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Fall 2009


Volume XI


Issue I

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Letter From the Editors If VISIONS were a person, it would be entering that awkward phase of prepubescent adolescence that we have all tried to put behind us. Now in its eleventh year, it would be sporting colored braces in junior high while trying to avoid eighth graders in the school yard. Fortunately, VISIONS is, as it has always been over the years, a publication dedicated to providing an open forum for Asians and Asian Americans and celebrating the diversity of the Asian/Asian American experience. In other words, VISIONS never went to junior high and, in that respect, is luckier than any one of its editors. VISIONS seeks to empower the Asian/Asian American community at Brown and RISD by giving it a voice, something the dominant discourse has historically denied us. By speaking about our Asian American experiences, we seek to expand the definition of the American experience to include our own, while celebrating the many histories that brought us here. By speaking in our diverse forms of Asian/Asian American English, we seek to combat our image as the perpetual foreigner. And by speaking out as a single voice, we support a unified movement toward eradicating the forces that have silenced us in the past. Today, VISIONS continues to grow. Our circulation has expanded beyond just Brown’s campus to include RISD’s as well. We provide an outlet and a voice to an increasingly larger and stronger community. We feel fortunate to have been a part of the growth and development of VISIONS, and we look forward to continuing to serve our community. Before long, we’ll be staying up late waiting for VISIONS to come back home from its first date. We couldn’t be prouder.

cooperation in building a stronger Asian/Asian American community in Providence. Most of all, we want to thank everyone who is a part of VISIONS, especially our hard-working eboard, contributors, and readers. Now, we invite you all to join us in Envisioning and Building a Stronger Asian/Asian American Community.

Peace & Love, Eric, Franny, Alex, and Kenji

We would like to thank Dean Kisa Takesue for her continued support and dedication to VISIONS. We would also like to thank the Third World Center and RISD’s Asian Cultural Association for their



Editorial Board editor-in-chief  Eric Lee ’10 layout editor  Franny Choi ’11 art & photography editor  Alex Toyoshima ’11 managing editor  Kenji Morimoto ’11 copy editors  Luna Chen ’13, Stella Chung ’13, Courtney Clark ’11, Kathy Do ’12, Jiwon Kim ’12, Alexander Rothman ’10, Jennifer Tan ’11, Clay Thibodeaux ’12

layout staff  Luna Chen ’13, Stella Chung ’13, Jiwon Kim ’12, Margi Kim ’13, Yukiko Kunitomo ’12, Manasa Reddy ’12, Panpan Song ’12, Maggie Yi ’12, Tabitha Yong ’13

cover designer  Alex Toyoshima ’11 front cover photography  Rosemary Le ’13 back cover Image  Yukiko Kunitomo ’12 illustrators  Alex Toyoshima ’11, Franny Choi ’11

a very special thanks to The Third World Center Kisa Takesue, Associate Dean of Student Life Undergraduate Finance Board The RISD Asian Cultural Association Ann Hall, Brown Graphic Services Melanie Chow ’11 Yue Pang ’11 All our contributors and staff

mission statement publicity   Panpan Song ’12, Vivian Truong ’12 risd outreach  Debbie Lai ’12 webmaster  Jihan Chao ’10 networking  Margaret Yi ’12 advisor  Dean Kisa Takesue sponsor  The Office of Student Life printer   Brown Graphic Services


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.

prose & poetry Ten-Finger Salute, Tim Natividad woman, Vivian Truong fennel seed, Franny Choi The Power of Hyphenated Identities, Sreeparna Chattopadhyay Letter Home, Camellia Lee department of social services encounters fruit flies, Fatimah Asghar Garbage Soup, Talia Wong Language Study, Cecilia Springer Chopsticks, Diana Huang Dumplings, Lei Ma A startling account of origins: documentation provided by non-corporeal beings, Joanne Wang Feast for the Souls, Shanna Han-Chi Hsu the fuck it list: things to do before you live, Kai Huang Hotel Congress (Excerpt), John Kwok A Poem in My Pocket, War War Flora Ko Bananas and Twinkies, Tiffany T. Chen Home, Truly, Corrie Tan Our Lives as Artists, Kalau Almony

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Table of Contents art & photography 4 7 9 11 14 15 17 20 26 29 30 34 37 38 42 43 45 46

El Dinosaurio Estaba Allí , Xin Xin * On Guard In The North, DMZ, Edy Yin Driftwood, Karynn Ikeda Motherland, Cherilyn Vy Vy Tran Blank-American, Sonia Kim Desert Scene, Devon Cupery Tap Water Impression, Ling Zhou Practice makes perfection of art and propaganda, Children’s Place, P’yongyang, Edy Yin Echo 5:05pm Boston Harbor (42° 22’ N 71° 2’ W)  2009, Yu-Wen Wu Camel Lips, Alex Toyoshima Compulsion, Prakriti Thami Father, Taiyang Sunny Chen * Playtime?, Lily Chan Lady Depression, Charis Loke Cecil On My Mind, Tiffany Chan Mommy, do you love me?, Robyn Ng * Sirens, Marie Tanaka Breathe, Brenda Zhang Noah’s Ark, Hyun Jin Yoo * Tree Buildings, Stephanie Teo Dawn, Jiwon Kim Starbust, Michelle Lee *

a 5 6 8 10 13 16 21 22 24 25 27 28 33 35 36 39 41 42 44 47 b

* Submission from RISD



Ten -finger salute  

by tim Natividad

Everything starts with a fist, solid as a rock. 1 finger for the idea 2 for the barrel of the pistol one more for a triggered thumb bang bullet like a prayer 4 for a white belt karate chop, fighting something in the air you can’t see 5 just to open up the palm bulls-eye in the center tomorrow is the nail yesterday is the hammer Now, put the two hands together. God’s voice sheltered in between the wind the wet air the broken houses in Luzon Father’s story Lee Harvey Oswald’s first breath the dot of the i in “born in the year of” the hyphen on your epitaph and whatever pin-hole sized percentage of His whisper that leaks through the holes on the backs of your hands are what I see every day.

Tim Natividad ’12 never goes to bed mad. He stays up and fights.


on guard in the north, dmz

Edy Yin ’11 digital photography


visions driftwood

Karynn Ikeda ’10 digital photography


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by vivian truong

  i.  black haired and it was falling everywhere he was breathing it into my mouth and it was falling everywhere i said sorry and i brushed it back he said don’t be i love it it’s— has anyone ever told you you’re—

  iii.  white bellied i didn’t let him lift up my dress that night was dark like the warmth between his thighs i just wanted to believe that this was some solid pathway to some shining place where he would tell me what i have never been able to believe myself that i am— that i am—

  ii.  bronze armed his palms rubbing against my forearms embroidered the thin hairs into verse but i have never been able to connect the constellations of eczema on my spotted legs to spell—

  iv.  brown eyed i waded in deeper and deeper and i realized that it was it was just water it was just light it was not enough to walk on walk on walk on

Vivian Truong ’12 splits the city wind.


visions motherland Cherilyn Vy Vy Tran ’11 digital photography


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Fennel seed 

by franny choi

schoolyard ching chong pidgin, we at the korean church had our own version. koong-hoocoo-lee lip smack jokes that have widened and brightened over the months to include sweet names of you at ten years old, secret warm places they’ve forgotten. you say: look at this verb, this ideograph that’s done somersaults from the classical and can speak to girls & geese now, your verbs sparkling into sentences and you marvel. talk about sorghum, late-night dumplings, tall thin beers for five kuai, pot-bellied uyghurs and broken statuettes. china will always be an else to me but it’s how you breathe, so i’m learning to mark the taste. blow the smoke into my ear, i’ll chew it like a fennel seed. for now it’s still gristle & glass shard//needle-shred//boat-jolter//syllables, but through you the edges have grown warmer—you, holding the pinyin in your mouth like hot cinnamon barley, you rock these fightin’ words to sleep, baby. i’m learning to love these sounds cause you cradle them into sunrise jitters, weave them into sticky rice hammocks, crunch them into sesame and ginger orange peel school bus secrets.

Franny Choi ’11 dedicates every poem, joke, and Tsing Tao to him.



blank-american Sonia Kim ’11 digital photography


For the longest time that I can remember, I have been an immigrant, a ‘prabashi’ in my native Bengali. My grandparents came from Bangladesh to India in 1947, during the partition of what was then the enormous state of India composed of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even after moving to India, they continued to speak in their village dialect, especially when among their own, and were periodically consumed by bouts of nostalgia for the village where their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years—for the sweet smell of her earth, the fresh fish from her ponds, the golden paddy fields and for the warmth of their kin. My parents, originally born in West Bengal, moved around the country when I was growing up and consequently I lived in different parts of the country, speaking different languages, eating the local food, and making friends who spoke a language completely different from my own. I have always had one foot in the world of my Bengali parents and another in the chaotic and cosmopolitan world of Bombay, a city where I spent the bulk of my life. You would not be wrong in saying that growing up in the same country, although in a different part, is not the same thing as being born and raised in a country different from one’s ethnic heritage; however, in many parts of the world where regional identities are strong and people are multilingual, the cultural differences across different parts of the same country are not insignificant. I first left India 9 years ago to pursue graduate education at Brown. I immediately felt welcomed, both within the institution as well as in America, and, during the course of my stay in the U.S., I had started believing in the possibility that one day I might become Asian American. The American state left open the possibility of expressing one’s own ethnic identity along with being a full-fledged citizen of the country. Everywhere I looked, I saw people comfortable with hyphenated identities, relaxed in their own skins and successfully negotiating their parents’ or grandparents’ cultural heritage with their American selves. This is not to say that race is an uncomplicated matter in America; far from it. However, as the recent presidential election has demonstrated, being a person of color does not preclude one

by Sreeparna Chattopadhyay

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The Power of Hyphenated Identities from holding the highest office in the country. In some ways, it is perhaps a vindication of the belief that being non-white may no longer carry the burden of having to prove one’s loyalty to the country over and beyond what is expected of the white majority. The model of assimilation in the UK, where I have been living for nearly the last 2 years, is very different from the American model. There is no consensus around who is British or what it means to be British. Unsettlingly, this vacuum has lent itself to far-right and racist interpretations of being British. Parties like the British Nationalist Party (BNP) limit membership to only those who are fully “white” British or Scottish. While this party carries marginal weight as a political entity in the country, and may have no real chance of forming a government in the upcoming general elections, it has managed to secure a few seats in the European Parliament and is now demanding to be given a platform to air its manifesto. I have been thinking about me and my family and if we want to make our lives in a country where a certain, increasingly vociferous section of the population does not want ‘outsiders’ like us in their country. That is a discussion for another day; however, what I find fascinating as an anthropologist is the discussion of who is a native and what bonds a country together. What does it mean to be American? Thanksgiving, apple pie, a common shared pursuit of a better life, a country where dreams do come true, and a country that, for generations, has been populated by the children of immigrants from all over the world. However, it is difficult for me to list things that characterize Britain, since Britain is distinct from the UK in that it does not include Northern Ireland and being British subsumes within it the identities of Britain’s Welsh and Scottish citizenry. There’s no such term as Scottish British or Welsh British. Some might say that the Queen, as the head of the state, could be the glue that binds the country together; I, as a child of an ex-colony of the British Empire, would take strong objections to that. Besides, there are plenty of natives who would voice opinions similar to my own. Conversations with my British friends have taken fairly uncomfortable turns in the past when I have pestered them


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for an answer of what it would take for someone to " what I find fascinating as an anthropologist become British. They did list some items: speaking the language, i.e., English (not Welsh or Scottish), is the discussion of who is a native engaging as a citizen and believing in the democratic and what bonds a country together. " process. But this did not seem to be a satisfactory answer, and among the educated middle-classes here there seems to be a resistance towards being too Asians carry the boon as well as the burden associated with being overtly nationalistic. There appears to be a fuzzy notion of what a ‘model minority.’ In the UK the term ‘model minority’ does not it means to be British, but the trouble with this image is that it exist. And to be fair, the term is oppressive and offensive as well frequently does not articulate that perhaps being British is, after as an impediment to building a transracial consciousness with all, synonymous with being Anglo-Saxon. If there is no consensus Latino, Black and Indian communities. Even so, if the popular view around what constitutes Britishness, there can hardly be any of Asians, especially south Asians, is that of a server or a cabbie, the agreement on what constitutes being British Asian or British conflation of race with class cannot be far from your thoughts. African or British Caribbean! Race is no longer the glue important for social cohesion in a Though I would very much like to conclude that being class structure that is more fluid. While statistically the disparity British is untenable with being non-white, certain contradictions between the richest and the poorest might be higher in the within the country do not allow me to do so. The UK has a very U.S. than in the UK, everyone aspires to be middle-class in the well-defined policy of encouraging multiculturalism—civil issues U.S. A dear friend of mine told me during my first semester at such as marriages, adoptions and annulments are open to being Brown, “in the U.S., everyone will tell you they are middle-class.” regulated by heads of respective religions. I have seen many Despite its problems, America is still a country that is welcoming more people in their ethnic clothes (particularly from the subof its immigrants and periodically needs only a gentle nudge to continent) in London than I have seen in New York. British people be reminded of its genesis and the critical role that immigrants love curry as much as they love fish and chips and are very have played in making it as successful as it is today. I treasure my familiar with cultures of the east, not in small part due to their years in America, the warmth I received from her people, and the roles as colonialists in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The British ease with which I was accepted into its melting pot of cultures, army still has soldiers from Fiji and Gurkhas from Nepal fighting ethnicities, religions and identities. the war in Afghanistan. However, Britain continues to be a society that is extremely stratified by class. The dominance of hereditary titles such as Lord and Baroness, and the prestige associated with them, proves to be a real barrier in elevating aspirations. Frankly, while I can imagine encouraging my child to be a successful software guru or a celebrity chef, I cannot imagine prepping her to be a Baroness. At the risk of oversimplifying the problem, part of my unease with being an Asian woman in Britain is connected with the extreme hierarchy I have observed in British society as well as with the popular image of the Asian person in Britain. When I first came to the U.S., I realized what it meant to be a minority, both in practical terms and also in political terms. In India, while I was Sreeparna Chattopadhyay PhD ’07 is a social scientist and lives in a linguistic minority in Bombay, I was not classified as a minority Norwich, UK. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, by the government due to my caste and religion. In the U.S., and taking walks in the countryside.

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desert scene Devon Cupery ’11 digital photography



Letter Home 

by Camellia Lee

Beloved. Golden girl apple-crisp eyes blazing, under straight unfurling brows a Chinese calligrapher pored over parchment painstaking  purposeful to stroke the lines of your face. Angles, cheekbones, chin, long strong neck. Full lips blossom, Irish rose. A sheet of dark hair, or two braids down your back; in the hallways kids grab them and say “giddy up” unaware how unoriginal they are. Beansprout, very soon it will stop hurting.  I can’t say that to you, can I? But the squinting longing stumbling (mostly) stopped after junior year. Your lanky limbs and puppy feet will grow into proportion.  I hope you build a temple to yourself, carry your holiness in your heart. Do not seek sanctuary outside, dear one. Take it from me. When you don’t belong anywhere, you learn to belong everywhere.

Camellia Lee ’13 will take the Fifth.


fresh fruit goes bad quickly it was a warning at the grocery store when they handed her to us said her expiration date was up and we might want to reconsider fresh fruit goes bad quickly and she’s been rotting on the inside for a while now followed by fruit flies, she thought that no one would notice but the smell’s been attracting unwanted attention for months and she’s been stuck to the back of the fridge so long that the bruises seem permanent and people wonder if her brown shade is natural or just decay

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department of social services encounters fruit flies by Fatimah Asghar they say there ain’t no cure for damaged goods but she gave me a hug and a smile yesterday and there wasn’t a fruit fly inside the hallway she’s begun rounding out her letters exploring new words like ‘hope’ and ‘maybe’ yesterday she added ‘sorry’ and the bruises have faded like someone’s moved her from the fridge they said it was impossible but I think she’s found the cure for fresh fruit fruit flies

fresh fruit goes bad quickly and the grocery store employees said there ain’t no way to fix it you got her like that and gotta dispose of her or else ignore her for the six weeks she be sittin in your classroom and keep the flies away from the other fruits so they don’t spoil change is a stone’s throw away from an endless horizon and her condition could be considered contagious because she might be breeding bacteria you see, they told us, she’s been rotting on the inside for a while now

Fatimah Asghar ’11 has words in her pockets.


visions tap water impression Ling Zhou ‘13 digital photography


by Talia Wong

Always open the refrigerator first. Just to check. Shove your head in deep, and the coolness breathes refreshing and sweet on your forehead, like your mother’s palm when she felt for fever. After a moment, close the door. You already know what isn’t there. It will be a garbage soup week. There is no recipe for garbage soup. There is no secret ingredient, except poverty. Garbage soup smells of carrots and ill-health, tastes of potatoes and hand-me-downs, and looks like floating lumps of hunger. Four little feet pad unsteadily down the stairs, and you have to tell Timmy and Molly-pop it’s a garbage soup week again. Try to look only at their mouths when you tell them because it’s easier than meeting the eyes. Todd blunders into the kitchen, lashes sticky with sand-man’s tar, arms straight and groping for the mug you hand him. The undersides of his fingernails are still full of yesterday’s plaster, and some gray flakes have crusted to his hair where he has the habit of pushing it back. He says, “Thank God,” and guzzles down the cold, day-old coffee. God had no part in it. You’d gotten yelled at for slipping extra from the pot yesterday when Gordon caught you topping off the mug. Gordon’s rules are “one cup; cup, not mug, Jen.” Leave for work. Todd will send the kids to the school bus on time, if he remembers, which he should because you supplied his damn caffeine. Take three empty totes down from the cabinet above the sink. Check for holes. Tug down the cuffs of your mother’s black blouse and brush off the thighs of your borrowed black pants before shouldering past the door with your bags. Gordon won’t have scruff. Come in once without dress code and you’ll be out, Jen, and you grovel and nod and curtsy because you can’t, you can never, be out. The only rule in making garbage soup is you must use fresh garbage. Too old, and the soup will taste rancid like fermented eggs. You can’t buy fresh, so steal. It’s not really stealing, but it’s humiliating just the same, only this way you won’t get handcuffed for it. Begin with observation. The finest garbage will come from the cleanest people. The sloppy ones ravage their food so piggishly that their garbage is as good as rank the moment they touch it. You see several of these every day. Gordon says staring is bad

for business, but it’s near impossible to resist. You watch them spear the red, tender meat and sink their teeth into flesh as the juices trickle languidly from their lips, a slippery cocktail of steak and saliva dribbling from parted mouths, down double chins. You watch them mop themselves with napkins. You watch them saw off a second bite before they’ve swallowed. After waitressing for several years, the clean ones are easy to identify. You’ve made friends with the hostess on Mondays and Thursdays, and she tries to send these to your tables when Gordon’s not lurking. Usually, clean eaters come as couples anxious to impress. They slice food neatly and savor it slowly and never drip or drool, unless their nerves have them shaking a bit. The newest couples are best because the girl won’t offer her pile of leftovers to her date. If more than one person has touched the same food, the garbage is old. Today is a Monday, and you get two clean tables and four sloppy ones by 3 pm. This is not ideal, but you have the rest of the week to build stock, so refrain from reaching for the sloppy garbage. Memorize the orders and go to the kitchen. Smile at the chef, Connor. He gives you leftover eggs and milk on Fridays. Tell him you need three rosemary chicken breasts, four soups of the day, two caesar salads and one flank steak. Fran, the part-time waitress on Mondays, winks at you on your way out with the water and says, “Your man is back.” Pause. Look to the table in the left corner, by the restroom. His briefcase, propped against the leg of his chair and emptied of its contents, rests beside his feet, the papers stacked evenly before him on the dark wood table. His shoes catch the wink of the low ceiling lights, his pants crease just at the folds, freshly pressed, you guess. His suit-jacket lies draped over the back of the chair so he can recline comfortably in his soft, silk shirt, twirling a red-inked pen between, around, through un-ringed fingers. He looks up. You duck your head and turn away and pray that you haven’t blushed, but you feel traitorous heat blossom from your chest. You feel his eyes. He’s never touched you, never so much as brushed your hand as you offer a menu, still you’ve known the strokes and heard the whispers of those eyes for so long you can imagine his caress. They snake up your spine, coil and

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Garbage Soup 


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constrict it. They see through your mother’s blouse. They smell your rosemary-chicken-scented sweat. They sense the warmth in your cheeks. Back in the kitchen, Fran winks again. “What’s he want?” she asks. Say you didn’t go over yet. Gordon is in the kitchen. “Excuse me?” he says. Say you’re sorry, sorry, you’ll go straight to his table. Walk out calmly. Take slow steps towards him as though you’re breathing fine, in and out, as though you’re just doing your job. Don’t look at his eyes, only his mouth. Keep looking there when he asks you a question and even when he calls you by name, look there and say yes, great choice, smile. Then walk, don’t run, back to the kitchen. Between the afternoon and evening shifts, Gordon locks the door and locks himself in his office for a half hour or so to scribble numbers in his book. It’s the first opportunity to collect on the afternoon’s yield. Begin by clearing the last tables. Take good note of which dishes are from which tables, the clean or the sloppy, because once in the kitchen everything is chaos. Once you’re certain, go first for the meat, for the fat and the protein. Mollypop’s so skinny you worry the teachers will ask her if everything’s alright. She’ll say yes, but you’ll know better, as may her teachers. Timmy’s not so bad, since he still has his baby cheeks, but that won’t last more than a year or two longer. And his big feet portend a tall frame to come. The two half chicken breasts left from the first clean table and the quarter remainder of steak from the second go into a couple of Styrofoam containers that Connor keeps in the pantry. Scrape in the rest of the rice and potato side dishes. Next scan for undressed salads. Dressed and the vinaigrette will curdle the soup. Through all this, train one eye on the clock above the stove. At five minutes to five, move quickly. Push your stash of packed garbage to the back nook of the refrigerator with the broken light, so Gordon won’t spot it. Begin cleaning the rest of the dishes, and nod without really lifting your head when Gordon comes in strutting, finished with his really, very complicated, highly cerebral task of recording bills. The upwards tilt of his nose and the toadlike swell of his chest reminds you why you married an artist and not “an intellectual.” At 6 pm return to the front and prop the front door open. As you kneel to set the stopper, a pair of shined black shoes steps— briskly—towards you. Focus on the ground, count the tiny little

pebbles of gritty gray concrete as long as you can, until he says, “Jennifer. Are you open for supper?” Respond with a choked laugh and a poor joke about how he’s back again, twice in one day, what a valuable customer. Will your pores to secrete a cocoon around your skin and innards against those eyes. Blue eyes. Bright and opaque like the strip of ocean where shallow waters turn deep, the bottom forgotten beneath blue volume. “Can I claim my usual table, then?” he asks. Nod and show him to his table. You retreat mumbling about water and bread, but he catches your arm first. His hand is cool, is uncalloused, is charged with a current that numbs your arm. He takes his other hand and with it opens your captive one. He places a piece of paper in your palm. He pulls away his hands, but not his eyes, which linger on your neck as you thread through tables and knock into chairs on the path to the kitchen. Inside, check to make sure no one—Fran, Connor, especially Gordon—is in the room. Then open the note, a folded business card. “Smithson & Law International Law Practice Leave with me. Meet me at the lights 6 pm tomorrow evening.   You deserve more. Mr. Charles C. Smithson Cambridge, England” England. England the land of the sophisticated, the wealthy, the cultured, the successful. England, which is not the heap of Gordons, of caffeine-fueled husbands, of lip-trembling children, of garbage soup. Let it wash over you, this idea of freedom. Let it wet your mouth and wet your mind. Look up through the kitchen window at the darkening sky, the last flames of sunset smoldering on the slow curve of land and paling before the encroaching ink of dusk and imagine how those flames must look as they lap the answering tongues of ocean waves on the shores of England. Imagine Mr. Charles C. Smithson watching you as you watch the waves. Feel the tightening embrace of his silken arms, hear the lulling whispers he might sigh to you. Succumb sleepily to his blue eyes. Pull away from the window. Fold the business card and pocket it. Take the time to run cold water from the kitchen sink over your wrists and rub it onto your temples, ignoring Gordon when he walks in and gives a histrionic gasp. Ignoring Fran when she comes in to nudge you and nearly stumbles to stop herself. Ignoring even Connor when he comes in from his cigarette break by

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the dumpster and half extends an arm. Two minutes belong to you. Then straighten your back, rod-like, and pick up the water pitcher as you exit the kitchen. Walk to Mr. Charles C. Smithson’s table. Pour him a glass and slip the card neatly beneath the cup as you set it back down. Finish your shift. At 9 pm you’re free. Carefully load the garbage you stashed at the back of the refrigerator and any new garbage from the evening into your bags. A few flared nostrils, some squinted eyes flick your way as you sit with the garbage on the bus, but they are looks of curiosity more than judgment. You are sitting amidst a cluster of large and fragrant bags, after all. Todd and the kids wait for you at the table. They should really be asleep, but Todd always forgets about bedtimes, and really, you’d be disappointed without the nightly welcome of little hands and little smiles. Todd’s finally awake—he’s his best at night—and he smiles apologetically as he lifts the totes from your hands. “I was a bear this morning, Jen, you know,” he says. You say you know he always is, but you hug him all the same and press your cheek to his. Be glad you got so much meat today. His ribs are hard through his back, as pronounced as Molly-pop’s, almost, who barrels into you squealing when you kneel to grasp her. Only Timmy feels plush and exactly like a pillow when he jumps into your arms. All three rummage through the day’s garbage and nod and “hmmm” and say to each other that this will be the best soup yet by Friday, like they do every week that’s a garbage soup week, and you laugh along, because they try so hard to be happy. To make you happy. You catch Timmy rubbing his eyes and trying to hide a yawn. Laugh and yawn loudly to make a point. Shoo the kids up to bed and Todd to his studio under the stairs, blowing kisses. Alone in the kitchen, press down on your closed eyes for a count of one, two, three, four, five paced, precious seconds. See their faces on the insides of your eyelids, feel their hugs, hear their giggles, their feet coming down the stairs. Fold the cuffs of your mother’s black blouse to the elbows. Drag out the pot.

Talia Wong ’13 misses Wednesday dinner at home: leftover night.



Language Study 

by Cecilia Springer

My mother said it was like brain damage, Suffocating in thick and senseless air, Mouth and syllables stuck and struggling. I wonder what will become of me— I will cross seas But not my t’s And I forgot my home Somewhere in between. Listening to the pleasant babble of my native tongue Is like a refreshing wash of water anointing me. But now, grinding my nose into The stone of this guttural language, My tongue is tied. I came so far But lost so much I cannot convey.

Cecilia Springer ’11 had an epic summer in Beijing.


practice makes perfection of art and propaganda, children’s place, p’yongyang

Edy Yin ’11 digital photography



ECHO 5:05PM BOSTON HARBOR (42° 22’ N 71° 2’ W)  2009 Yu-Wen Wu ’80 (photographed by Walter C. Dent) mixed media on canvas 22

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camel lips 24

Alex Toyoshima ’11 oil on canvas

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Prakriti Thami ’11 oil on canvas





I hold my chopsticks wrong. -I learned how to use a fork and spoon first. I don’t know why my parents chose to do that. Maybe it was because they knew forks and spoons are easier to use in a small, chubby child’s hands. Maybe it was because they knew the teachers at my preschool would never hand me chopsticks to eat my lunch. I don’t remember those pre-school lunches very well. I do remember Dim Sum lunches in Chinatown, where they don’t lay out forks and spoons next to their chopsticks, and the uncomfortable shame I’d feel when my parents would have to make a special request for a fork just for me. Because I didn’t know how to use chopsticks. Because out of all the people in the entire restaurant, I was the only one who didn’t. -My parents eventually taught me how to use them over a long series of meals. (Or maybe it just seems that way in my head.) I was about five or six at the time, still young enough to feel like it should come naturally to me. I remember how awkward and uncomfortable the chopsticks felt in my hands, so difficult to use. Noodles would slide away; tofu squares would split in half. My grip was always too soft, too hard, badly placed. “Don’t worry,” my parents would say as another fishball slipped between the wooden sticks. “You can spear the fishballs on the ends and eat them like skewers.” But they never ate their fishballs that way because their grips were strong, precise, and effortless.


-It took me a while to convince my parents that they no longer needed to get an extra fork for me. “Mom, please,” I’d say as my mother would be flagging down a waiter. “I can do this.” She would look skeptical but would stop and give me a chance. It took me a while to finally convince her. Each meal, I’d have to prove myself again. I remember the first time she looked proud of me for lifting a fishball into my bowl without dropping it once. “You are getting good at using your chopsticks,” she said with a bit of surprise in her voice, and after that, I felt pleased with myself for days. -I hold my chopsticks wrong. My grip is too close to the front, like holding a pencil. I bring the bottom one up instead of snapping the top one down. I have eaten with chopsticks this way for thousands of meals, with slippery plastic ones, with cheap, disposable wooden ones, with the nice ones I have at home. My tofu is no longer split in half, and my noodles do not slip away. -I am sixteen, and my aunt and cousin are visiting from Taiwan. We are eating at home, a casual meal, when my aunt feels the need to make a comment about my cousin. “Look,” she says, “my daughter’s chopstick hand position is all wrong. Let us see how ____ holds hers.” My cousin holds her chopsticks too far back, in an awkward hand position that I don’t think is very comfortable. But my cousin was born and raised in Taiwan and

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Taiyang Sunny Chen ’11 digital photography

has probably used chopsticks many, many more times than I have. She probably learned how to use chopsticks first. I hold my own chopsticks up, and my aunt laughs. “See how your American cousin holds hers much better?” -I am in college, and I am in an Asian restaurant with a group of mostly white friends. At this restaurant, we have the wooden, disposable chopsticks, with directions printed on the red packets. One of my white friends says, “I wish I knew how to use chopsticks.” I hold up my hand to show her how to bring the two ends together, so that she can mimic the motion. It is comfortable and

familiar to me, and I feel secure in my knowledge that was hardearned. She copies me with the awkwardness of someone who has never tried it before. One of my white friends laughs at me and says, “No, no. That’s not right,” pointing at the directions on the packet. He demonstrates for her himself. His hand is just far enough back, and the bottom stick does not move as he brings the top stick down. The way he holds his chopsticks is technically perfect. Unlike me. I hold my chopsticks wrong.

________________________________________________ Diana Huang ‘09 GS ‘10 has never tried to pick up Jello using chopsticks, though she’s heard it’s quite the challenge.




Lily Chan ’13 digital photography


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Together, we smash the dough between our fingers, or rather— she crafts it into small, soft spheres while springy crescents pop out from under my nails and are stroked massaged into an identical mass. We each have a bowl, Popo and I, and she smelling of straw bedding shows me how Black Sesame, the size of a pearl, fits snugly within the orb, enveloped in white. You could always tell which dumplings I rolled, because when boiled, the translucent dough would burst, spilling the sweet sesame into the water, which I would drink as well.   A grown-up now, I order dumplings from restaurants whenever I can and poke the bobbing ball until it bleeds into the soup. Sometimes I think, I made the skin thin on purpose.

Lei Ma ’13 glides through life on her stomach.



a startling account of origins: documentation provided by non-corporeal beings by Joanne Wang The wallpaper of a room is important, particularly in the cases of:






a woman, who is named but whose name is unimportant for the purposes of this study and who markets wallpapers, designs, and patterns to be placed on the wall, and paints, which could and can be arranged on a wall in patterns analogous to what the crosssection of an apple appears to be, which is also a grid of smashed sunflowers. a man, a client, also named, and in being so is unimportant in the sense that he is a marginal character or figure in this discourse. the workers, who the man directs daily, who operate in wallpapered rooms, which in luminosity and hue will affect dramatically attitude and productivity, and who are easily disoriented by wallpapers in or paints arranged in patterns analogous to what the cross-section of an apple appears to be, which is also a grid of smashed sunflowers. children, belonging to the woman, both of whom depend desperately on the luminosity and hue of wallpapers created and selected for rooms belonging to men or this man, a client. the fish, who (eat children and) live at the bottom of a lake, which is in a cavern underneath a house, owned by a woman named Margaret.

Non-corporeal beings are characterized by: 1. 2.



the hazy documentation of their origin. that they are not by any means “ghosts,� you fool of a reader, in that they were never tied in any historical sense to the realm of corporeal beings. their tall and thin and flat frames, the ginger way in which they move—suggesting that they are balancing all of their substance on the



meager, nearly two-dimensional scaffolding in which they must exist. their tendency to “mill about” and the frequency with which they shuffle sideways rapidly rather than walk directly forwards. their earnest participation in an oral story-telling tradition, the most famous tales of which include this: “I once knew this girl. This is what happens to her. Whenever she forgets for a moment to keep herself where she is, she ends up in a hole underneath a stone named Benedict. She always thinks to herself, ‘Stay in one place, move this leg forward, you are in this store, your room, next to your sister,’ and this is what she thinks to keep herself from ending up underneath Benedict, who is always so terribly irritated at her for arriving at this hole underneath him because she always arrives at a terrible time. Underground, she exists in homogenous empty expanse and thinks that if she could penetrate Benedict, she could reemerge into a place where time moves chronologically down the length of universal story. Benedict knows that time exists as both homogenous empty expanse and chronological or neither at all but not as one or the other. Benedict gets so angry that the girl won’t speak to him. She never has.” And this: “Bite, bite, bite. This fish can bite. It lives in a cavern underneath Margaret’s house, which she accesses by opening the door to her basement and walking down the stairs. The cavern is her basement. Do you believe me? The cavern has a lake in the middle of it, which is surrounded by a tall stone ledge that Margaret walks around every day as she looks for the fish that bites. It has teeth. She fishes for it. She catches it, and then throws it back into the pond before it can bite her. One day Margaret slips on the stone ledge and falls into the lake. Bite, bite, bite. This fish can bite. Margaret slips into the lake. Bite, bite, bite. Margaret lets the fish bite her. What a day! What a day when the fish at last bites!” the high probability of being found in a parking structure – also the exoskeleton of a scorpion – six levels tall and made of wallpapered black iron, poles, and horizontal slabs – all owned by men or this man, a client.

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For the purposes of understanding the following, the children are named:

- Benjamin - Sylvie



The children had the following discourse this morning: - Something is scratching at the door. Something is crawling across the floor. Something is winding ‘round Benjamin’s leg and soon he’ll be bitten and left for dead. Sylvie had been chewing all of her nails when the door was blown open by an autumn - gale. In came Benjamin who’d risen from the dead. He picked up a scythe and chopped off her head! In the dark, Benjamin sleeps so well but from under his bed comes a creature of hell. It - circles and circles above his face. It suffocates him in a deadly embrace. Out of the drain emerges a snake. He wraps around Sylvie until her lungs ache. She struggles and struggles until she falls down. She struggles and struggles until she has - drowned. The children are neither intelligent nor interesting and detract from the quality of this story, or rather, study. This is a study.

What happens is: 1.


a man’s refusal to buy wallpapers, designs and patterns to be placed on the wall, and paints, which could and can be arranged on a wall in patterns analogous to what the cross-section of an apple appears to be, which is also a grid of smashed sunflowers; mostly this is because he is having trouble deciding on appropriate luminosity, hues, and patterns for the building in which the workers, who play no role in this study, work. a woman losing her senses, by which we mean her mind, and the non-corporeal beings are driven home in her car. the children go hungry and mad, like the woman, fling themselves into a lake, which is Margaret’s lake, believe it or not, and join Margaret in the bellies of a number of fishes; as in, they are eaten by the fishes,


which are real and unreal and orally accounted for by the non-corporeal beings

2. 3. 4. 5.

Joanne Wang ’11 grew up in Fern Forest.


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lady depression

Charis Loke ’13 acrylic on writing pad 33

visions 34

FEAST FOR THE SOULS  My eyes follow the delicate wisps of smoke as they curl up towards the ceiling. After tracing their path back down to the altar, I count a dozen skinny maroon sticks in the incense holder, each with a tip of hot, glowing orange. All is quiet as my grandfather lights a pair of red candles that look like strawberry liquorice. My nose tingles with the familiar smell of incense as I try to suppress the sneeze that I know is approaching. His movements around the altar—swift and serious—advise me to put all my effort into stopping that sneeze. He touches everything with such great care, with such a profound and directed respect, that I am afraid of disturbing the aura of reverence. I try holding my breath to stifle the oncoming sneeze, but a loud, wet noise erupts into my cupped hands. The sound reverberates off the walls and echoes through the room. I wipe my hands on the skirt my mother forced me to wear this morning, and then shoot a quick glance at my grandfather. To my relief, he does not scold me. He does not react at all. With his face solemn and his lips pursed, he continues to set up the table in front of the altar with various dishes prepared by my grandmother. I can tell by his lack of response to my loud sneeze that this ritual is important to him. All his attention is channeled into making everything on the table look perfect. Six bowls are lined up at the front of the square table. A pair of wooden chopsticks lies across the middle of each bowl. The second row consists of an array of meats: a whole, glistening chicken that my grandmother slaughtered just the day before, a hunk of pork, a huge fried fish, and a platter of smooth, white squid. Behind the meats are different kinds of vegetables, stews, soups, and fruits. The smell of mangoes and grapes tickles my appetite for something sweet, but I know that the food on the table is not for me to touch until later, after my ancestors have finished their meal. After several minutes of arranging and rearranging, my grandfather steps back, the soles of his shiny dress shoes clanking on the cement floor. A breeze comes in through the open doorway, ruffling the sides of the gray pants that he wears almost every day. Despite his love for beer and rich foods like pigs’ knuckles and ultra-sweet green bean soup, he has always

By Shanna han-chi Hsu

had a lean figure. As the wind presses the cloth of his pants against his legs, I notice just how thin his legs are. They seem like they might snap if he bends his knees the wrong way. His passion for gardening and golf has given him a dark complexion that contrasts with the bright white collared shirt he is wearing today. He gestures towards the table. “It’s almost time. Can you pull the Saran wrap off of that plate?” I nod obediently and tip-toe from the doorway towards the table in the center of the room. I extend my arm across the table and maneuver my hand into a small gap between the plate of squid and its neighbor—a bowl of cold soup. After several careful but unsuccessful prods at the side of the plate, my fingers become desperate to find where plastic meets porcelain. My grandfather is done with setting up. I do not see the expression on his face because I am focused on the task at hand, but I can feel the quietness that immerses the room. I know he is waiting for me to finish. Trapped beneath the clear, plastic film, the squid with bulging eyes mocks me, urging me to hurry up. For some reason, I still can’t find a way to peel off the plastic. I finally decide to pick up the plate so I can get a better look. “Make sure you unwrap the plate completely,” he says. “We can’t let our ancestors go hungry.” I nod again, but secretly I have a hard time believing that if we fail to feed our deceased ancestors, they will become hungry ghosts wandering for eternity. I try to picture my ancestors gathering around the table in front of me, arguing over the fate of the Hsu family. I am only ten years old, but I am not stupid. I know this is not how things work in real life. The image of my great-grandmother’s ghost swooping into the room on her wheelchair to eat her lavishly prepared meal pops into my head. Why do I need to do this? Even if ghosts exist, it’s not like they’re really going to eat this stuff. I finally manage to peel off the Saran wrap. “Let’s start,” my grandfather whispers. He pulls six incense sticks from the holder and hands three to me. Tiny, gray ashes flake off onto the floor as I follow him

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to the other side of the table. We both turn to face the altar. Sandwiched between my palms, the incense sticks are rough against my skin. My palms feel itchy from the sandy surfaces, but I rub my hands against one another like I do every time. The feeling of the sticks against my skin is the same as it was last year, and the year before, and five years before that. I sneak a look at my grandfather. His head is bowed in respect and his lips move silently in prayer. He raises his incense sticks up to his chest and moves them slowly up and down, up and down, as if drawing small circles in the air. He finishes his prayers by raising the incense up to his forehead and whispering a few words. Then, sighing and softly closing his eyes, he casts his face down and bows, inviting our ancestors to their feast. Now, with a gentle nudge, he indicates it is my turn. “But Daddy isn’t here yet,” I whisper to him. “And Big Brother, too. Shouldn’t we wait for them?” By tradition, the older male members of the family pray first. “It’s okay, go ahead. They can do their prayers later. We can’t let our ancestors wait too long.” So I begin my prayers, switching between Mandarin and what little I know of Taiwanese. This way I can be sure that even my earliest ancestors will understand at least snippets of what I have to say. Hi, it’s me, Hsu Han-Chi. I hope you enjoy this meal we’ve prepared for you. Thank you for your guidance and protection this year. Please look over the family again next year and help keep us safe and healthy. I look up at the portraits of my great-grandparents dressed in traditional clothing, posing proudly and serenely in their rigid, wooden seats. Among the four faces looking out of the faded black-and-white prints, I recognize only my great-grandmother’s. This was the face that used to make me freeze up in terror. With her small eyes hidden behind layers of drooping skin and her bottom lip protruding outwards, she would speak to me in a croaky voice that I could not understand. But right now, seeing her portrait on the wall is not scary at all. In fact, it feels nice to have her face among the other unfamiliar faces looking back at me. I push my three sticks firmly into the incense holder, and then stand next to my grandfather in silence. Together, we watch the swirls of smoke from our incense sticks rise higher and higher, sending off our prayers to a land of overfed ghosts.

cecil on my mind

Tiffany Chan ’11 ink

Shanna Hsu ’12 loves long double-decker bus rides.


mommy, do you love me?


Robyn Ng ’10 pencil and digital


things to do before you Live

by kai huang

one. become a physician. and by physician, i don’t mean those paul farmer types who spend all their time setting up clinics in third world countries. i don’t mean those public health nuts who talk about sanitation instead of science. and i definitely don’t mean those left-wing maniacs who want to shove socialized medicine down my throat so that i can pay extra tax money to feed the people who aren’t even trying to feed themselves. no. i mean a straight up-and-down cut your chest open transplant your heart and implant your breasts physician. i hope you have insurance.

three. try to live within a five mile radius. it’s better that way… if anything ever happens to the kids, we can help out. what’s not to love here anyway? the weather’s beautiful and friendly old men are playing golf in the backyard next to the artificial lake. new york city is overrated. it’s cramped and it’s expensive and the streets always smell like urine unless you’re carrying a briefcase. san francisco is so far away, not to mention i hear there’s an entire gay underworld there. please stay away from those people, there’s no point associating yourself with them. it might even be a detriment to your professional life.

two. marry a chinese woman. yes. a docile, precocious chinese woman under the height of 5’4”. she should be at least five years younger than you, so that when you start balding, she’ll still be fairly attractive. preferably a physician as well so she can contribute a little to the country club membership and the summer home, but worse comes to worst, a nurse or a technician will do as well. please no blacks. hispanics are a bad choice too, it’s just because they live differently than we do. believe me. her family won’t like you either. whites can be tough to manage also, but at least we won’t catch funny looks and muttering from the neighbors in that case.

wise up, son. your generation has never known a day of suffering. i know all of this probably doesn’t make sense right now, but trust me. someday, it will. everyone gets it sooner or later. the path is so clear you can feel it clutching the soles beneath your feet. fuck it. just walk.

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The Fuck it list:

________________________________________________ Kai Huang ’11 sometimes feels like he doesn’t have a partner.



Hotel Congress


by John Kwok

I’m cold, Jenny, very cold. Close to zero Celsius on a hot July night. The Braun blinks and hums, stirring in Dillinger’s roost. Soon I shall hold you. Pretending you’re real once more. Just insert the old diskette into the deck. Flip a switch. Close my eyes. The Braun calls your name, whispering Nikon and Jungerfell again and again. But Jenny, it’s just the hard rain splashing across the hotel window, a glimpse of an approaching Sonoran monsoon. You had a plan, Jenny, a wonderful plan. Told me about it in your smooth, innocent way. Thought we’d fool the Navy and live happily ever after. And like the lovesick fool I was, I trusted you completely. Rodriguez said you were nuts. Rodriguez said you were a fucking pain. Now he is dead while I am alone, dreaming of the distant shores of home. It’s a long tube ride to Brighton Beach. I listened to your sad saga unfold. Every painful word I heard you utter. How your father had toiled for years at Pan Tech, the great American zaibatsu, a fallen star of its robotics division, reduced to teaching cybernetics at Columbia. Your mother was a second-rate linguist at NYU, barely clinging onto tenure. And you were an Ivy League refugee from Boston, armed with a Brown degree in robotics, on an extended vacation in the Sonoran desert, contemplating a permanent move to Tucson. That night I chose to believe your story, Jenny, and for many nights thereafter. Even after I found the blaster in your duffel bag, the Nikon stamped with crisp TSN serial numbers on its handle below the trigger. I took you to our sanctuary. I took you to Rodriguez. Rodriguez frowned and shook his head immediately after your long speech. Too risky, he replied, reciting a brief list of potential dangers. Too damned close to the Terran Space Navy, he added; too close to avoid detection by the naval station’s sensors. He saw dark visions of Federal Marines descending on the bungalow, smashing doors and windows with their blasters. Seizing our decks and our papers, within minutes of a sensor sweep. Leaving us for dead.


I watched Stover pull a black package from a shelf lined with identical packages; a book case three meters tall, and just as wide, filled with dozens of dark envelopes in various shapes and sizes. This is what you need, he said, while I unwrapped the package, revealing a diskette. It’s Chinese, Prochnow announced, based on a Trasjhian design smuggled out of Jungerfell. Under the vigilant noses of the Imperial Trasjhian Starfleet. But it’s expensive, Stover added. It cost twenty people their lives, stealing the original from the Trasjhians. He quoted a price. I nodded, punching numbers into my notepad. Transferring funds from Rodriguez’s account to theirs. A million Terrestrial Pounds. I returned to Tucson later that evening, on a KLM flight out of LaGuardia. I showed the diskette to Rodriguez. He frowned, scratching his head. We’ll have to test it first, access a safe target, and explore its capabilities. He yawned. It’s insane, he said, smiling. But we’ll do it. A week passed before we were ready. Rodriguez had the contents of a Van Buren Street holographic parlor squeezed into the second floor of his bungalow with all the standard TSN refinements. He ran hundreds of diagnostic tests and simulations on the shark virus. He inserted the Chinese diskette into a waiting Toshiba deck, the deck connected to his favorite computer, a NEC, identical to those on board the Navy’s new Boston-class battlecruisers. Real state of the art, Jenny. I joined him on the second floor of his bungalow early one Wednesday morning; the sound of cactus wrens singing outside. I was ready. The Toshiba hummed softly in anticipation. The Tucson Police Department’s cybernetic security system was modified from a recent Hyundai design, an older, more distant cousin to those belonging to the TSN naval air station. And those deployed by Pan Tech. The shark struck a cyberspace wall, flowed, and probed across

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Marie Tanaka ’12 digital photography

its transparent surface. Until it found a weakness in the shadowy realm of gigabytes and silicon chips, burrowing deep within a cybernetic core. Masquerading as an FBI memo, a legitimate request for an extradition to Vienna of a pair of notorious drug dealers arrested the day before by Tucson police, wanted by the FBI for similar crimes in Rome. The shark swept past the core’s innermost defenses, unveiling the TPD data matrix. Minutes passed. Rodriguez was exchanging nervous glances between the Toshiba and the NEC. Suddenly he grinned, shaking his head. Madre de Dios, it works. No sign of TPD detection. Damned cops don’t know we’re here. Jenny, we drove to Rocky Point, in Sonora, past the lunar landscape of the Pinacates. Our first night, I heard your footsteps in the bathroom, the sound of water striking a shower curtain. Careless, you’d left your duffel bag open, the contents spilling across your side of our bed. The handle of a blaster exposed, pointing towards the ceiling. I

picked it up, cradled it in my hands, running fingers across the Nikon logo. I saw the TSN inscription. I returned the blaster to your bag, in the same spot I found it. I don’t think you noticed. Rodriguez was waiting for us when we returned; his lips twisted in a wide grin. Tomorrow morning, he said. Come to my house at dawn. He had made the final preparations, and called Stover and Prochnow and their friends in Europe for some lastminute advice. It was time to play, to wreak havoc, with Pan Tech’s security. I taped wires to my forehead. I inserted phones into my ears. Rodriguez slotted the Chinese diskette into the Toshiba, flipped a switch. Full speed, amigo. Go for it. I nodded, and slammed the controls of the deck with my hands, vaulting into cyberspace. The Chinese shark zoomed past the outer perimeter of Pan Tech’s cyberspace shield. Peeled it open like a fresh orange. Slicing, then, reassembling, bits and pieces of the shield as it surged



ahead, plunging rapidly towards Pan Tech’s cybernetic lattice of military software. The shark went through the second ring of defenses like the first, easily, without opposition. It burrowed through the inner defenses, sneaking past without a distinctive, cybernetic signature appearing on Pan Tech’s security sensors. Too easy, I thought. Too damned easy. The virus crashed through the final ring of defenses, identifying itself as a TSN sensor sweep. It located the force field generator data, read it, and made copies, which were sent immediately to the Toshiba. The shark moved, reversed its heading, retreating along its course through Pan Tech’s intricately woven, cyberspace maze. I peeled the tape and wires from my forehead, pulled the phones from my ears. I laid them on a table, next to the Toshiba. Excuse me, I said to a grinning Rodriguez. I walked towards a vidphone at the opposite end of the room; Rodriguez’s secure line. I called the resort and spoke to a reservations clerk, asking for you, since your Ramada lacked a phone. I frowned. The clerk said you’d checked out last night, paid your bill, and left, with no forwarding address. Jenny, you vanished into the night, without saying goodbye. I grabbed a Chuka cigarette, lit it, and inhaled. I told Rodriguez that I was taking a walk, and departed the bungalow, the roar of an approaching shuttle growing louder and louder. I turned around, looked up, and saw it land next to Rodriguez’s house. It bore the insignia of the Hapsburg dynasty and the Terran Space Navy; double eagle, spaceship and sun. I saw Federal Marines climb out of the aircraft, scrambling up the stairs to the bungalow’s front door. A few wore jet packs and jumped into the air, landing next to the windows of Rodriguez’s second floor study.

The harsh, loud sounds of broken glass and metal soon followed, accompanied by the lethal hum of blaster fire. I heard a loud, piercing, scream. I saw Rodriguez fall, pushed out of a window by unseen hands, his head crashing into the concrete sidewalk. Blood poured from his nose and his mouth; his eyes glazed; an unearthly stare. We looked up Boston, Jenny. I stared at your face. Your shoulders buried in a crisp uniform, bearing the epaulettes of a lieutenant commander and the golden pyramid insignia of naval intelligence. The TSN trained you well, Jenny. Or should I call you Rachel? Does it really matter? I saw the New York vidcast last night alone in the Hotel Congress’ bar, staring at a large vidscreen suspended from the ceiling. The latest news on the war. The Crown Prince’s fleet was within striking range of New America’s solar system. I close my eyes. I hear the sonic boom of an approaching fighter overhead. It’s headed towards the naval air station, returning from a successful strafing run over the old weapons range near Yuma. A brief rehearsal for the Crown Prince’s next invasion. I close my eyes. I see your nude bronze again, dancing in the sand. Hold me, Jenny. Come with me to New America.

A prize-winning high school student of Frank McCourt’s, John Kwok ’82 is writing a near future novel.


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Brenda Zhang ’13 scratchboard



A POEM IN MY POCKET BY WAR WAR FLORA KO Dwelling poem in my pocket is swelling With memories that seem like myths. Withering pain is eating me away like a slithering Snake. When I got lost in spreading directions, and then Got tossed into the night of loneliness, I caught Your poem in midair, and I realized that I had been gone for Years. At times, when I tried to turn away thinking that It might be too late to go back, my pocket split; There crawled out the wrinkle-scented poem that dug out my unaware Hope. Knowing not the future, growing, Brewing up our old times, I started chewing, Humming the words in your poem, I decided, I am coming Home.

noah’s ark

Hyun Jin Yoo ’10 pen on paper

Flora Ko ’12 loves noodles!


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Chinese poems possess rigid structures Each noun parallels another noun Every verb has a match All lines compliment their predecessors This piece contains Chinese precision, but The words are English words Yellow skin swathes white fruit Golden cake envelopes milky cream

Tiffany Chen ’13 has never eaten a Twinkie before.



tree buildings 44

Stephanie Teo ’12 acrylic and recycled masonite

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Singapore is concrete. Concrete with a jaunty shuffle, a blessed disease of industrial development. Everything else is a protest, the perfectly-spaced trees spreading their olive limbs with an unnerving guilelessness, eight feet apart. Their roots crumbling through the roads in waves of hiccups. It is my last week here, and it makes me wonder how much this country will evolve (or devolve?) in a year. The last time I came back after a year, the humidity clung to my skin in a bright, unnatural sheen, and the yawning gape of the Singapore Flyer hung over the Singapore River. The shores were undone, throwing up a blanket of yellow mud because of plans for a sort of desalination dam at the mouth of the sea and some holiday resorts. Every year, my country changes, and my heart cannot keep up with the tilling of its remembered soil.

Corrie Tan ’10 is homeless on occasion.





We’ll live happily ever after some fire clears a loft in Chinatown for us We’ll throw spectacular parties down, across the stairs spiraling straight to our single room with a pisser in the closet He and I will wear the same clothes to save space She’ll wear them to bed He’ll play guitar, watching Her and I surreptitiously becoming overt with every sip of booze we steal (He doesn’t drink) and laugh as we try to write, to paint Tonight we’ll wear no clothes to bed once upon a time.

Kalau Almony ’12 only likes things that are bad for him.


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Jiwon Kim ’12 charcoal



E-BOARD BIOS Jihan Chao ’10 brings down the bird of thought. Franny Choi ’11 is taking off the Speech Monster mask. Debbie A.y. Lai ’12 thinks you might be bittersweet. Eric Lee ’10 makes your sandwiches, teaches your kids, and saves lives. Kenji Morimoto ’11 enjoys Müesli in the morning. Panpan Song ’12 doesn’t mind drifting here. Alex Toyoshima ’11 is the same as when he was six years old. Vivian Truong ’12 is moving the earth, one whispered word at a time. Margaret Yi ’12 eats an apple a day.


FALL 2009  

Fall 2009 issue of Visions, Brown and RISD's Asian-Asian/American Literary and Art Magazine

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