian/ asian-‐american community. we are committed to being an open literary and artistic forum for asians and asian americans, as well as other members of the university community, to freely express and address issues relating to both the asian and asian-‐american experience. VISIONS further serves as a forum for issues that cannot find a voice in other campus publications. as a collaborative initiative, VISIONS attempts to strengthen and actively engage brown and risd’s vibrant community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as the larger providence community.
on the cover deconstruction no. 4 andre wee, risd bfa ‘14 grasshopper 0.8, rhino 4.0, photoshop cs5
email firstname.lastname@example.org website http://students.brown.edu/Visions disclaimer the opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of VISIONS’s sponsors.
RT & PHOTOGRAPHY
OBSCURE 02 diane zhou FOOD COURT 07 jenny jisun kim SWAG 08 elisa leser LIGHT 10 diming zhong CLOUDS OPENING OVER THE WHARF 12 jefferson chen PYTHON 14 pamela zhang TANGLED 15 sue kwon FOR ANOTHER LONG HARD DAY 17 ravi kumar ROCK CURTAIN 18 pathikrit bhattacharyya CHARMINAR: AN INTERIOR PERSPECTIVE 18 nikilesh eswarapu BOMBSHELTER OSCULATION 23 jess x chen LOST 25 catherine seabrook SHOULDER 26 brandon wang CREOPHAGY 27 angelica alzona ALLURE 30 melody cao ALIGNED 32 clifton yeo
SABINA CHADRAY, HER MOTHER AND HER BABY BROTHER IN THEIR ONE-‐ROOM HOME 35 philip lieberman HONG KONG, HONG KONG 35 han sheng chia THE BEAUTY 38 ji yeo UNTITLED hanna mcphee 40 FISHING 41 takeru nagayoshi OVA 43 jian shen tan BUMBLE DREAMS... 43 ashley adams KOH!REA 46 hyerin park CHILDREN OF BOMBAY 48 ria mirchandani LOVE SOMETIMES LOOKS LIKE THIS IN SINGAPORE 48 kai herng loh FACES 50 pamela zhang UNTITLED 51 POSTCARD annie swihart PASTICHE 51 POSTCARD leslie lee CARBS OF GOLD 53 stephanie teo
OETRY & PROSE
STAMMER 06 jess x chen
BITTERSWEET 11 rose shan EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066 12 kimberly takahata THROUGH THE WINDOW 16 evan coleman CITY LIGHTS 19 christina pan BODY MEMORY 20 vivian truong THE PLACES I HAVE BEEN WITH YOU 28 ayoosh pareek THE PHONE BOOTH 29 vi khi nao PICKING WILDFLOWERS 31 TRANS samuel perry VINCE’S ADVANCE OR RINZAI THROUGHOUT THE AGES 32 sandeep nayak IN COASTAL SOUTH INDIA 36 kavya ramanan ON AIR 37 meia geddes FINE LINES 39 iris pak HUMAN’S PUPPETEER 40 james hayward CONSUMED BY LOVE/LOVE TO CONSUME 42 ria mirchandani IT CAME TO ME IN A DREAM 44 david menino SOFT PAPER 47 mari miyoshi FRAGRANT FLAME 49 tiffany phu
LOSING FACE 09 bensen koh
BY JESS X CHEN
here is a creature inside my voice-‐box. It trembles in the dark and tries to seal up the lid until no sound comes out. We call it a stutter. 350 BC -‐ Ancient Greece Demosthenes is the greatest orator of his country. With pebbles in his mouth, he shouts his speeches at the roaring ocean wind. He will not let his stutter win. 300 AD -‐ Ancient Rome Balbus Blaesius’s voice is an earthquake of stutters, so large, it carves him a place in the Circus Maximus. Encaged in the eternal shiver of his vowels, the civilians line up, one by one, to watch the coin-‐operated stutterer trip over his own words. 1865 -‐ Oxford, England With each stammer that escapes from Lewis Caroll’s mouth, his dream to become an Anglican priest inches further and further away. With broken syllables running down his body, he dreams of a life without his stutter, and writes his way to Wonderland. 1992 -‐ Calgary, Canada Caught under the blur of all those names, I am born. I am no coin-‐operated stutterer, my mouth is pebble-‐ free, my parents have not yet heard me speak. But when they do, they will wonder why I choke on my syllables the same way I choke on baby food.
“N-‐ninety-‐three million!” I begin to say, but the words are light years away from my mouth. Syllables slipping out of orbit. My larynx tightens with the force of some unknown gravity tensing all the muscles inside me. The tectonic plates in my voicebox shift sound into shivers, stumbles and stutters, leaving the remnants of an answer lost in a vortex of stammers. They just stare. Crushing my tiny body with twenty pairs of elementary school eyes. One student’s laughter invites others to join in on a cascading crescendo of voices more fluid than any broken record sound that would ever fall from my mouth. They call me “Jessie the Stuttering Stump” and finish my sentences for me. I feel the flames of embarrassment rise in my cheeks—a conflagration of unsaid words singeing the roof of my mouth. But bodies have no fire escapes. Only tiny pores where the smoke escapes, deep breath after deep breath, dissolving anxiety into steam. The bell rings and as if being pulled by invisible strings of gale storm winds, I am dashing home. I am rasping over a four-‐poster bed. I am dreaming of Demosthenes, trying to speak over pebbles in his mouth, as though they could drown the stuttering creature inside. But we both know, inside, that being unable to speak is like being unable to breathe. And I know that no pebbles nor screams could ever drown out our stutters. These tectonic plates crash into our sentences with the might of earthquakes strong enough to disintegrate all we have to say. But in those crashes, mountains are born, and poems climb out of the cracks of our synapses. And those poems wrap their smooth syllables around me until I am no longer shaking. Until I open the lid of my voice box, and take the stuttering creature inside, by the hand. I whisper, “I’m no longer scared. From now on, we’re going to work through this together.”
2001 -‐ Seattle, Washington It’s my first day of elementary school science class. Here I am, connecting ceiling dots into constellations of Cygnus and Cassiopeia when the teacher looks at me and says, “Jessie, how many miles is the Earth away from the sun?”
2012 -‐ Providence, Rhode Island Today, if I could rewind these years back to the scratched desks of elementary school. If I could become one of the children who sat at Lewis Carroll’s feet,
My knees buckle like vocal cords pulled too tight around my body.
We’re all scratched somewhere, but mine just show on the outside.
I would have told him, I would have told them all;
Food Court Jenny Jisun Kim, RISD ‘14 acrylic, color pencil, collage on paper
Swag Elisa Leser ‘15 ¿OPSKRWRJUDSK\
I was never actually shy. I’m just an extrovert trapped in a stuttering shell. Maybe I was stumbling over my words, because words aren’t strong enough to express what I want to say anyway. There isn’t a word for suffocating in unsaid sentences, or a word for forcing ourselves to speak against the odds of history. In this one-‐act play of life, there are no intermissions. The only way to overcome the stutters of stage fright is to dive headfirst into the spotlight. Jess Chen, RISD ‘13 has become a bipolar bear lost in the snow.
BY BENSEN KOH
bastard rotting in jail didnâ€™t have to see any of this. That he, the Eldest Son, could rest easy in prison without suffering the consequences of his fuck up. He didnâ€™t have to watch how Fatherâ€™s nose swelled and burgeonedâ€”blushing bright red in the stead of that shameless asshole. Didnâ€™t have to see how the weight of his rapidly expanding nose dragged Fatherâ€™s face down, tugging his chin to his chest so that his expressionless face now perpetually faced the floor. He wasnâ€™t there when his nose had become so big and swollen that his nostrils closed up. The sight of Father, breathing difficultly through undignified whistles, tears leaking uncontrollably from scrunched up eyesâ€Ś All because his eldest son had become a criminal. The trash of society. A waste of living space. A disgrace.
t began with Elder Brother getting arrested. Prison. Two years, no parole. That ungrateful piece of shit. The news spread quickly, of courseâ€”flooding gutters in monsoon rain. All our relatives and friends knew about it. All our â€˜friendsâ€™ too. The first thing to go was Fatherâ€™s mouth. His lips, which were once thick, angry earthworms that would seize into a frown when struck by the lightning of his mood, began to dry up. Just like his conversation. He stopped talking altogether and only made throat noises. Noises that were deep at first, but soon dried up into whispered wheezes. Parched. Like plaster. His lips had bulged, hardened and cemented, pressed against each other in straight lines of concrete. Then withered and cracked. Thin white flakes of lip fell like dandruff, leaving behind scabbed skin that healed and left nothing. Not even wheezing. It was around the same time that his eyebrows and ears began to go. His brow, which had already been sparse before, silvered and snowedâ€”his eyelashes were tiny pine needles that stood no chance in the winter of his expression. Those were gone in a week. His ears took longer though. They crinkled far more gradually, crumpling slowly. A fist clenching in slow motion. Paper burned from a corner. His hearing deteriorated as his ears charred, which, to be honest, came as a relief. I never knew what to say to him. What could I say to him? Even Mother could only silently brush away the discolored remains of his ears from his shoulders, before he stumbled out to work each morning. The worse thing about all this was that that fucking
Fortunately, the oversized nose only remained like that for a week. Just as suddenly as it had came, all the blood left his nose. Cut from its life source, it shriveled up almost immediately and began to decompose, shading from red to beige to white and then to an appalling greenish black. The stink was terrible, and Father had to stay home from work. Well, not just work. He couldnâ€™t leave the house. Itâ€™s safe to say that everybody secretly felt thankful when it finally dropped off. Still, it left Father without his nose, and with a penchant for staring at the floor. And all the tears had left him with eyes the size of pinholes. Those eyes that used to flash in anger and smolder with displeasure were now as hopeless as broken pencil tips that continued to shrink as the days went by. Father has lost his face. No. Not lost it. Elder Brother threw it away. Where once there had been wrath, annoyance, disappointment, weariness, disapprovalâ€Ś there is now nothing but the texture of a hard-â€?boiled egg. There is nowhere for his stern, thundering voice to erupt from. No ears to hear the sound of our confessions, and no brow to crease at the mention of our transgressions. No nose to wrinkle in disapproval, and no eyes to read our sins to us. He can no longer be the Head of the Family. He is no longer the man of the house. But this story is not over. I will not allow Fatherâ€™s face to be thrown away. I have saved the pieces of his face â€“ the wilted eyelashes, the charred ear dust, the lip dandruff, the rotted noseâ€Ś everything I could get my hands on. I have saved every last piece and I will shove them into that fucking assholeâ€™s goddamn mouth and make him eat every last bit when he gets out of prison. I will choke it down his goddamn throat if I have to. He is no longer part of the family. I, the Second Son, am now the Eldest. Bensen Koh â€˜14 is #GEÂ‘% 09
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bittersweet BY ROSE SHAN
Stubborn frustration Seeping through stone walls of silence Nobody speaks at dinner. Though it is served family style Everyone eats their own dish, The grinding of rice between teeth Sprinkled with blips of mandatory niceties. This is not what I came home for. At this dinner table in a desperate place, I gulp down a cup of golden grapefruit juice. Why do they call it grapefruit anyways? They will resemble grapes the day apples grow on pine trees. I will be home again the day the stone façade of cheerful Depression crumbles down these strangers’ faces. No, that is not bitterness in my voice. It’s only the bitterness in my mouth, For the taste of grapefruit clings to my tongue. Home is the soul of a house, but more than anything Home is where you are entitled to be, Where warm arms embrace you and fickle tempers fight over petty things. Home contains the people I love by birth, Not the people I love by choice. It just so happens that I choose to love. Is that bitterness I detect in your voice? No, it’s only the bitterness in my mouth, For I take my medicine without sugar. Everyone speaks a different language, We just don’t know it yet. And when we find out, will it be too late? We drown ourselves in a sea of work and errands As ridiculous as purple fuzzy curtains, as shallow as the reasons But the seasons turn, and the tea kettle screams. Salt water boils faster than fresh water, you know. They say the truth stings like salt on a wound But I think the truth tastes like medicine. Rose Shan ‘14 is riding on the needle of a compass.
executive order 9066
BY KIMBERLY TAKAHATA
t’s the trees I remember, their spindly black arms reaching toward the sky. Middle fingers up. They were in the background of the photo, but they were the easiest to draw for my heritage presentation. The only tall anything for miles in this wasteland of life shackled to these shacks, fenced into this zoo. Where all they do is look.
He didn’t talk about it until my father drove by one of them when he was in Arkansas. There wasn’t much left, just a few stray buildings, empty but for the ghosts of the dreams that were snatched away and placed behind barbed wire. My father didn’t even know he had been there, had spent four years living behind those walls, walls shadowed by rainstorms and drops of dirt. I was nine when he first told me. We discovered a few pages of old photos last Christmas. One of them: twelve men lined up neatly in two even rows. And he, my grandfather, has his hand over his mouth as he coughs, the photo snapped before he could clear the air from his lungs. He still does that. Buildings in the foreground. Trees in the background. Kimberly Takahata ‘14 dreams of embracing arms and memories unspoken.
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through the window BY EVAN COLEMAN
e is outside. His gray sweats blending with the gray of winter and cloudy chill that is November. Grease stains and ripped cuffs, the only distinction between him and the street curb and the street’s stains. He is outside of a house on the corner of James and Holly, the city not being important, the house not actually that important either, but rather the glow through the chipped window of the family around the table, the way that the red-‐headed boy slurps his spaghetti, the noodles hanging, walrus-‐like from his lips. The stout mother that refills the glasses of water from the side of the pitcher, smooth, steady. The scruffy dog, perched at the side of the bespectacled father, conditioned by table scraps. All this material, ripe for the poem he would like to write, something cold, visceral, maybe with a touch of aesthetic beauty, the time changing from an early November afternoon to Thanksgiving eve, the bland spaghetti and red sauce to a succulent turkey, these simple faces to the joyous smiling families of supermarket commercials... But these manipulations dissolve, the carriage once again a pumpkin as the unsheathed pen never meets the white pages of the notebook in his hand, the scene too set in its own natural aura to be captured and framed or painted or performed. There he stands, feeling lonely in gray, watching a family eat, through a window, making eye contact not with the boy, the pinnacle of innocence, but with the father, through the thin frames of his glasses, who stares out the window past the table, who sees this gray kid with his pen and paper, the way his laces are looped, untied, the way his dark hair droops lazily over one eye, the way the steam from his excited breathing rises in the cold. The moment of delving into the life of this ‘other’ gone, never actually even existing, replaced by the introspection of these two men, who pause from their daily routine to look at things on the other side of the window. Evan Coleman ‘12. I’m cold, man.
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BY CHRISTINA PAN
Watching from the shadows, a star-‐dotted outline of a city at night out, outshining Night. Christina Pan ‘13 is sleeping under a cascade of thoughts. 19
the film of memory, and grasp those familiar smells and sights and comforts in her thin and waiting hands.
BY VIVIAN TRUONG
She looked up when the men were gone. Every time there were the muffled screams, the gasped Tròi oi!’s and the unnatural silence. There was nothing left to take. She saw the women draped over their families. Not her this time. She did not see their pink and shrunken bodies. Instead they were cá at the market, slippery and gasping for air on frayed plastic tarp, clubbed by crouching men until they stopped flopping.
he wood-‐grains stretched in streaks like muscle fiber, the boards wet against the tip of her nose and the palms of her hands and the caps of her knees. She felt the thumping as they ran around her. She felt the seawater slosh around the hull of the boat as it knocked against theirs. She was thirsty. She felt the man next to her sobbing like the time she fell off the back of her brother’s bike on a busy street and a motorbike buzzed an inch away from her twisted foot. The smell of the boards reminded her of the mother dog that used to wander into their noodle shop, teats swinging from her belly as she nosed through the pile of beef bones on the floor. She missed waking up to the aroma of boiling broth. As a little girl she would perch her chin on her father’s shoulder as he swirled his cà phê sua õ into a fragrant brown, in the mornings before the heat thickened to press on her skin. This was not real to her. She wanted to reach through
They continued to drift. It was a bright blue day. Ba The war was not supposed to happen to him. It was one year before he would receive his medical school diploma. He lived in a green walled house where the room on the first floor was stacked high with bags of bôt . mì, where his grandmother mixed the flour with water and his grandfather churned the mixture out of a wooden press. The fresh noodles were hung out in the sun to dry on wooden dowels on the roof. His aunts and uncles would wrap the noodles in bundles, and as a child he would run collecting the dowels as they were emptied and cast on the ground. He remembered when the men came to his house. When they invaded the green-‐walled haven, crunched up the steps where he used to run collecting loose and
dropped noodles. The family hid their only son among six children. They found him cowering and folded into the drawer beneath the bed. Later he would continue cowering, this time into dirt and wearing a uniform and holding a gun. With white men who called him names. Who bombed his country’s villages and fucked his country’s women.
Má The aisles extended themselves infinite. Red, white, and blue signs hung from the ceiling, twisting themselves into the fluorescent lights. Go home, they said, everything you don’t want is half off and rotting in their boxes. They did not tell her where to find what she needed. Rows of frozen replicated cartoon faces were splashed on cardboard boxes, metal cans in perfectly aligned stacks. She could not find anything she needed. She could not turn corners; the paths were blocked by shelves she did not know were there. Her cart rattled under her clenched hands and the wheels locked one by one. She could not find anything. She had passed this aisle before. The price tags screamed yellow and red. HALF YOUR HOURLY WAGE, some said. WILL ONLY LAST A MEAL AND A HALF. Birds and cattle and swine were hacked and packed in parts and pieces into plastic plates. None of this was what she needed. The other customers all had the drawn faces of old men. She wanted to ask them but they would call her a gook. They tore the stalks from broccoli, pulled and pulled and pulled reams of plastic bags from their metal stands and stood fingering for an opening in the flat clear sheets. They piled their carts high with backwards-‐facing children, jars of mayonnaise, and crumbling onions in red netted bags. She tried to maneuver her locked-‐wheel cart between
They told him he was lucky he was still normal after having fought where they did. They told him it could happen to him at any time. Now, a week from now, in ten years he might find himself dissolving.
Where was the nuóc mam? she wondered. Where was the cha? lua? Where were the bánh mì baguettes with . their crispy brown shells? Where were the sugarcane stalks to make the chao tôm, or crisp nuóc mía with . lime juice? Where were the cha? giò skins? Where were the bundles of thick yellow mì? The fatty pork belly for o ? í thit . kho? The fresh coconut? The hu tiêu? The mang cut, . with its six sweet white lobes in a purple rind? Where were the small whole squids, like the ones that were roasted on the sand? She missed tasting smoke on the chewy white meat as she sat on a beach chair under unobscured stars, on a night when the pâté moon seemed ready to consume in its creamy salty redness. , ,
After it ended he watched the deterioration of the bodies of the soldiers he had fought with—boys he had grown up and gone to school with. He visited their houses. Their limbs were bones twisted into odd angles. None of the sinuous muscle he remembered. They pissed on the floor through their wheelchairs. Their mouths were wide and their teeth bared as they struggled to take in the poisonous air. It was still around them, the poison that had twisted them and stripped the lush greenness all along the sensuous curve of their coastline.
theirs to find what she needed. Some changed their minds and returned items from their carts to the shelves. Potato chips in the dairy coolers. Peaches next to the tortilla wraps. Toilet paper on the deli counter. She could not find what she needed at all. She pushed herself and her cart through the dirty plastic cut-‐up curtain hanging over the back door. She felt safer in the cool, cavernous dark.
Ba He could not stand to be there for another month, but it would take that long for his papers to process after his brother had sent for him in across the ocean. For half a year he had slept on a mat in an old remade factory in a camp with the rest of the refugees. One large room, no privacy, the constant smell of shit and urine in the air. So many bodies in one place. During the day he plucked plastic heads, arms, legs, and torsos out of their metal molds at the toy factory. They came out floppy and flesh-‐colored from the hot iron, were tossed on to tables of body parts waiting to be assembled, dressed, packaged and shipped to fluorescent-‐lighted toy stores. He thought of how these dolls in their lifelessness could move so easily between the borders that caged him. He thought of disintegrating. He thought of canisters of chemicals. He thought of the bombs and spray from planes and his friends pissing through wheelchairs. The smell of shit and urine. Then he looked at his work. He had studied for years to be a doctor. Came to understand the human anatomy. The way bodies worked. But now he grabbed his tongs. Pulled more plastic babies out of iron. Má & Ba After they were married in the new country, she found
that she could never cook enough. She set mounds of rice, cucumbers, tomatoes, and suòn nuóng on the kitchen table. She had hoped the leftovers to last them the next couple of days. But she had to watch him eat all the grilled pork and chew through all the vegetables and rice. She came home from work every day and found that cooking this meal would take more time than the last. They ate later and later each day. She began cooking until midnight. He complained. They no longer ate together. He sat at the kitchen table alone, eating in minutes what had taken her hours to make. She stayed at the stove over the sizzling of oil, the bubbling of soup, and the popping of the knife against the wooden board. The pots and pans were too small to contain his appetite. They bought bigger ones until they could no longer fit on the stove and she could not reach the tops of the pots. The metal lips burned scars on her wrists í into when she tried to toss the cleaned leafy rau muông the boiling water.
The day before she went into labor with her first daughter, she made bánh canh giò heo. As she prepared the soup, she felt her mouth draining of saliva. Her body unraveled into thick tapioca rice noodles. She felt chunks of her arms missing as she stewed the pork hocks. Her skin was flaking as she shook the fried red onion into the broth. He ate. She was picked clean. He wanted more. Chi. Hai Her mother taught her how to tuck her fingers in so she wouldn’t cut her herself. Press your knuckles on the slippery meat like this. Hold it still. Hold the knife slanted. Drag it across just once. She taught her how to make oyster sauce and honey marinade for the chicken. How to fry it in the pan till just browned, then flip it over with the long wooden chopsticks. Stick it through to make sure it’s done. Don’t leave it in for too long or it gets dry. , ,
í from the fish sauce, garlic, And how to make nuóc châm ground pepper, sugar, and lemon. They squeezed the
Her mother taught her how to shred the purple taro root with a cheese grater. Don’t use that much force. You’ll tire yourself out. Stop there before you grate your finger. They spent hours before big dinners mixing the taro with shrimp, pork, and seasonings before wrapping them in rice paper skins, dabbing the edges with egg white to keep the cha? giò from falling apart in the hot oil. She taught her to boil beans for sweet chè. She taught her to rub cornstarch on beef slices, to sprinkle the fried rice with chicken bouillon, to soak drumsticks in soy sauce and rice vinegar before slow cooking in the pot. She taught her when to pour the coconut milk into the chicken curry on days when the pot simmered for hours and permeated the house. And she taught her how to eat. How to soak the crisp baguettes into the curry sauce and tear the meat off the ? chicken bones without missing a bite. How to wrap goi í so the insides don’t spill. How to squeeze the lime cuôn into the bowl, add bean sprouts, stick the rare beef at the bottom of the soup to cook, pick up the pho? with her chopsticks, pile it into a spoon with broth and slurp. Her mother taught her how to finish her share, and then her mother would offer from her own plate. ,
They were always in need of groceries. She would walk home with the plastic bags hanging off her forearms, the weight dragging striped imprints onto her skin. They ran out of what little money that had. The refrigerator went from bursting to bare in a matter of days.
lemons until their fingertips were covered in their sharp fragrance. The metal spoons tinkling on ceramic bowls on a Sunday afternoon by the kitchen window.
She taught her not to understand the other girls around her and their relationship to food. They all wanted to implode. They skipped meals. They would eat an apple for lunch. Toast and peanut butter for dinner. She would eat a bowl of bún bò, with its noodles, chunks of beef, scallions, and broth, for breakfast. The girls would flip through magazines. They wanted to lose parts of themselves. Shrink into nothingness. They put themselves through programs and counted numbers with every bite. Her mother’s cooking could not be counted. Her mother fed her rice. She fed her bún riêu. She fed her pork buns from the bakery. She fed her green sticky cake made - xanh. She would fill and fill and fill. Her mother of dâu . would grab her wrist. Still too skinny. Fill and fill and fill. Her mother taught her this. Fill and fill and fill. Eat as if everything could be taken away from you tomorrow. Chi. Ba She was their heart and its ache. She used to sit on her sister’s lap to feed from a bottle while their parents were at work. Their parents would come home and find her sleeping in the semidarkness, the changing colors from the television flashing onto their faces. Her sister
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had not wanted to move to turn on the lights and wake her.
blared from the box and the horse rocked back and forth.
Her mother would bathe her in a red basin in the bathtub. Her mother would pinch and unpinch her belly button. It moved like a mouth that could talk and eat things. When she stopped giggling, her mother told her that this was what connected them.
A friend from school gave her a doll for the holiday they didnâ€™t believe in but celebrated anyway. Every year, she begged her father to construct the tree by the front window. The rest of the year the scratchy plastic evergreen resided in a box in pieces with ornaments that always smelled faintly like metal and manufacture.
When she was old enough to go to school with her sister, they passed by the corner store every day to buy bags of potato chips. They dusted the powdered tips of their fingers on the clothes their mother made them, clothes that they were not quite old enough to be ashamed of yet. Outside of the store there was a 25-â€?cent mechanical horse, paint rubbed off its knees and chipping off its nose. She would not leave without getting on. Her sister tried to pull her by the hand. She would not budge. Her sister felt as if the arm would come off the socket. Her sister relented and gave up another quarter to the machine. She climbed on, tucking her hand-â€?me-â€?down bargain store shoes into the metal stirrups as music
She came to her father with scissors and asked him to help open the present. The bright pink box. The plastic covering, the frozen smile and the vacant eyes. The clear twine tying it down to the back of the box. The head, the arms, the legs, the torso, not hot from a mold but hardened and solid, not separated but pieced together and dressed. Everything was so familiar. Made inâ€Ś He would not tell her where it came from. Chi. Hai Her mother would always ask her two things. She tried to hide her stuffy nose voice and clear the coughs from her throat as she spoke on her phone and sat cross-â€?
legged on her dorm bed. Yes, it’s snowing here too. Her mother asked her each time, as if by understanding the weather where she was, they would feel closer under the same precipitation. Spaghetti, she said, pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken. She named the few things she ate here that her mother would recognize. She said she could not get food the way her mother made it at home. Her mother said of course. Her friends picked up care packages from the mailroom. She picked up frozen containers of soups. The gluey gel only became recognizable when she melted them in the microwave. She melted and refroze them over and over again, and each time her room would murmur with the deep brown warmth. She would pretend to need things from home. Send me a copy of my passport. I ran out of Jasmine tea. Did I leave that book on my table? She hoarded these items from home, kept the envelopes and boxes. She liked reading the addresses written in her parents’ handwriting, and imagined them meticulously writing the street names and zip codes at the kitchen table. Chi. Ba
He would remind her to reheat and drink the canh sitting on the kitchen table. Then he would head back to the room where his half-‐asleep wife would ask him if she had come home. They would turn and look at the time. Then fall asleep on their separate sides, under the picture of their little girls smiling in their silk áo dài at their uncle’s wedding ten years ago. The mother dreamed that her younger daughter swallowed a fire that burned only her tongue.
Their parents kept secrets tucked away in bottom drawers, under clothes smelling of mothballs. Their parents did not tell them about lost family members or how the distant bombs could shake the condensation off - Their parents did not tell them about a glass of trà dá. the journey from home to refugee camps on crowded fishing boats. When they saw pictures of these boats in their textbooks, they squinted into the black-‐and-‐white pixels to try to find their mother and father in the crowd, hoping to find clues in the faces. Nor did their parents tell them about growing up watching fireworks by the river. Or the salty surprise of mung bean embedded in the sticky rice of their bánh í holiday. Or about biking to school chung during the Têt with the tail of the white áo dài flowing behind her. Their parents did not tell them that one of the reasons why they could not afford nice things was because they sent remittances every month to the aunts and uncles who never made it out, who continued to make noodles in the green-‐walled house. This country was built on their bodies. The rivers like the veins on the insides of their forearms. The earth like gold-‐brown skin. The rice terraces marked on their breasts. They carry the blood of the two sisters who led a revolution and rode elephants into battle two millennia ago. They look at their bare bodies in the mirror. They dance like this. They heart and they ache. They cook and feed and fill. They sometimes remember to hold themselves sacred.
Vivian Truong ‘12 is in love. , ,
But her body danced like this: bamboo hoops swinging from her earlobes in time with her hips, high-‐top sneakers still fresh from the box and twisting on concrete. She danced like this, poetry in her limbs, little sister, little daughter, em, con. They fed her all they could and she grew like city dandelion, yellow and full-‐ flowered into the sun.
Chi. Hai & Chi. Ba
She began to eat silent at the dinner table. Stayed out late at the park in the summer. Leaned against the black chain link fence puffing smoke. Watched tattooed boys arch their bare brown arms as they slapped blue rubber balls against concrete walls. Let them snake around her waist. Came home to her father waiting up for her, reading the newspaper in his chair under a pool of lamplight.
Her mothers’ friends clucked at her growing womanness. What a shame to be swinging her sex like that, they said. To be pulsing to music low like heartbeat. They did not understand her need to sway herself into the pocket of a song. To move muscle to melisma. She danced to the sound of her sister’s shuffling footsteps on the living room floor. To the ache of the first time she lay under a boy and their skin slapped together like raw meat. To her mother’s hands on her scalp as she tied her hair back in a ponytail and clipped the bangs from her eyes. To her father slamming a pot on the counter and shouting over her mother’s voice. To all of her parents’ pain that she felt but didn’t understand. To a home country she had never seen and the trees regrowing from scabbed soil.
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the places I have been with you BY AYOOSH PAREEK I. Providence Be quiet, darling. We are generating currents that are powering the stars right now, telling me two has always been closer to three than one and at the age of twenty you had seen the bottom of the world. You are the reason tongues stick to metal poles in the winter if you taste too long. Tongue touching has always been a taste test for people like us. Ignoring impulses, come sit next to me, and kiss me on the cheek. Lips are too common these days, and like skyscrapers, they have lost their innocence. Kiss me on the cheek because people don’t do that anymore. We drank together from the same cups. The burn of strangers sharing bedtime stories with each other. So smoke up until nothing in the world resembles us more than a recently used ashtray. II. New York Fizzing light bulbs, flipping switches repeatedly, asking floods why they carry so much water, do you expect an answer for your splendor? You are molding me with your hands. Like wells whose bottoms we can’t yet see, but can only hope we know each other well from what comes up to the surface, every once in a while. I tend to lose myself like toy boats going down drains day-‐dreaming of dances shared on hardwood floors. You tell me chance encounters are what keep us going and I needed this day with you. so I try not to smile, acting all composed, what’s a daydreamer to do, when you walk away whispering Will you remember me like this? Us like this? Standing here, next to each other like this? I can’t help but follow, everything blows me away, when I am standing here next to you, like this.
Ayoosh Pareek ‘12 is becoming a better hand holder. (Thanks for the guavas)
the phone booth BY VI KHI NAO
He wires his heart to the base of my spine. In his heart lies a red door with green vines. I say, this is divine. I say this with my heart on the floor, my toenails pointed to the stars, and the rivers of many dark worlds revolving through the skull of time. I am told I am a lily that he folds and unfolds. Dreams crawl on their bellies, make their way through daylight by sweating out of my skin. Sometimes like the lily spouting out of the mountain, I am alone here. Fumbling through the dark while he tucks my body away from the wind. After this, his touches in the dark are like volcanoes erupting before the window: the sun gleams. I am tied to his body like a knot. The heat from his body. The sweat from his skin. How do I unknot this tie & have his heart ride through my spine like a phone book
chained to a phone booth? Vi Khi Nao â€˜13 is going to ethos her ethos. 29
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spotlight: visions in translation FEATURING SAMUEL PERRY
Ishigaki Rin (1920-‐2004) was a bank clerk in Tokyo for over 40 years, and a published poet for even longer. Having produced several anthologies of poetry and prose, Ishigaki has been celebrated for her verse about everyday life, delivered in a simple, but powerful style, and rooted always in the perspective of the working-‐class. The following poem comes from her collection Simple Words (Yasashii kotoba, 1984).
I once picked wildflowers at Marunouchi in Tokyo. It was the late 1920s and I was in my mid-‐teens.
東京丸の内で摘み草をした。 昭和は十年代のはじめ 私は十歳代のなかごろ。
On my way to work at the bank the hem of my skirt flapping in the wind I’d always dash up the embankment along the path to see that wide-‐open field. Clover dandelions fleabane wildflowers all too poor to use as decorations for my desk at work.
銀行へ通う 出勤の道すがら 袴の裾をひるがえし 舗道の脇をちょっと駈けのぼると 原っぱがひらけた。 クローバー タンポポ ハルジョオン 職場の机に飾るには 貧弱すぎる野の花だった。
Half a century has past since then and with its buildings long ago burned in the flames of war the area around Tokyo Station is a throng of new skyscrapers, which map out a graph of the economic boom.
あれからおよそ半世紀 ビルディングが戦火で燃え上がる日もあったが 戦後の東京駅周辺は 経済成長の伸びをグラフにしたような 新しい高層建築群である。
I myself retired when I reached the mandatory age, but I doubt any companies still exist that hire girls like me from grade school anymore. Even women have a market value, the worthy picked out from the rest. The day has come when we can no longer be wildflowers now that we all compete to bloom.
私は定年退職したけれど 小学校出の少女を 受け入れる会社はもう無いだろう。 女性も市場価値が問われ 選り分けられる。 ついに野の花ではありえない日を迎えて 競い咲く。
So I say goodbye to Marunouchi, and to that field that no longer exists, and to each slender green stem I once clutched in my hand that I know now was my very own neck.
さようなら丸の内 いまはどこにもない原っぱ かつて握りしめた細く青い花茎 あれは私自身の首でした。
by Ishigaki Rin (1920-‐2004)
Sam Perry’91 is still picking wildflowers in the department of East Asian Studies, where he teaches about culture and politics.
vince’s advance or rinzai throughout the ages BY SANDEEP NAYAK
or good reason do philosophers, thinkers and writers throughout the ages speak of the “human condition,” a concept multifarious but ultimately unpluralized and unified. For in spite of the diversity of styles of thought and behavior which characterize the members of our species, there arises from time to time an undeniable sense of similarity, even identity with the experiences of others. Though I personally subscribe to atheistic theological leanings, it is this essence of commonality I believe to be the basis of religious, etc. truth. Thus across world religions we find sprouting in varied soil roots of a universal humanistic flavor. Lin-‐Chi, founder of an eponymous school of Zen, who, butchered in the mouths of the Japanese lives on as Rinzai, is one such figure.
I will assume (postmodernity be damned) that I am capable of grasping the root of his message in this historical moment. The man seeks to embody the ineffable, the beyond, the absolute—that common experiential core of refined humanity which shatters itself on the tongues of our species into a million warring conceptions. Well aware that he cannot convey in language that pries this from that the truths of the human collision with reality, he prefers instead, having stripped himself of the robes of Rinzai, of conceptual thought and decision making, of I-‐ness and me-‐ hood, until all that remains is naked man, formless, rootless and unimpeded, to smash himself headfirst into a reality of which he is integral part—an effortless collision of something with itself that cannot really be said to have occurred at all. With the careful detail oriented eye of a librarian, he gathers all the received wisdom of the Buddhist (and Confucian, Daoist, and—dare I say it? The human) tradition, the sastras, the sutras, the commentaries, in short the entire corpus of the textual and philosophical lore available to him only to toss them on a dungheap, burn them unceremoniously and extinguish the smoldering remains with his own urine. Either he laughs maniacally in the process, or his face bears no expression. This is the mark of true wisdom.
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“Language,” he preaches, “Will not do.” The academic clearinghouses of our day (dank lairs where postmoderns gather to spout their idiocy) never tire of this point. “A table is only a table because we agree to call it a table,” one might hear in an illustrious lecture hall. Yada fucking yada. Tenures are garnered, papers published, book chapters lauded. To the inquiring student who approaches him, puttering around in dualisms, trapped in language and conceptual thought, Rinzai offers merely a blow to the face or perhaps to the abdomen, repeated blows until the student understands. As thick are the skulls of the above academicians, it does not follow that their crania are hale enough to withstand the avalanche of strikes, smacks and knocks1 which would ensue following a meeting with Rinzai. Their ways are fixed, and understanding would likely not arrive before internal hemorrhage. In this seeming violence, he not only explains, but demonstrates, that all is one, that mind and body are unified, and all other kernels of truth which lie at the 1 2
All variations of the “blow” mentioned above. It is a wonder these people get laid.
heart of such hippitty turns of phrase which have seeped into popular culture. Essentially, there are three things. I diagram these now to accommodate the comatose reader. Environment -‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐MAN-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐Expression There is naught in the universe that is not one of these. Therefore, we may characterize all as materially, idealistically monistic. But it is man, his sense organs, his need to describe, which destroys the casual unity of the world as is, tongue carving it into vagaries and doubts. It is Rinzai and those like him who opt to do something about it. Meanwhile, tenured buffoons on Ivy-‐ league moons, in the manner of a fox chasing its own tail, use language that cannot express to express that language cannot express.2 Fie on such nerds. Their heads do not deserve the necks they stand on—would that civil and moral law were different so that I could act to remedy this situation. My blood begins to boil, so I return now to more pleasant subjects. What would Rinzai do? In a burst of inspired action, he would smash environment into expression (see diagram), killing the man in between, so that there is no intermediary ego to be found, only hands that strike, lips that howl, objects which act but are without
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intention. He shuffles his feet, and his feet become the tongue of existence, songing in clear language realityâ€™s gospel. The world runs through such a manâ€”such a beingâ€™s collision with reality is truly a sight to behold. I have had the privilege of seeing a real-â€?life Rinzai, though before proceeding to that part of the narrative, I feel there is a final detail to be explained. My speech, I assume, is clear, though idiots, those befuddled spectacles which comprise the majority of usâ€”sleepwalkers who live day to day trapped in the same cycles of thought may miss my message anyway. This is regrettable, but can in no way be the fault of mine. I refuse to brutalize the subtleties of the Man of the Way to the language of Deepak Chopra. I dive now into narrative anecdote. It occurred as I was standing grouped by a concrete pillar at the concert of a death-â€?punk anarchist band whose name, if I ever knew it, escapes me. One of our group, whom I will call Vince split off during a lull in the conversation, saying â€œI have to go talk to that girl.â€? Despite the decibel level, I (who am of keen hearing) was able to perceive the exchange of words which followed. On approach, Vince immediately asked without, I noticed, establishing physical contact â€œDo you want to make out with me?â€? The girl, unknown to Vince replied â€œNo.â€? Shock and surprise spasmed Vinceâ€™s face. â€œDo you believe in God?â€? he threw at her. â€œNo,â€? she said. Vince quit her and returned. â€œMan,â€? he said. â€œThese girls are weird.â€? A bit of exegesis, I believe, is required to understand these formally inscrutable events. It is hoped that in conjunction with the above discussion the reader will then be able to grasp the import of Vinceâ€™s advances, how they are revelatory of his singular character 3
From Rinzai: â€œIllumination and action are simultaneous, fundamentally without front or back,â€? (346). For its sheer faithfulness to linguistic accuracy and its monumental effort at replicating idiom, I have used Ruth Fuller Sasakiâ€™s excellent translation of the Lin-â€?Chi Lu.
specifically, but human truth more generally. But first, I would like to assure the dear reader that the events related above are factual. Following his return, I questioned Vince about his actions. Did he really think the girl would make out with him? Yes, he did. Had such a strategy ever worked before? He did not know, as he had never tried such a thing. It was at this moment that I knew in the phenomenon before me I had encountered Rinzai, neither incarnate in flesh, nor manifest in spirit, but actualized in activity. Born from spontaneity itself, a certainty seized Vince and instantly colonized the entirety of his being and set his lanky legs in motion.3 One foot forward. Another foot forward. Vinceâ€™s feet, one might say. But one might say many things. Vince was not walking. In fact, any personality of such name was nowhere to be found, overwhelmed on the one hand by utter certitude, and on the other, by the very act of walking. Feet reached destination, stopped. Certainty (of which erstwhile Vinceâ€™s body was merely sanction) formed words and spat them through Vinceâ€™s lips. The retort came. Rejection. Impossible. Vince arrived, shining with an undeniable veracity which his interlocutor was too delusional to discern. Yet as a blind manâ€™s skepticism mars not the beauty of a sunset, so did certainty remain, unscathed though swords slashed it and ruined its flesh. The floozy lass evinced that most unforgivable of blasphemies: arrogance in the face of the immutable. Certainty might have dosed her a good smack, though instead it roared â€œDo you believe in God?!â€? rattling Vinceâ€™s tonsils. â€œNo.â€? Ennuied but unruffled, the certainty retreated, and Vince himself spoke for the first time. â€œMan, these girls are weird.â€?
Sandeep Nayak â€˜12 has made a terrible mistake.
in coastal south india
BY KAVYA RAMANAN
t night the beach blends into the sea and they both feel like silk to his tired muscles and sun-‐scorched skin. He rests his feet at the blurred division and lets the tension of the long day drain from his body. He has spent most of the day hauling various goods back and forth from the small town to the ships moored in the ocean while the capitão kept changing his mind about how much of each delicacy he wanted taken back to Portugal. The rest of the crew are contemplating considering mutiny, but this particular sailor would rather devote the little energy the day has left him with to gazing up at the new stars in this strange place and trying to make some sense of them. He hears some movement to his left and turns his head to see a native girl settling herself on the beach, near enough that he can make out her profile in the soft light shining from above. She sits upright and cross-‐legged in the manner of these people instead of sprawling like he is, but lets the colorful silk sari draped over her body slide off her head and shoulders as she smiles at the sea breeze. He has seen her before, he realizes, even though this town is populated by thousands of Indians. He remembers noticing her because she seemed to inhabit a world far away from the bustle of the trade fair. Even now she smiles vaguely at the moon as the sea washes over his outstretched legs and caresses
her folded ones. She looks so serene, and he thinks he will save this image in his mind for the stormy months ahead of him. She looks so serene that he falls asleep without realizing it, on the edge of the beach where one impulsive tentacle of wave can so easily pull him to his death. But before high tide he is shaken awake and looks up blearily to see her luscious hair and bare breasts. Suddenly, he no longer feels sleepy. She says something in her language, which to him sounds like the chattering of birds; it lacks both the delicate beauty and the tragedy of his own tongue. Then she rises lithely from her crouch and heads back across the beach to civilization. She drapes her pallu over one shoulder and its end flutters behind her in the breeze. The next night she is already at the sea’s frontier when he arrives. He sits closer to her this time, and she glances at him but doesn’t smile. Today the object of her steady gaze isn’t the moon but the dark ocean ahead of them. To her it is a mystery, and she enjoys imagining the things that might exist out there. She wants to ask him what adventures he has had on the high seas, but they have no way of understanding each other’s languages, so she sighs and continues with her fantasies. He lies down, tired after another long day, and admires the lines of her back. After some time, he reaches out to run his calloused fingers over the fine silk of her pallu where it trails in the sand and she turns around, frowning. But when she sees what he’s doing, she doesn’t have any objection and turns back to the sea and her thoughts. Once again, he falls asleep there and she wakes him up after some time. They walk together to the town in comfortable silence before each peels off in a separate direction. Kavya Ramanan ‘15 was born late.
BY MEIA GEDDES
What if the world were a feather and we were lost on a piece of dirt? Infinite landscape of bushes and rough-â€?leaved trees. What if my breasts could kiss the clouds? Wet air clinging to warmth. What if my tongue were to lick the dusty sweet surface of the moon? Stars setting fire to my skin as the Milky Way wrapped me up with black softness. What if a melody of light filled me with deep strokes of night sky? Dimension becomes a synonym for displacement. What if gravity melded me heavy to the raindrops so I became the sum of my falling? A weighted speck of dust, lying on the landscape stretched out. Meia Geddes â€˜14 wants to never stop wondering.
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fine lines BY IRIS PAK
You were the strong support to my fickle esteem, always there to reassure me that despite what I see, I am pretty. You would be there even when I’d grapple with who I am. You would wear your wrinkles, show them off without insecurity, confident of your own kind of beauty, and overcame flaws like they were obstacles. Then you turned toward the mirror and doubted yourself, saw time carve lines into your face, forgot all you said and cut your own lines deeper than skin only to be clouded with paint-‐like things to erase the mistakes. I wish I’d told you your wrinkles were fine. Iris Pak ‘15 taught her mom how to shuffle.
human’s puppeteer BY JAMES HAYWARD
The autumn maple drops her leaves, As the landscape gardener wakes. Another day the forest grieves, Preparing for what winter takes. But the maple has a long laugh, ‘Tis the gardener’s puppeteer. “Oh dear, how humans are so daft.” As leaves fall, he rushes to clear. But the autumn maple sadly grieves As she sees all her dead friends leave. James Hayward ‘12 worries about the future of beauty in this world.
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consumed by love/ love to consume BY RIA MIRCHANDANI
â€œA moment on the lips Forever on the hipsâ€? This is their constant warning When theyâ€™re not busy scorning They love to hate my love But I will rise above Nothing will come between Me and my Kripsy Kreme It wasnâ€™t love at first sight But it felt so right It was love at first taste After which I couldnâ€™t waste Another moment without Its sugary softness in my mouth Cakes, muffins, croissants, and pies This was forever; there were no goodbyes But I couldnâ€™t avoid itâ€”the day had to come When someone noticed my rapidly expanding bum And my stomach and my thighsâ€”bulges in every direction â€œThereâ€™s nothing wrong! This is how we show our affection!â€? There was no where to run, no where to hide It was hard to conceal such a large backside And as they brought it out, I heard my insides wail The destroyer of all happinessâ€”the wretched weighing scale Lightning crashed, the heavens wept and cupid became irate As I fought gravity and my heart, to stand still and take my weight I peered to see the effect of my love, my food But all the weighing scale displayed was a â€œTo be continuedâ€? I may have weighed too much for the scale to display But even Newtonâ€™s force couldnâ€™t come in our way Your smooth, loving texture, your cream so sweet Is what makes life worth living, you make me complete For you, my arteries with fat I will fill They donâ€™t see it now, but someday they will That no sacrifice is big enough for love Not even a waist size of 50 inches and above Ria Mirchandani â€˜15 is hungry.
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it came to me in a dream BY DAVID MENINO
was sitting quietly on the floor of a dark room, the walls possessing a kind of deep, secretive shade of blue. To my left, a white curtain covered the window, preventing me from seeing the world beyond it, yet my eyes could still feel the warm embrace of the moonlight escaping through its sides. Before me, a mattress lay on the floor, my grandfather to my right kneeling next to it, solemnly gazing at the object on the ground. When I saw the look on his face, I quickly shifted my attention to the object as well. It appeared to be a kind of traditional garment, but I couldn’t determine to which culture it belonged. Its body was scarlet-‐red, sleeves blue, collar pearl-‐white, the centered, round and semi-‐ oblong buttons a lovely shade of gold. The garment was spread out over the entire bed, looking ordinary and uninspiring, but the look in my grandfather’s eyes said otherwise. “What’s that, Sanpong?”, a naïve and curious voice said. My sister appeared next to my grandfather, kneeling next to him alongside the mattress. When I examined my sister’s face, I realized that she wasn’t the present sister; rather, she was in her nine-‐year-‐old form. I want to think Sanpong is a Filipino word that respectfully addresses our grandfather, but I don’t know. I think it’s my mind trying to fill in the blanks using remnants of a language foreign to me. My sister’s face was laced with innocence and enthusiasm, like she was alien to the many cruelties of the world. And her eyes—those hopeful eyes, the last time I let myself see with such hope escaped me. The second she turned to look at my grandfather, she
quickly changed her expression and posture, like a misbehaving child caught in the strict gaze of his or her parents. She sought approval and continued to kneel quietly by his side. I turned to the garment and fixed my eyes upon it once more. I was reminded of the quilts my grandmother would make for me, how she would meticulously patch together scraps of unused materials—pieces of cloth left over from making shirts and curtains—to create a memory for her grandson. After some time, my grandfather finally opened his mouth to speak: “You can tell the durability of a coat by its buttons.” At that moment, although I didn’t quite understand what he meant, I realized that the garment before me was a piece of me, a lacking piece: a cultural identity. A lonesome breeze blew through the window into the bedroom, the curtain dancing as if it were waltzing piano keys. The moonlight then flooded the room and reunited with the garment, revealing the profound meaning it held, still incomprehensible to me. The wind grew cold, suddenly shifting the atmosphere in the room. Eventually, the scene faded into darkness. Before I knew it I found myself walking down some kind of path. It was snowing, so I assumed it was winter. The surroundings also started to feel familiar, and I soon realized that I was walking on Brook Street. Everything around me was covered in snow, the road absent of people. It was just I and the streetlights, my thoughts and the soft snow. Looking down onto myself, I realized that I was wearing the very garment in the previous scene. That’s odd, I thought. The coat wasn’t thick, instead as thin as paper, and it still managed to keep me warm. The warmth I felt… it was almost like I could feel it protecting me somehow: protecting my identity, validating it, bringing it into existence. I could barely feel it, but I knew something was there. The buttons were strong enough to hold me together as I braved the walk down icy Brook. Afterwards I calmly woke up in my bed. I didn’t move, just lying there, curled up in my sheets trying to understand the empty feeling that lingered in my chest. I’ve lived in this world for 22 years, yet I still am unclear of distinctive self-‐characteristics of being Filipino other than my physical features. I heard that the Philippines are one of the most westernized countries in Asia. According to some, they wouldn’t consider it an Asian country at all. I remember one time I was speaking with my grandmother after she returned from one of her trips to the Philippines, and she stated that Tagalog is no longer spoken in the city, replaced instead by an
English (the standard language used in the educational system), Spanish, and Tagalog fusion. “Pure Tagalog can only be found in the countryside,” she says. Also, many first-‐generation Filipino Americans aren’t taught how to speak their native tongue. I remember many instances at the dinner table where my mother and grandmother would be speaking to each other in Tagalog and I would sit between them, quietly eating my meal, not even bothering to try to comprehend their dialogue because it was useless. Unlike other stronger East Asian identities, we don’t have Tagalog schools in the US. The language was either taught to us or lost forever. I also feel that since the Philippines don’t possess prominent economic rankings on the world stage—unlike Japan, China, South Korea, or Taiwan— there is very little, if any need to learn its language and culture. What I wouldn’t give to express my identity in a language distinct to only people like me, and to have that kind of exclusive intimacy with family members and friends related by identities not foreign—to feel included, and to belong. I remember a friend asking me: “What kind of marriage customs do Filipinos adopt?” I couldn’t answer, and I felt slightly ashamed for not knowing. I feel like I don’t know anything. But although I couldn’t say it aloud, I could still feel something that made me who I was, something that made me Filipino. But is this good enough? I don’t think so. The conversation continued as everyone else started to share his or her cultural customs. Everyone had something to provide as “evidence” in order to prove they are what they are. And me? Is this gut feeling of culture and identity, intangible and indescribable, enough to prove that? I want to say that it does. I also want to say that it doesn’t. The best I feel I can do is to make sure I never forget the origin of my mother’s side of the family. The blood that runs through my veins came from the hopes and dreams of people who struggled with life in order to survive long enough to obtain a new one in the West. A part of me that is, and always will be, Filipino. And I hope one day that will be enough. David Menino ‘12. You can never leave without leaving a piece of youth.
&/2&.:,6()520723/()7 )URQW7HHWK Girl Talk Ears to See, Eyes to Hear Koh!rea Hyerin Park ‘14 GLJLWDOSKRWRJUDSK\
BY MARI MIYOSHI
I am a concerned citizen on this topic of death and regeneration but for now I do not speak with deads or regenerates. Memories and smells of memories of Sayumi make me queasy but I love the heaving nostalgia that throws me on the deck of that week seven years ago. I sit criss-‐cross on the basement floor for hours smelling the faded perfume that was new and chemical when she sprayed it on the pages of her trivialities. Yesterday that smell intruded like a dreamface into my sanitized 7-‐11 reality. I was stealing lube but it was still in hand when the smell broke in, sauntered forward in an ostentatious scarf for this blanketing humidity/ excuse me, what is that scent/ I thought ‘scent’ was sophisticated, more appropriate than ‘stench’ but either my voice caught on the rough lining of my throat and I was echoed only my reverberating brain or the scarfed stench refused to regard a woman who could not properly lubricate. Mostly when I speak, it is to prove to my voice: I exist.
or that whole week seven years ago it seemed that my tables and surfaces were slanted so that I would sit and the mugs and Tabasco and shoyu and bank statements would slide towards me even when I pushed them away. I was seasick that week because my older sister had written in her diary that she had no conception of what she looked like; that her face in the mirror was only a huge black sucking mouth from daydream terror. I was an avid reader of Sayumi’s diary. Like our paranoid slinking cat I spent all day peeking at the opposition in the mirror. My face rolled in greens and yellows but overwhelmingly I could not command it to invert into slippery consuming blackness and share torment with my sister. Later, drunk, and now, sober, the distended shifting portrait of someone else’s horror left me bored with Sayumi’s angst. It was another tepid achievement of childhood fantasy—too simple, like tasting Turkish Delight and finding in it no dust of White Witch magic, only powdered sugar. So my sister isn’t crazy, was never as brilliant as crazy, but she is dead, essentially, as in her essential aspects have been rubbed off or coughed up or decomposed and elements recycled from gin and chewed plastic pen tips have filled her cells and made her reflection more bearable. When she visits now she wears sundresses and bounces baby cousins and talks about ‘The City’ as if there’s only one.
Sayumi’s flowery musky gardenia diaries are full of shit, shit massaged in tight circles into thin paper and sprayed over with perfume. I only ever gulped her shit because I find no pleasure in angst pre-‐packaged and her fits of melancholy madness spilled into sentences like: it took me sitting here bare bottom to a wooden chair, battling time, to believe what those troubled holographic boys had been: all shattering wrist watches to prove the non-existence of late, all running into time like a wall of floured dough, bouncing back unscathed, all swallowing lead and sinking to the bottom of the hourglass, vomiting, rising again or and i got to thinking that actually skin doesn’t matter that biker went right through the metal of the Honda and popped out again like a drop of water can go into water and then come out unchanged I never speak respectfully about the dead because it isn’t productive. But fuck, images aren’t sticking anymore. I would flush the pages down the toilet or burn them on the shore but Sayumi isn’t my high school love betrayal and there is nothing to commemorate. Fuck this beautifyl madness she’s, we’re all, lying waiting for our diaries to be discovered so all these attempts to clarify are only posturing, and embalming our souls for the afterlife: greatness.
Mari Miyoshi ‘12 has a box of diaries in her basement.
TOP: &KLOGUHQRI%RPED\ 5LD0LUFKDQGDQLµ GLJLWDOSKRWRJUDSK\
fragrant flame BY TIFFANY PHU
%27720 Love Sometimes Looks Like 7KLVLQ6LQJDSRUH .DL+HUQJ/RKµ GLJLWDOSKRWRJUDSK\
: joss sticks
If smell is the one most strongly linked to memory, then we burn this to highlight everything that is the changing of life’s seasons. We are at the temple today. My daughter stands hesitantly besides me, though she has been here many times. Although I know that the joss stick is the same type that I buy from the small shop in Chinatown, this one somehow smells more acridly pungent. I take a deep breath, and it is the spices that get me. Somehow the edge of this scent reminds me of how worn and weathered your hands were, wrinkled against the smooth crispness of the hospital bed. I gently insert the red end into the mixture of earth and ashes of that which burned before we came. My mother’s name stands on a slip of paper tacked amidst the many, a stamp: once, she was here too. We are at the temple today. Gray tendrils gather in the air and I almost choke, but I learned long ago to breathe the smoke as if the memory of those before was all I ever inhaled. It stings to line my lungs with this after my health class in high school, but I desperately am okay with this. Focusing on the light wood of this smell makes it easier, and I think about all the plants my parents breathed life into after seeing so many ends. The joss stick slowly disappears. Who will be here when it is only ash? I look at my mother. For the first time, I take one, and ignite it with the flame she lit. Tiffany Phu ‘14 is waiting at the place between sleep and awake. 49
Faces 3DPHOD=KDQJ5,6'Âľ ink, Â digital
the family larry au â€˜14 would like to count the moons with you. celia chung, risd â€˜13 likes to start the day with a nice cup of green tea.
james eng â€˜14 refuses to believe that tofu is elusive. mary fei â€˜14 places a pretty pink bow in her hair. carol kim â€˜15 is pursuing the trail of ellipsis points. stephanie kim â€˜12 is an incomplete thought. sue kwon, risd â€˜14 has nothing to say. leslie lee, risd â€˜14 is designing a new 11th digit. katherine ng â€˜14 has approximated her life with coffee spoons. christina pan â€˜13 wandered like a cloud. sharon sun â€˜14 sleeps soundly. winnie wang â€˜14 wants to burn the mona lisa. margaret yi â€˜12 is revisiting memories.
untitled annie swihart, risd â€˜13 digital
pastiche leslie lee, risd '14 mixed media
Carbs of Gold Stephanie Teo ‘12 oil, gold leaf, cloth on canvas
VISIONS brown/risd envisioning and building a stronger asian/asian-american community interested in joining visions or submitting your work? please contact: email@example.com