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volume xii, issue ii visions

a brown/risd art & literary publication 01 envisioning and building a stronger asian/asian american community

spring 2011 masks nati hyojin kim ’13 mixed media

Letter from the Editors

spring 2011, volume xii, issue ii


Spring always brings new beginnings, and this particular spring heralds the rebirth of VISIONS under the direction of a new set of editors. This year also marks VISIONS’ twelfth anniversary as a forum for the Asian and Asian American communities at Brown and RISD, and we are proud to see how much VISIONS has grown, as a publication and as a community, since its beginnings in 2000. At the same time, we are excited to take VISIONS in fresh new directions as we move into the future. Yet no matter what changes VISIONS has undergone and will undergo, we will always remain a forum for the rich and diverse perspectives within and surrounding the Brown and RISD Asian/Asian American community. With the exception of Stella, we (Susie, Viv, Ayoosh, and Katherine) are taking on our responsibilities as editors for the first time, and we are beyond thrilled to grow in our roles along with VISIONS and bring our ever-expanding community a publication that can match its astonishing evolution. We hope you stay with us to witness (and contribute to!) the new directions in which VISIONS will grow, both at Brown and RISD, so that even when we are gone, VISIONS can continue to be the forum of a flourishing community of writers, artists, poets, and thinkers. Of course, we could not do any of what we do without our E-Board, which is a diverse and creative group, ranging from the Class of 2014 to 2012 and representing a variety of interests and cultural backgrounds. Their ideas and voices have been incredibly important in the realization of this issue and the continued growth of the magazine. As a group, we cannot wait to see where the magazine will go—and how far we can take it! We would like to thank Dean Kisa Takesue for her continued support of VISIONS. As the founder of VISIONS in 2000, she has supported VISIONS throughout its evolution, and we are grateful for her dedication to the magazine and to our community. We would also like to thank the Third World Center and RISD’s Asian Cultural Association for their cooperation in helping us build a passionate Asian/Asian American community here in Providence. Most of all, we want to thank everyone who is a part of VISIONS. Your experiences, and your willingness to share them with us, form the fundamental core of our magazine and of the community we hope to empower. Thank you, readers, contributors, and supporters, for your hard work and dedication! Now, we invite you to join us in Envisioning and Building a Stronger Asian/Asian American Community. Peace & Love,

susie, vivian, ayoosh, stella,


& katherine 03

spring 2011


Table of Contents publicity

Editorial Board editor-in-chief

susie ahn ’13

art & photography editor

stella chung ’13

layout & design editor

katherine ng ’14

managing editors

ayoosh pareek ’12 vivian truong ’12

cover designer

katherine ng ’14

panpan song ’12 margaret yi ’12

39 untitled

freshman representative

Poetry & Prose

larry au ’14


ai-tram bui ’14


06 a story in    three parts

stephanie kim ’12

risd representatives

celia chung, risd ’13 michelle mao, risd ’13

   kenji morimoto

copy editors

11 inari

christina pan ’13 sharon sun ’14

08 parable

   vyvy trinh

40 reflections on    hiroshima    terry kho

42 son of the father    marc briz

45 chopin 2

   panpan song

46 what our wings look    like    vivian truong

   fatimah asghar

brown graphic services

16 lingcang school no. 4    cecilia springer

19 ang aking ina (my    mother)

angela ko, risd ’13

   david menino

22 unfoundedly we fear    the capacity for    kat lee

24 sewer woman    paul tran

28 untitled

The Third World Center Kisa Takesue, Director of the Stephen Robert Campus Center The Office of Student Life Undergraduate Finance Board The risd Asian Cultural Association Ann Hall Contributors and staff

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.

   nati hyojin kim

07 skin deep    xin xin

10 winter in vrindavan,    india

   juhee kwon

34 “better city–better life”

Mission Statement

02 masks

   robin yoojin rhee

   kai huang

   tiffany t. chen

36 stages of a hypothetical    romance    ayoosh pareek

38 attack fish is past the     point of no return    serena putterman

38 the cake that never    materialized    serena putterman

26 still life -- the gourds    mary yining shao

27 raining light

   jiayang lee

30 exploring the beach    ai-tram bui

35 new beginnings

   takeru nagayoshi

38 an evolution timeline    ashley adams

39 da sola nella villa

   luna chen

43 father

   dan chinh nguyen

44 history repeated

   fatimah asghar

45 do not cross


32 miseducation revisited

A Very Special Thanks To

Art & Photography

   jessica tsai

31 pendulum

   mary yining shao

41 functionality of light    and form

12 engram


26 still life -- the glass

   kristy huey

   jason beckman

cover art


   alex alonso

13 away

15 shepherding the    children    clifton yeo

17 a boy in suzhou    allison peck

18 self-portrait    celia chung

   larry au

46 andrew with korean    flowers    angela ko

49 mollendo

   anna yuan-mei    gaissert

50 coy | koi

   adela wu

51 interior

   stephanie teo

51 aged

   jian shen tan

52 the humans meet the    cave hamsters    charis loke

21 chirag dilli

   avnee jetley

23 the american way    alex toyoshima

25 drive by photography,    kathmandu    han sheng chia


spring 2011

visions a story in three parts by kenji morimoto

i. myths In the depths of Demeter’s throne lies a land lush. Harvests emerge with refreshing tides, altering organic processes of erosion, and retreat back into the unknown. This unknown is the topic of interest. Like sediment, that constant question, that itching rumor, that heavy secret, persists. Be it the force of nature’s gravity or man’s ingenuity, we push further, just deep enough to inhale the sea of everlasting spring, but not so deep that we see the shadow of Persephone. This distance is constrained by love and a mother’s anguish, and this unknown is better left untouched: left to its own devices and fate—well that too, better left untouched. Such is a dream delayed, forever forgotten. ii. on you I get lost in your eyes. I know the routine, the actions, and I do it all. I cock my head ever-so-slightly as your lips move and then click: a cylindrical free fall where the little white rabbit is just out of reach, and silence. I bask in this silence, since this monotonous humdrum is only audible to the observer. On the contrary, a pounding pulse and cardiac murmurs produce a cacophonous orchestra for just the two of us. Our hands are warm, cupping chipped porcelain teacups. We look up at each other and time pauses, much like those cliche moments in romantic comedies and yet, when I reflect on those moments, the surroundings remain a blur of anonymity. We gulp, sip, and pause. Gulp, sip, and pause. Every gulp, sip—reawakens those green tea leaves, spiraling life and vigor into that lifeless fleck. With each movement, a microcosm of cause and effect instantaneously appear with ripples splashing against the teacup’s rim. Sip. There is an empty void inherent in wilted tea leaves. Their original integrity is lost and only fragments of life remain. If you look carefully at the folded crevices and bending, almost translucent, nature of the over-boiled, over-steeped, pushed-tothe-point-of-no-return tea leaves, you may notice a visible vein. Only the larger tea leaves are fortunate enough to have this mark, once its sole bloodline for nutrients and potential and its direct connection to a land so lush. They exist as ruins now. Pause. iii. (still) untitled It’s a quarter to 9pm and dark is the night. My dorm room window is cracked open and gushes of air ebb and flow from the trees. Dreams of deciduous oak, broad-leaved birch, and sugar maple permeate that sweet air, pungent with whispers of Wampanoag and Narragansett legends that no longer touch lips. A potpourri of nightingale love songs and insipid cicada buzzing crash on the shores of my solitude servitude of cinderblock and plaster encasements. Dew drops to the hollow, meditative, calm of the night. In order to break the silence and the artificial comfort of fluorescent lighting, I open my window and stare into the darkness. It appears too dark to distinguish the man made landscape from nature’s playground. But my eyes quickly adjust to my new world, while a sea of green engulfs me. Organic shades of purity are re-birthed. Snapshots of sepia remembrances awaken and things left unsaid are (finally) said. And with a voice, now stronger, I yell to the sea of green.

skin deep xin xin, risd ’12 gouache

I am still waiting for an answer.

kenji morimoto ’11 can already taste the impending monsoon, dense with masala and the hollow beats of the tabla.



spring 2011 spring 2011

visions visions

Parable In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was nothingness. Terrified of darkness, God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. Astounded by the power of his raw will, God made waters. And sky. And he thought up trees and fruit, and there was everything and there was morning, the third day. It was on this day that God learned that there was such a thing as too much light. The life he had created was beautiful only in its newness and rarity. And so though it hurt him terribly to be in darkness again, he created night—though now a paler night, with a glowing orb he called the moon and all its wild, silver disciples called stars. When it was day again, God discovered the fantastic possibility of motion. It was serendipity; he had been admiring the stars when suddenly one of the million burst away from its place, cascading across the blackness and exploding in a shower of wet fire. Delighted, God was inspired to make birds. Thousands of birds to mimic that shooting star. After the birds came the cows and horses and pigs and cats and dogs and even aardvarks. He set them upon their worlds of grass and desert, and he loved them. But he soon learned that they were not his. Once he had made them, they became their own, for as soon as they were born they forgot their maker completely. They could not begin to understand God and could only spend their time on earth surviving in their worlds of grass and desert. Full of longing, God said, “I will make one last creature. He will be like me.” But then he thought of something he feared and so corrected himself: “He will be like me—without my divinity, omnipotence, omniscience, immortality…” Here’s a list of things that humankind did inherit from God: his fear of darkness, his fear of aloneness, his fallibility, his curiosity, his hope, his desire to create, his thirst to perfect, his ambition, his pride. When God had finished making the human, his sorrow overwhelmed him. He was now closer than ever before to creating something with whom he could be one, but he had erred once again. Somehow in the process, perhaps in making the distinctions between God and man, he had created a creature that wanted God but did not understand him. God felt loved for the first time, but he realized he would never be understood. And so, with his newest creation before him, he chose to put his own loneliness aside and do the most he could, which was to make it so that this human would not feel his own monstrous aloneness. He made woman. It turned out that this was a terrible mistake. God granted man the equal that he himself could never have. As time (something else God created when he discovered that he rather enjoyed motion) passed, his generosity wavered, 08

by vyvy trinh sometimes blurring with perverse envy. One day, when the man and woman were in each other’s arms speaking in low whispers with their honeyed voices, God, in a jealous rage of his own creations, fabricated some fantastic conflict involving a legless animal, some fruit, and nakedness. In this messy, spiteful event, he condemned the man and the woman to be deeply unhappy. “I’ll make humankind in my likeness,” he said bitterly. Maybe it was then that the woman and the man, who now had to bind each other to the mortal labels of “Eve” and “Adam” because they could no longer understand each other with their souls and had to do so with their minds, felt they would never again know peace and so fell in love with the idea of it. Or maybe it was later, upon the first murder in the world. God did not foresee this fact when he created life and when he created time: that if time must be infinite, life must be finite. The effect of time wearing on and on is that it wears life away and away. And so there must be decay, and so there must ultimately be death. This was one basic difference between man and God: the former feared death, but the latter did not. Death. There were soon two men called Cain and Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. Cain, whose occupation was growing things in the ground, knew one sure fact about life: it sure was hard to create it. Some time passed, and one day there was a tremendous misunderstanding. Somehow, it occurred to these brothers that they should offer some gifts to God, the thing they loved but did not understand. Because the gorgeous and faraway sun, moon, and stars could be found in the sky, they’d always guessed God was in the sky, too, and so climbed to a hill to place their gifts. Abel brought a lamb, and Cain brought some fruit. The next day, the lamb was gone (of course it was; it had run down the hill and away to the river), but the fruit was still there. Cain thought God had accepted only Abel’s gift. Overwhelmed with jealousy, he killed his brother in one fell stroke. And now he knew one more sure fact about life: it sure was easy to destroy it. And Cain felt a new emotion: brokenness. He cried like the rain. And fell in love with peace, which his soul would never know.

There were times when God was overcome with regret for having created time. “If only I had been satisfied with a single moment of life—a still tree, a stationary moon!” he cried. “But as stars and birds, all the world moves now, and I’m too tired too control it all!” God’s remorse never lasted long, however; all he had to do was watch the commotion unfolding below him for a moment, and even through the murder and the sin and the betrayal of him, time really was such a lovely magic. Indeed, his creations had grown. Where there was once a single man there were now hundreds of populations, which had each in their own way learned to use the corner of his earth on which they stood, had grown to interpret their piece of his precious sky in their own fashion. Having lost their ability to speak with the burgeoning silence of their souls long ago in the fall of the so-called “Adam” and “Eve,” the people created languages, crafted sounds with their tongues and throats and lips, noises whose utterance were preserved by their inscription in clay, in stone, in ink, and eventually in type. Caves became huts became apartments became skyscrapers. Quarrels so quickly became organized into war. Without fail, as soon as a man discovered a new gift of the earth—a valley offering the fruits of her fertile womb to feed the sheep and the children; a river brimming with silver fish; a beautiful woman with full breasts and a dark curtain of hair—he aimed to own it and to profit from it, within the span of a single breath. It was among the earliest generations of man that rape was born, then land-ownership, then slavery, then usury, then war. No sooner was a tool created for hunting or farming than it was refashioned into a weapon. Every time a war cry was bellowed in God’s name, men apotheosizing their declarations of power with battle screams radiating into the night, God could hear the cracking of his own heart. He never wanted this. He never meant for this. But he knew better than to interfere anymore; once, a while ago, he had furiously decided he was done, through with these stupid and bloodthirsty and impossible creatures. He created a gigantic flood to kill them all and was determined to put this all behind him. But at the last minute he had hastily saved one man on an enormous ark because he knew in the heart within his heart he didn’t hate man at all. In fact, he loved him. In fact, he was God’s greatest weakness. Spices, gold, Jerusalem, oil, sex: these were a few of the things that drove men thirsty and blind with greed and power. But on any given sundown, on evenings when God needed to remind himself of love, all he had to do was peek into the home of any mother rocking her child to sleep with a lullaby. He would spy the smile dancing across her eyes, the serenity washing across the baby’s closed lips as she fell asleep to the soft vibrations of her mother’s voice humming in her breast, the simple miracle of what he had created—life that could beget life, love that could beget love. There were times, too, when God caught the whiff of a boy falling in love with someone, another boy or a girl, and still being innocent enough to not want to touch her, to not want to own her, but only to cherish her and pray that she knew how perfect she was, how miraculous. In these instances, too, God cautiously

allowed himself to rejoice; how marvelous it was to see a human being able to love the way he himself could love— truly without self. And the peacemakers. The freedom fighters. They, too, gave him reason to believe in his art. There was one man whose mysterious origins were celebrated among many as the virgin-born child of God himself; he was an extraordinarily kind man and extraordinarily in love with peace. God let himself love this one more deeply than he should have, and this boy—Jesus, they called him—had the strength to accept the love he felt pouring into him from the heavens. With it, he spoke with the lonely and bettered the ill and told wise tales. He was the closest any human had ever come to understanding God. And then one day the others killed him. On a crucifix. God was never quite the same. But still. In the mothers, the young lovers, the freedom fighters—in their whispered prayers that revealed, shining and naked in the moonlight, their yearning for him, God was placated. Through them God was reminded that although his fragile creations may never understand him, some still craved him, remembering not him but the imprint of him like the sweet tail-end of a forgotten dream. To these souls, and to these alone, God granted, if just for a moment, that long-elusive peace, which they had so fallen in love with the minute they were thrust from the womb and into this garish light of day, wailing for him. In a village somewhere, a mother finishes whispering prayers over her baby and returns to bed, where just as she is drifting off to sleep she feels a warmth enveloping her, beginning at her forehead as though someone has just laid a gentle kiss upon it, and radiating down toward her fingertips, toward her chest where it glows hot like a flame. She won’t tell anyone, but in the morning she will swear she heard a voice in her ear, so familiar somehow, saying simply, I am here.

vyvy trinh ’11 is a proud member of the graduating class of 46 Preston.

09 09

spring 2011


Inari by jason beckman

winter in vrindavan india jessica tsai, risd ’11 digital photography

stone steps heavy with history barely feel the rub of rubber sneakers with specks of culture caught up in sole-side ridges he steals like that a peculiar sort of thievery slipping between light rays trickling through canopy sway into the torii corridor of some forest god’s realm never has he entered a place so many times or exited he wonders which you’ll never get there (kitsune whispers) you’re just passing through he figures it’d be fitting to walk on the outside for a while crumples thoughts of human representations of infinity in leaves forgotten to their branches

he wonders of a footstep if there’s any mass to it or if his trespasses too light for a thousand years to feel he listens for whispers. Peering out from the thick of trees the forest deity eyes him, tries to wrap him up in tanka but the words are not enough, so scribbles a fragment into gravestone 池のほとりにいる薄い影 映った自分を探し こだました空を眺める [Thin shadow at pond’s edge peers into an echoed sky searching for his reflection]

footsteps climb, hymning through the autumn woodland spirits watch on at a boy with shabby sneakers passing through Inari’s kitsune-eyes quizzical goddess, what are you doing upon that human’s feet? Nike shrugging answers in perfect American I dunno that’s just kinda how things are I guess.

jason beckman ’11 is no more than a whisper, now. 10


spring 2011

visions visions

Engram by fatimah asghar

Engram: Noun. the etymology of a memory. a blueprint impression permeating throughout the cortex example 1. rewinding

Setting: Cerebral Cortex studies show flaws in the human brain: details fading, minds rewind memory tracks on loopdy-loop playback trails filling in gaps with fiction, pretend story facts believed with conviction away robin yoojin rhee, risd ’13 digital photography

(but, in reality all truths need a liar’s tongue to tell them, well, truthfully) example 2. to the world Setting: Providence, RI we are friends just friends handholding friends handholding sleepover friends handholding sleepover go-on-date-sometimes friends handholding sleepover go-on-date-sometimes let me tell you how much I love you friends handholding sleepover go-on-date-sometimes let me tell you how much I love you I get mad when you talk to other boys friends just friends just friends example 3. if I could live in sandcastles Setting: wherever I find him in an eatery one day he says if he could go to a deserted island any deserted island any deserted island in the whole world the one thing he would bring is me I guess I am a ‘thing’ now


the next day we awake, washed up on my bed a sheet of sand draped across our bodies sea salt crusted around the bend of my ears my room’s blue posters are the sea mahogany desk, our ship pen and pencil compasses, hand drawn maps and together, we have found this island every day is an adventure in this ocean and I am queen of this sandcastle example 4. waiting games Setting: Providence, RI my friend my just friend is no longer talking to me got mad at a party (grievances: I flirt too much with other boys, am too handholding) my just handholding sleepover friend is mad at me dear friend, from now on I am keeping my hands to myself. (and you. just you.) promise. pinky promise.


spring 2011


to occupy the time I play with my toy shovel make another wing in my sandcastle wait for my handholding sleepover I love you friend to come back a week of no talking later he tells me about another girl but fati, he says but fati we have always. just. been. friends example 6. rupture Setting: everywhere, his absence thumpthumpthumpthump heart bombs blasting crumpling sandcastle everything too hot without cover pretend to be Queen but this sea is lonely with a throne of one example 7. rewinding revisited Setting: Cerebral Cortex days pass I am in a perpetual state of fog blurry outline stories, miscalculated facts, gaps in dates hard to tell if truth started this story when lies ended it or whose truths are more important, mine or his we have just become a shriveled up blueprint no one wants to see anymore shame this boy is still stuck in my throat drumming his Morse code harmony in my esophagus letting the world know we are just friends just friends

shepherding the children clifton yeo ’14 digital photography

just. friends.

fatimah asghar ’11 is counting time. 14


spring 2011


Lincang school no. 4 by cecilia springer

when i was trying for validation in the ash-coated alleys of Lincang prefecture, Yunnan province, i adopted the life of an ascetic and a dreamer. at the end of the village, made of the first generation of metal, where the tin petered out in coils along the road, fields of corn and osmanthus sprang up, and sometimes windy afternoons. just beyond the farm fields, a hill, and on the hill, my house, where every morning i would wake up to a bowl of jasmine rice and walk eight miles to school; where every night i would fall asleep in my clothes, clutching dry Western books which slowly wore down into incensed dust. in Lincang, Yunnan, there is a hill, a plain grass hill, and on the northern face of the hill, geodorum eulophodes, a swan-necked orchid that won’t be found anywhere else in the world. when i left Yunnan and returned home i found myself rich, and every night i got drunk on dreams of places i have never been. all dreams may or may not come true. this is what i taught the children at the school in Lincang, where i never lived the life of an ascetic or a dreamer, but may someday. i don’t want a big car in a blank, mechanical future. i will be the quaint figure walking on the highway every morning. here, i would give my skin, my teeth, my plastic-cleaned blood, my worthless bananas and mangoes and sequoia-wood to turn the soil of my little land in the little forest with my little hands.

a boy in suzhou allison peck ’11 digital photography

cecilia springer ’11 is chronically indecisive. 16


spring 2011


Ang Aking Ina (My Mother) by david menino Disclaimer: Most of this essay was written a year ago. Thus, I feel that I owe it to my mother (due to the personal information in this piece) to say that we have had some progress in our relationship since then. If I remember correctly, I was hiding under the dining room table. I was around five years old, and my mother was throwing a fit about my sister wanting to sleep over at a friend’s house. She went into my sister’s room and started throwing her clothes out of the drawer as she yelled, “If you don’t want to live here anymore, go, you don’t have to!” At such a young age, I didn’t really know what to make of this. Crouching under the table, all I felt was an incredible amount of fear of the consequences of disobedience. Amidst the tears and outbursts, that was when I decided I had to keep secrets from my mother. Born into a Catholic family, my mother was one of eight children—all of whom were named by my grandfather. Under his dominance, my mother and her siblings were shaped through strict obedience. Aside from an occasional harsh remark here and there, she never fought or disobeyed. And naturally, under such conditions, my mother bonded with her siblings—I suppose they had to, for in poverty, especially in the Philippines, nothing was more important than family. At a young age, everyone did hands-on labor, doing whatever they could for money: washing their neighbors’ dishes, farming and selling fruits and vegetables, making clothes for friends. They grew up learning how to survive.

self-portrait celia chung, risd ’13 acrylic

“She was a dedicated student,” says my grandmother, as her experienced, delicate hands chopped taro into cubes for tonight’s ginataan—my mother’s favorite. “She was even a Girl Scout.” Living in the Philippines, education seemed to be the only way to a better life. “If you don’t have a good education, David, you’ll end up on the streets,” preached my mother, in another “life-guiding” lecture of hers. It seemed like every moment she got, she told these kinds of things to my sisters and me. In the car on the ride home, or when she was eating lunch alone after work in the dining room, she tried her best to press her beliefs onto us: her belief in the importance of finding a good (and by good, she meant $80K+ per year) job; exceeding in school; finding a compatible spouse, not only in terms of social class, but also in regards to financial and educational levels. Possessing a high-standard social identity was of the utmost importance to her. There were moments in my childhood when I didn’t feel so restricted—where my mother wouldn’t try so hard to control us. There were times when driving in the car meant


going to McDonald’s to get a Happy Meal on the way home while helping her sing her favorite Madonna song. There were times when meetings in the dining room turned into plans to go swimming together at the local Olympic pool. There were times when she didn’t worry so much about all the mistakes that we were capable of making, all the hardships that we could potentially go through. She would always try to encourage us to lead easy lives, to never have the childhood that she had to experience. Ironically, however, my mother takes an incredible amount of pride in the demanding, physical labor she undergoes. “I want to be able to give you everything,” says my mother, holding onto my arm for balance as she walks from her car to the front door of our house. Her work has taken a toll on her body—she no longer walks, she hobbles. But still, she continues. Whenever I went to her workplace and people became aware that I was her son, their faces would light up in delight with an, “Oh! You’re her son,” and they would say something in praise of my mother like, “Your mother is a very hard worker,” or, “Your mother is very generous.” I knew that she did some nice things, but actually hearing people comment on her kindness and dedication gave me a different experience. It was almost as if she was a different person at work, someone that had been absent in my life: a friend. “My babies, mommy’s home!” yells my mother in a high-pitched voice to our two pet dogs as she comes in from work. With a light grunt of exhaustion, she bends over to pet them and have her hands coated with dog-kisses. She talks to them as if they were her own children, but she doesn’t try to constrain them with warnings of fear and danger. She then prepares some pinakbet and adobo in the microwave, hobbles to the dining room table, and eats her afternoon lunch in solitude. Periodically, I would catch my mother gazing out the dining room window at the view of the Pacific Ocean from our house on the hill. Her eyes were slightly squinted against the bright, inviting sunlight that illuminated her face and revealed just how aged and worn she really looked. At these times, I would wonder what she was thinking about: Was she thinking about which days to work over-time? Was she thinking about her role as a mother? Was she thinking about whether or not she was a good one? I never could completely tell, but every time I walked into the room her face would greet me cheerfully, as if to beg for a conversation. And I would just walk away, knowing what the encounter would lead to: her 19

spring 2011 imposing her beliefs on me, and me lying to her about my friends, my lifestyle, my choices. The dream of financial stability and social acceptance was something that my mother tried to instill in her children; it was a way she tried to guarantee that we, according to her standards, would succeed in life. But I wasn’t sure whether or not I could live like that. I wanted something different. With her, making choices that involved potentially compromising our chances of “success” were out of the question. There was no room for taking chances, no room to feel the rush of risk. The first time I told a guy that I liked him was in sophomore year of high school. He was a senior and was going to graduate in a couple of days. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see him again—when students leave the island to go to college, it’s a big deal. Sick and tired of never taking risks when it came to my feelings for another person, I had decided to face this challenge and conquer my insecurities. I didn’t even know what I was thinking, because I had already known that he was heterosexual. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to let him know how I felt, regardless of the consequences. And on an overcast day in late May, I pulled him aside after class and did just that. “How was your day at school?” asked my mother, as I dragged my feet and flustered spirit into the car. It felt like my body was going to explode. I was full of anxiousness, yes, but at the same time I was incredibly proud. I had just confessed my feelings for another human being—or, more accurately, I had taken the risk of reaching out when my desired outcome was nearly, if not fully, impossible. Sitting there in the car, I soon became distraught. What would she think of what I had just done? What would she think of what I considered (and still do, to this day) to be an amazing feat of personal self-discovery? Would she praise me the same way she did when I showed her a report card full of straight A’s? In our relationship, I had learned to find connection in sharing my achievements with my mother— but this was one that I knew I could not share. In what way would she find what I did beneficial to my future? To my social image? “It was fine,” I dully replied, as I forced myself to divert my stare outside the side window. I didn’t want her to see my face. After the fragile silence of the ride home, I walked out of the car into the house, and after rejecting yet another invitation to eat lunch with her, silently cried in my room.

visions Whether it was threatening us with the possibility of our getting kidnapped if we didn’t lock the door, getting beaten up and mugged if we walked alone at night, or, (my favorite) getting raped if we stayed out too late, my mother used her ways to try and shelter us from any and all potential dangers. In her early twenties, my mother promised herself never to marry a Filipino man. She didn’t want to suffer like the Filipina women she knew: most of them were beaten and treated poorly by their drunk, jobless Filipino husbands. “That’s the man for me,” said my mother to my grandmother upon meeting my father. An American Caucasian visiting the Philippines on vacation, my mother and father met through friends, and wrote to each other for two years after my father went back home to Hawaii. Eventually my father returned to the Philippines to ask my grandfather for permission to marry my mother and took her back with him to Hawaii. “I didn’t want to teach you and your sisters how to speak Tagalog because I was afraid that you wouldn’t understand what was going on in class,” says my mother. Moving to Hawaii, marrying an American man, gaining an American citizenship: my mother laid out plans for us to succeed early on. She wanted us to succeed so much more than she was ever able to that she was willing to sacrifice her heritage, her language, in order for us to do so. My mother sacrificed so much for us when we were growing up—and she still continues to. She did everything in her power to make sure we survived, even if it meant having to give up our trust, honesty and friendship. But now that my sisters and I are making progress on obtaining the kind of independence and freedom that we longed for, who is my mother to become? What person is she, then—having no one to sacrifice for anymore? As the dynamics of our relationship change, maybe there is a chance to develop a new kind of relationship with her—the one we never had. Maybe this is my opportunity to reach out and connect to her with the same degree of risk and uncertainty that was present on that day in May. I know things between us will never be completely resolved, but if we could at least reach some kind of agreement between the life she wants for me, and the life I want for myself, then that’s all I can ask for. And maybe I will no longer feel the need to keep secrets from her.

chirag dilli avnee jetley, risd ’13 photography

“She didn’t want to let us go,” says my oldest sister, Khristina. “It was like we were on lock-down. She would never let me go to the mall with my friends, she wouldn’t let me sleep over at my friend’s house—I didn’t have my first sleepover until I was in 8th grade.” “Mom? Can I please sleep over at Jessica’s house?” asked my second oldest sister, Dhonna. “No!” yelled my mother. “They might rape you!” “Oh, okay,” said Dhonna, too young at the time to understand what the word meant. 20

david menino ’12 likes to pretend that he’s the one you really want to grow old with. 21

spring 2011


unfoundedly we fear the capacity for by kat lee We ended up promising the air from our lungs. We invoked the disastrous; we worked in a textiles manufacturing company in São Paolo. We attempted to anoint ourselves with palm oil generously obectized and coasted on modified starch. We startled. We picked our teeth. We were where wheat flour contains wheat. We claimed emulsified guts, dorsal sockets, half-dried comforters and Frenchmen struck through with soy sauce. It was our way of getting our calcium in that obesogenic community without blowing the agent standing dark glasses in hand, in pockets, in a crossing guard vest and crossing. We were conducting ourselves on a day that may or may not have celebrated the half-life of the General Attorney. A moment, s’il vous plait. The gluten of our world organic compels the riboflavin in our bloodstreams. We eat the singular potato. We cross our toes. We feel without breaking the infinitesimal weight of the sparrow egg and our mortality extract(ed) from beefbone sarcophagi. Powder our lower eyelashes, salt our words. We succinate our souls from the soda fountain decked in an onion core; green, the maltodextrinic odor yeasting from a game of housechildmother of four, 4, 14, 15 with child and the dog (potassium carbonate, sodium carbonate) two, disodium on second thought; we sugar our observations against the best intentions of the economists. The cuttlefish lies dormant within us. It palpitates through but does not stir the abnormalities spaced between our kelp forests. Inherent and intricate, oleoresin creation requires only the prompting of maple sap and deep sea anglers to fire the shot at our tongues’ starting gates. Synthesis is but the revelation between a child’s carnival caramel, wild mushrooms, and horsetail bristle. Everything the arborous amour tapped directly into was the body in place of glucose. Man lives on anticipation alone and the occasional foray into carrot culture. We America the corn fields, soybean&fish the seas; our generation indiscriminates between black and redyellow and brown unless in the case of pepper. Circles form for liberty and a view for every household. Egalitarian garlic, we would be sitting on picnic blankets unable to breathe, sink, or know. Pilfered, the cuttlefish opens. The utterance of our names releases the color paste and calcium from our bones. We pay our debt in pocket change, dying of osteoporosis before our 30th birthdays.

the american way alex toyoshima ’11 oil on canvas

kat lee ’13 happens. 22


spring 2011 spring 2011


my mother was a sewer woman. drove down from the topside by tanks and burning flesh she tied raven wings to her throat talons scratching at the insides where she kept her baited breath and borrowed promises to crawl up from the tunnels running down her back, an atlas sewn into her skin it remembers the taste of nighttime of the midsummer’s heat that rose from the asphalt and stung like a baby’s venom when he fucked her like cowhide left metal hangers at her bedside a mobile of scorpion bones and said, “you dirty bitch. get rid of that ugly thing inside you”

Sewer Woman by paul tran

nobody told her that love is never any better than the lover that this free man’s love would only chain her up and leave her but my mother was a sewer woman ghosts without skin stuck their fingers in her and found scorpion blood on the walls of her uterus “this house is haunted,” they said “where did this ugly come from?” “somebody tell me where all this ugly came from” “i heard it’s a bastard baby” “bad blood” “killed its own daddy” those topsiders lived with fear of her wove angry words with their spider tongues “that thing inside you is devil made” “ravens live in the branches of its lungs” i can hear their wings rising like thunder in me black skies venom deep it’s a poison i’m familiar with death was a skipped meal compared to this his hands left her bed held down my wings “shh. do what daddy says” her eyes avoided mine when i asked her “mama, where did you learn how to speak the language of nighttime?” “baby, it’s a lesson we learn when we lie on our backs,” she said “when we close our eyes. no looking back,” she said “when we feel hollow inside with his teeth on our backs,” she said “when he spreads out our thighs and the world turns black,” she said my mother was a sewer woman she was a woman and is a woman still came out from the shadows with ravens in her throat tethered down by chains they rattled like untold stories in her she taught me that love is never any better than the lover that with the red in between my scorpion fingers i could imagine a world after nighttime no hangers at her bedside she knows this beauty inside her is paradise and said “baby, where did you learn how to fly?” 24

drive by photography, kathmandu han sheng chia ’14 digital photography

paul tran ’14 will one day learn how to swim. 25

spring 2011


still life — the glass mary yining shao, risd ’14 charcoal

still life — the gourds mary yining shao, risd ’14 oil on canvas


Raining Light jiayang lee, risd ’14 sumi-ink and acrylic


spring 2011



flowing through my hands. I am trying to grasp them but they’re too far out of reach. Or is it stupid writer’s block keeping me from writing what’s really on my mind? No. The truth is... I’m scared.

by archipelag-a

patricia santos, elaine tamargo, natalie villacorta & robin ulep

Before I spoke these words, I wrote them down. But why did I write them? Am I just afraid to say these words out loud? But after twenty-one years, don’t I have a story to tell? Because my thoughts are jumbled in my head? Honestly, I had nothing better to do. Or maybe I just do it for you. I’m not sure why I write, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be here. There would be silence and an empty stage. So you ask me, “Why write?” *** FML. FML. FML. Fuck… my life. I’m blank today guys. I don’t have jack shit to write. Today I have no wise words to offer you that can ignite your passion or inspire you. What in the world could I possibly say to make you understand all the infinite intricacies in the way I scribble my life journey along this page Or try to paint you a portrait of some emo-tion-al-ly tortured soul who drags out every syl-la-ble, whose words can, may, seem ir-ra-tion-al but still can make you tremble Make you question Make you see Make you feel—Make you believe? No. No, I can’t do that. I can’t do any of it. So, why do I write? *** Before I spoke these words I wrote them down, Every line painstakingly pulled from the mess of my mind My words forced into the shape of a poem … I search and search for something to say Lost in the wilderness of words, I forget why I went for a walk on the page ***

Things to do: wash dishes—check, take out trash—check, do laundry—check, write poem— Writing, you have become a chore, you are the dishes piled up in the sink, greasy pots pans and poems. You are garbage, stinky socks and sweat-stained stanzas, bras panties and pages from my journal, A toilet that needs scrubbing, flushed down word waste. I check items off my list: change my sheets, fold my clothes, take out the trash but writing, I leave you for last. Writing, you are necessary, and you deserve more of my time. I’ve pushed you to the bottom of my list when once you were what I looked forward to, a time to let go of my tight grip on life. You ask me for slow mornings by the window and late nights by lamp light Yet I squeeze you into uninspired hours so when I finally do write it’s just another mess to be cleaned up. So why should I write? *** Before I spoke these words I wrote them down But too much to do, no time to put pen to paper Writing squeezed between study and sleep, Juice my thoughts onto the page My thoughts imprisoned within the lines Between front and back covers Words once written, now trapped

I’m scared to write down a part of me: Because you’ll judge the pages I ripped out when that dreamy blonde boy in middle school picked up my pencil and ripped out my heart five minutes later when he threw a spitball on my desk. Because you’ll disapprove of my secrets locked away—that damsel-in-distress, college-girl pre-med who’s way too stressed, wishing that I dress part of me inside your pages. Because you won’t accept that I am just NOT the diary-type. I wrote for myself—turn a page unravel a memory, But memories trapped lose life. Today, I still don’t keep a diary. So why do I write? *** Before I spoke these words I wrote them down My legacies and inadequacies, My histories and mysteries In a way, I was too scared To simply write To simply speak To simply share To let these words take flight

from broken hearts, flaws, and failures, measure up to these lofty ideals? Well, my quest still continues, but I know that I have her words and her words guiding me along the way. And so this is why I write. *** Before we spoke these words, we wrote them down. Each week we come together to write Words, the threads that sew our lives together Because even though I’ve made a mess of my words, I don’t keep a diary, I can’t share my words, The sum of our words break through these obstacles Because her words guide my hand to write (all I never thought to say) Because her ending is my beginning (all I wanted but forgot to say) Because her words inspire my words (all I needed the courage to say) Because her words, inspire my words, inspire my words Inspire our words.

*** So why do I write? Because to this day, after more than three years, x number of performances, and how many different stages, a part of me is still downright terrified. Terrified that this time, the twisted knots of bright lights and countless lines will intertwine in such a way—Trip me up like the clumsy girl I really am.


And I’m not talking about public speaking in general But these are the incomplete sentences, and incomplete thoughts, Not yet ready to be said straight out loud. Written on a millimeter-thick, paper-thin shield from the world’s criticisms, That only the truly brave or truly foolish would ever be able to share.

Dear Diary, It’s me, Robin. We meet again. Hoping you are the solution to a resolution I break every year. Except this time, this on-again off-again relationship is going to be different. I don’t know where I should start—how to fill up your fresh pages with the familiar memories from my past

So even worse than a fool, I thought myself an impostor Claiming rights to concepts I didn’t fully comprehend. “Proud” was a word for the vocal, And “strong” reserved for those of an iron will. “Independent”? Not exactly a way to describe me… How could my phrases so carelessly crafted, Words spun

  archipelag-a is a sisterhood born from a kinship of words. 28


spring 2011


Pendulum I imagine life to be a hand-drawn function, f(x) on the intersection of two axes—not of variables x and y, but rather of time and place. We each begin from our origin at (0,0). My own two axes crossed on the Korean peninsula, a solid black dot marking my point of origin, from which I would leave and to which I would return—again and again. Born in a small hospital down the street from my grandparent’s house, I lived in the overlapping comforts of my family, their customs, and a sense of permanence for seven years. My first word was mul, which means water in Korean—possibly a foreshadowing of the all-too-frequent trips I would soon be taking over the Pacific Ocean. My family’s spiraling path across the axes began in 1999 with our relocation to Texas, followed shortly by our return to Korea in 2000. For the following nine years, I was stretched over the Pacific Ocean, with one part of me in the frigid -20°F winters of Minnesota and the other part gazing up at the monstrous concrete city of Seoul, Korea. I was familiar with both, but never complete enough in one place to leave the other. After the first departure from the point of origin, the tendency to keep moving further and further away takes very little effort. One gains a sense of complacency in the new present. The true difficulty lies in finding the will to break from the line headed for infinity and to return to the point of origin, a move that is accompanied by an odd sense of alienation in a place that was once called home. I was always a reluctant mover. I hated being pulled out by the roots and dumped in some new place. With each departure and return, I found myself lost in the layers of the past. To preserve my dual identity in my familiar but foreign settings, I allowed myself to remember.

Exploring the Beach ai-tram bui ’14 pastel

My mother calls it a hoarding habit, disapproving of the box of memorabilia in the corner of my closet. My past memories are carefully separated from my current life. Though the box is always covered, bits of its contents always manage to spill out of the corners—nearly twenty years of my life, unwilling to be contained in a single moving box. I dig through the contents often, each time pulling back another layer of the past and holding in my hands the only tangible pieces of my memories: this is how I remember. The box does not hold the well-worn memories I always speak of, but pieces of memorabilia that spark the forgotten past: a five-page “Learn to Read” book from first grade, hand-made cards from my 9th birthday, a rusty friendship necklace still packaged, my dad’s post-it list of things to do, my college acceptance letters, a dried rose bouquet. The contents never collect dust; I never let them.

by juhee kwon Up until a point, I used to block out the past with each move, but the moves became too frequent, and the divide between past and present began to blur. I have now learned to relish the memories that are sometimes triggered by the simplest of senses. The Marlboro cigarette smoke hanging in the air reminds me of my grandfather, middle school memories flood my mind at the sight of a school uniform, and as simple a thing as a family Christmas photo on the fridge at a friend’s house may be enough to recall another long chain of memories. Instead of cutting them short, I let them run their full course. My mother, however, cleanly wipes away the things that have been. She cleans the house weekly, if not daily, and does not lack the audacity to throw away what I would have carefully slipped into my hoarding box. I have never been allowed to drive a nail into the wall to hang up a frame, nor have I been permitted to paint my room a non-neutral color—nothing of a permanent nature. My mother frequently likes to hit the reset button, as if to deny the past its existence. Instead, she remembers through her hands and tongue—the precise cuts she makes in the squid with her knife, the swiftness of her hands when she makes kimchi, and the familiarity of her tongue with the exact ratio of salt and sugar in the marinating sauces. When she begins to cook, she remembers how Texas had cheap beef stew ingredients or when she made the kimchi so spicy that it made my dad cry. She casually recalls the past with each chop of the knife against the cutting board. When dinner is done, she carefully tight-seals her memories in Ziploc bags and begins to clean once more. I have rarely met people returning to past homes. Often the gap between reality and past memories becomes too expansive to bridge. However, all who do return cope with their most difficult dilemma—the extent to which their past identities will reach into and influence their present identities. In a constantly changing world, one must eventually identify a changeless entity that will be able to hold all the fragments of the past and present together—maybe a stuffed box of memorabilia or the simple act of cooking. Only when the past finds its place in the present can we step back and perceive the work of art that life has sketched—the pendulum movements of leaving and returning between two worlds, creating a softly shaded crescent across the pages.

juhee kwon ’14 is waiting for the pendulum

to swing again.



spring 2011


Miseducation Revisited by kai huang The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is arguably the greatest eighty minutes in the history of human sound. Sixteen brilliant hip hop and R&B songs are presented. Interspersed between these songs are segments of dialogue featuring poet and educator Ras Baraka speaking to a group of young schoolchildren about the concept of love. Many questions are posed. Many answers are provided. Question: “How many people know any songs about love?” Question: “What about any movies about love?” Question: “Okay, how many people here have ever been in love? I know none of the guys gon’ raise they hand because we don’t get in love, right?” Question: “You said you love somebody, you should know why you love them, right?” Question: “Hey, we got some very intelligent women in here, man. Do you think you’re too young to really love somebody?” Question: “Do you think the TV and the music and all that has something to do with why people are so confused about love?” Question: “What do you think about love? Come on.” Answer: “Well… love is just a feeling… It’s just when you like someone and you wanna fall in love with them… and you just hope that they feel the same way like you do, towards them.” Or when reciprocity is possibly the only thing sustaining me, when you are painting me on the canvas of your flesh with the red-orange hue of nearness. I am fearless in those moments. My dearest, when we are closest and the scent of rainbow sweat is fresh on my fingertips, the wetness reminds me that there are portraits of you waiting to dry off in the frame of my palm. I am gone. Answer: “The way they act. The way they carry theyself. Stuff like that.” Answer: “And they just stand out. It’s like sometimes it don’t even matter like what they wearin’ or what they look like, it’s like… that one. You know? You know that you wanna talk to him because he stands out. It’s like he got a glow or somethin’.” Know it’s something remarkable when part of you shimmers across the darkness of the solar system and I can’t help but reflect you. I am your moon, of course I respect you. The space I am next to is empty, so send me as much warmth as you can fathom. Satellites depend on mutual attraction. I’ll revolve around you till your center collapses. Ashes to ashes.

Answer: “Yes.” Question: “Why?” Answer: “Because today, we watch a lot of TV and we listen to a lot of music and what sounds right may not always be right for you.” But if it’s alright with you, I’ll write for you until the page bleeds blue because this stage needs you to stand upon it and scream phoenix into the radio towers of Earth until every ear on every skull reverberates with the realization of what you are worth. I know that fewer ideas have ever seemed sillier, but they will sing to you of beauty and it will sound so familiar. Answer: “No.” Question: “Let’s take it from me, if I’m a adult, I say wait, you’re too young to be in love, this is silly, you’re infatuated with him, he got nice jeans, he wear fancy Adidas, I mean, it might be something, I don’t know.” Answer: “It’s a difference from loving somebody and being in love with somebody.” Question: “Well, you tell me. What’s the difference?” Answer: “You could love anybody, but when you in love with somebody, you lookin’ at it like this: you takin’ that person for what he or she is no matter what he or she look like or no matter what he or she do.” Speak truth, little sunflower! Seeds are sown in the soil for several reasons, but once they sprout, there is little we can do but harvest. Autumn has started and that means it’s time to get our fingers dirty with the picking of our battles, saddles up, riding headlong into the sunset, living happily ever after except that the story isn’t done yet, except that this story is never done yet. One gets the impression that it’s something important. One gets the impression that Lauryn. Lauryn Hill was onto something, I think. I must have listened to The Miseducation fifty times through by now and whenever a poet asks me a question about love, my answers are still no better than those provided by young schoolchildren. Thank you, God, for a feeling such as this.

kai huang ’11 is arguably the best salad chopper in jo’s history. but i don’t know why they trust me with a knife.



spring 2011 spring 2011


I. 1998 Pupal Shanghai: Nascent skyscrapers cocooned in green debris nets Workers pack plastic bottles in walls Squat on the concrete floor cracked rice bowl in hand yellowed playing cards Hopping on rickety bicycles Pedaling home— more bare walls jammed with trash.

“Better City–Better Life” by tiffany t. chen

new beginnings takeru nagayoshi ’14 digital photography

Back to wives swaddled in pajamas under their aprons Stir-frying potato shreds with scallion ribbons After a day of soap opera gossip and mahjong with the neighbors. II. 2010 The Oriental Pearl skylines through the windows of a suite At the Pliant Butterfly whose walls are full of trash A tourist digests stir-fried potatoes with Qingdao beer and a Pliant Butterfly giggling Whose mother dreams swathed in blankets After a day of soap opera mahjong and gossip of a wealthy Western son-in-law

tiffany t. chen ’13 likes grasshoppers best. 34


spring 2011


Stages of a Hypothetical Romance by ayoosh pareek

I wonder sometimes if you wonder, why I am not there, where you are. Never learned the difference between love and in love, hand holding and holding hands, joking around and being a joker, or even losing and losing it. Is it too stupid of me to cut off my ear for you, like Van Gogh, even though we are strangers? Thoughts of you are trains heading towards one another [without brakes]. I have so many questions for you, One: Do you like bendy straws? I can fill the air with this nonsense, hoping you breathe me in a little. Because when we are in the same room [even at opposite corners] I find myself unable to breathe. This is our heat of fusion; what do we really need to combine, like sugar cubes melting in the warm tea? Writing this down without saying much, like: I think of you like I think of open flames, warm if you’re close, leaving burns if too close, resembling amber destruction.

Sometimes I watch you speak and [while I cannot hear a word] I smile inside. There is nothing better than seeing you under an umbrella trying to kiss the rain. There is this question mark silence. All I can do is wonder [like owls perched on snowy branches at 3 am] if it is too late to ask you to stay a while. Rush towards me, fire following the oil. Sometimes, when we stare [at each other] the hair on my arms, stand up. Jump starting my heart like two electrodes [connecting the ends of the universe]. Whisper darling, we are generating the currents powering the stars. Will I get the chance to lay down next to you? And hold you like God holds his planets, saying, “This is the best one yet. This is the best one yet.” There is nothing else like when we whispered. The space between us was filled with sounds of firecrackers [and their light, too]. I have burns on my hands from touching certain people, and I do not know if they will heal. We are swaying like bottles hanging from roofs clanking together, making sounds of trains pulling into the station far too late.

Did you know Your eyes curve down when you smile? I call them moon eyes. Because I stare at the moon, sometimes, and wonder, if it’s your eyes looking back

I can smell the sweetness of your breath, even now, miles away, like tigers, at night, on the hunt. I will speak of you like a natural disaster— you were magnificent, no one saw you coming, and I still wonder where you went with my things. I bet you my breath in a hot air balloon, and let go of the string. Do not spill red onto me.

And sometimes, I wonder, why I am not there where you are.

this is what I should have said I can tell you I have the globe on a string [and that Maya Angelou thinks of you when writing poetry]. So I tug real hard, all child-like, until the ends snap cleanly, throwing it against the wall. I want to you show you, that you are earth shattering. And even though we have only met once, I can see us hanging from leaves, like mating dragonflies, nibbling on the atmosphere. Your words are filling up homes, flood waters washing away the furniture. Holding knees in your hands, I want to tell you, I’m sorry. I did not know you were coming, or else I would have cleaned up.

why not mine?

Thoughts of you are still trains waiting to collide.

ayoosh pareek ’12 finds it a little awkward meeting strangers he has written poems about. 36


spring 2011


I am lying pale chest bare in the sun. She is swimming towards me, looking like some kind of stupid goddess. Phrases have long ago begun to get that certain copyright feel, that stamp: Ours, not to mention its creepy cousin, We. That label, used slowly at first, only when needed. Gains momentum with each laugh laughed into her shoulder blades. Ways we do things, routines, the works. My wrist expects her grip when I walk hand pocketed down the sidewalk. I am an attack fish, I tell her over and over, diving to bite her ankles in the cool water. I invent voices for this, and practice them in the car. I enjoy being compared to the obnoxious boys she babysat. I’m out to prove myself irresistible, childish charms and all.

Attack Fish Is Past the Point of No Return

da sola nella villa kristy huey, risd ’12 digital photography

by serena putterman

Among her friends I am referred to as The Kid.

An Evolution Timeline ashley adams ’12 digital photography

The Cake That Never Materialized by serena putterman

Athena tells me she will bake me a cake when the girl, who at this point I am apparently in love with, leaves.

パタパタと 蝶は舞うよ 夏のサンバ

Possible factors in the cake: Athena knows what love feels like, Athena is an empathetic person, Athena thinks I like cake a lot, the cake is some sort of metaphor or symbol.

Pattering, butterflies dance – a summer samba.

Possible factors in the love: The dinosaur t-shirt the girl wears to bed, she says xie xie when I hand her the spatula, the way she will dress up only for me, she is sadder than I am.

serena putterman ’12 believes a loving heart is a work of art. 38

by alex alonso

alex alonso ’13 is partly sunny with a chance of snow. 39

spring 2011

Behind the glass there lies a face Darkling twisted in fright, in love, That burns and peels Pink skin, pus yellow One face of many faces I will see but never meet, Because they are gone Not dead, just gone Their bodies reshaped, reborn As molecules in the earth


Reflections On Hiroshima

by terry kho

Was it really only a few decades ago That the atom bomb of Hiroshima Vaporized wooden homes, schools, people Left imprints on the ground like dust swept from corners Shadows of bodies running, sitting, living, aching where they had lain Sweating, their pores open to the air, the hot morning sun Steady, eyes peering up at the white plane in the blue sky and the white object Falling downward, like a bird in descent, an egret shot out of the sky. In the black and white movie of my mind time slows and coalesces to a single point where conversation halts, people pause in mid-motion, and there is a silence in the air like the waiting before a gong is struck, before a gun is fired, because I imagine there to be a significance in the second before, the millisecond before, the picoseconds before        Light exists        travelling radially outward to be burned onto flesh, onto the retinas of people on the ground, and sound exists like a roar that shakes the ground in tremors that crucify concrete buildings and the people within. Once the Lord said let there be and there was, but it was a light of a different sort, of umber and incandescence where this light was chemical, the result of fissile material carried by a metal capsule imploding into itself in a vessel constructed and wrought and forged in the name of science, in the name of peace, to create light that blighted and broke and blemished the land till    nothing was left Only darkness But the darkness cleared and People were left People and ashes were left Nothing but ashes and people were left, Their skins burnt black from the radiation Their tongues parched, their faces swollen Faces that remained among the remains of a people that had populated a city that was part of a country that was part of a continent that was part of a world we are all a part of, although we forget because it is easier that way. It is easier to forget what words mean, what war and suffering and pain mean than to imagine A girl left to burn alive because her mother could not pull her from beneath their home Their house burning from the white thing in the sky, The smoke seeping into her chest, her lungs, the grit and dirt beneath her fingernails as she Clenches and unclenches her fists to dispel the fear in her muscles, nerves, blood, The flames and heat oh so close until they sear her legs, her back, her arms Her mother running, falling to the ground in silence a few yards away from their home, remembers Her daughter’s voice say ‘Go’, over and over, over the multitudes of voices that surround her, Enfold her, engulf her, until they gradually ebb away and it becomes the only sound she hears, This plaintive cry, long into the night, that echoes, persists, in the many years to come Functionality of Light and Form luna chen, risd ’13 black & white photography

terry kho ’12 is both human and dancer. 40


spring 2011


Son of the Father

by marc briz

Well, thank God he’s here. Needs to start hearing some English.

He has the family chin! Oh, yes. Look at that cleft. It’s right there.

No, he isn’t small. Quite large. A big boy. –All the men in the family have it. He’s gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.

And with dark features. No, none of that inky hair—a masculine oak color.

A picture! Oh, where’s the camera?

Hush, dear! That’s simply inappropriate.

No. I don’t have it. Well, maybe with the cell phone.

I only met her once, but she was still speaking in a mess of vowels.

But I just have to pick this little boy up first. I’m sure they’ll have the baby visit often—he has to be reminded of where he’s from.

My my my what do they feed you!

He won’t stick out if we make sure he’s got the proper accent.

Too young for all that rice and fish right? The cell is buzzing! Who is it now? Where’s that button?

A little sun would do him good too. Oh, hi Meredith. I’m with my nephew! The baby. Yes, Meredith, yes. Yes, they’re visiting from abroad. Don’t have much time with him.

They met all the way over there and got married in a second.

Gotta eat him all up now. You know, he has the chin!

Now, this.

Yes. The eyes too. Little.

Oh, he’s crying Meredith.

But, you have to see this jaw. What a little man.

Okay, honey. Okay, talk to you later.

I’ve been trying to take a picture. It just hasn’t been working.

Shh. Shh. No fussy face babe.

No, the mom isn’t here. She had to stay over there and work.

You’re better than that.

I don’t know.

You got your papa’s genes. Yes, you’re all right amen.

Father dan chinh nguyen ’14 digital photography

marc briz ’14 needs a teleportation machine please. 42


spring 2011


Do Not Cross larry au ’14 digital photography

History Repeated fatimah asghar ’11 digital photography



spring 2011 2011 spring


Chopin 2

(After Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl”) by panpan song

Andrew with korean Flowers angela ko, risd ’13 pen, markers on paper

Whatever you do do not listen to the others, the ones just before yours; wear earplugs, wear mittens, left hand here: bow, two seconds; adjust bench, ten seconds; one breath in: there is your orchestra, there is your audience, there the fortissimo, fermata, legato; you know that Chopin wrote this before he was twenty-one, he was twenty years old and in let’s call it love – this exposition to development to recapitulation; hear the A-theme surface clear, like bells, like glass; hear the trill into the five/seven-one cadence; hear the strings swelling to meet the resolution in F; this is where your memory slipped once in practice; this is where you heard your teacher’s red pencil on your music, circling a sforzando, a subito, inserting a diminuendo, drawing out a phrase here, a rubato there, writing in a pedal, a hold, a shh; this is where someone knocked at the door and you looked up and then finished the run into E-flat: now anticipate the key change, the deceptive cadence, the modulation into C minor; now close your eyes so for a second you can see the music swimming over the insides of your pounding eyelids; think what was that note, the one dynamic marking; now you are caught in a one-line lament: stretto, sostenuto, sotto voce (and the clarity, always); then crescendo/ accelerando to the finale, appassionato and con forza and coda like a small sweet afterthought: hold your breath, hands there above the last ringing chord, two inches, only for show; you knew didn’t you that Chopin wrote this before he was twenty-one years old and out of let’s say love?

panpan song ‘12 is playing pretend. 46


spring 2011

what our wings look like


by vivian truong

what our wings look like little girl’s got her brother and her two boy cousins she’s got this basketball pounded into concrete so often that the orange gave up and peeled off and this glorious court where out-of-bounds means the street the stairs and anything past that big crack in the concrete over there so maybe she cries and screams at the top of her lungs when andy steals the ball from her and maybe she’s still too short to get it back from him as he holds it above his head and watches her jump for it

don’t go down there it’s dirty and there’s nothing for you to play with it’s just where your uncle keeps his supplies for work don’t go down there we don’t want you steeping in the ache that settles in his bones and crowds the wrinkles around his eyes when he comes home at night with gray sweatshirt and faded jeans stained with paint

but she’s got a point to prove and she’s going to make them believe she’s just as good as any of them

don’t go down there you might breathe in working class immigrant shame inhale the dust of empty diplomas and catch echoes of what kind of medicine do you learn in those gook schools anyway

they’re playing baseball now with a plastic mcnugget happy meal toy and a bat with blue foam peeling off the sides and it’s her turn at the plate she stands knees bent butt out hands high over her head

but despite warnings they still decide to sit among wallpaper rolls and paint cans with colored drips frozen to the sides

just like derek jeter she thinks maybe if he was 4’3” still went to elementary school and had pink hello kitty clips in waist-long black hair plastic mcnugget hurtles toward her she swings and misses three times but that’s okay ‘cause they go to the corner store afterwards and buy italian ices that’ll dye their lips red and melt all over their hands in the late summer sun they sneak into the dusty basement room secret hideout where their parents have warned them

budding men and woman one day they will grow up to hoard secrets from their parents and every time they return home they will find that door frames and hallways have grown a little bit smaller one day she will pick an empty box of cigarettes out of the trashcan look over her shoulder at her brother and back down at this cardboard tombstone of their childhood remembering how he held onto her handlebars when she first got her training wheels off and when she’s crying nonstop into his shoulder she will wonder why the smallest things can break her one day they will meet people who ask them if they wish they had grown up normally with summer camp and swimming pools and grassy lawns and they will say that they wouldn’t have changed a thing

Mollendo anna yuan-mei gaissert ’13.5 digital photography

one day they will struggle out of their cocoons and when they unfurl they might find that their wings are stained with paint and made out of wallpaper but they’ll be damned if anyone thinks they’re not good enough to fly too but for now they just sit in a row with paper cups flat wooden spoons and

syrupy sixty-five cent sweetness leaking down their forearms in this room kicking up the secret dust of old dreams ground to powder and they make it rise               rise          it they make

vivian truong ’12 misses walking through evening rainstorms in Chợ Lớn for steaming bowls of

hủ tiếu mì.



spring 2011


E-board Bios susie ahn ’13 is a work in progress. larry au ’14 writes with spell check off. ai-tram bui ’14 loves getting lost in the spring rain. celia chung, risd ’13 hopes to finish the 2000piece puzzle that’s sitting in her living room by the end of this semester! stella chung ’13 craves dirty smocks, rough paper, and color. stephanie kim ’12 loves everything about spring. katherine ng ’14 is keeping her fingers and toes crossed. ayoosh pareek ’12 is the back porch poet, with his book of rhymes, always open knowing all the time he’s never going to find the perfect rhyme for ‘heavier things’. panpan song ’12 is what’s left. vivian truong ’12 is always late to everything. margaret yi ’12 eats her salad with chopsticks from time to time.



Interior spring 2011 stephanie teo ’12 oil on canvas


visions | Brown/RISD

Aged jian shen tan ’15 oil on canvas

The Humans Meet the Cave Hamsters charis loke, risd ’13 acrylic

52visions | Brown/RISD


spring 2011

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of VISIONS' advisor, editors, or sponsors. 54

SPRING 2011  

Volume XII Issue II

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