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a brown/risd visual & literary arts magazine vol. 13 issue 2 | spring 2013


the evolution of private danny chen gavin huang, dartmouth ’14, collage


letter from the editors Dear Reader, This year has been one of great change for VISIONS. We held our first social in RISD’s Carr Haus Café in February, as well as our first photo exhibition, Asia Unbound, with the help of the Asian/Asian American Heritage Series earlier this month. For the first time in 13 years, our magazine has begun accepting and publishing works from writers and artists beyond College Hill. We would like to take this opportunity to officially welcome them to Brown and RISD’s Asian/Asian American community, as they bring their narratives to the table. Nonetheless, our commitment to the Brown and RISD community remains resolute. Even as we expand the geographic scope of the experiences highlighted in the magazine, we aim to strengthen our community by breaking down the barriers that isolate us, while creating meaningful connections with individuals from all over the world. Through engaging in dialogue with the Providence community and beyond, we continue to honor the mission statement that our magazine has adopted since its founding. So as you flip through this issue of VISIONS, be prepared to have the journey of your lifetime. One moment, you will find yourself lost in the labyrinth of Hong Kong’s MTR system—close your eyes—and you will be transported to lolo’s kitchen. While the stories take place across many borders and are unique in their own ways, the lives

lived by the protagonists resonate with one another. We challenge you, the Reader, to draw these linkages and follow the actors, wherever they may go. Finally, every April is bittersweet and this year’s is no different as we say goodbye to our friends who will be graduating soon. We want to thank Susie Ahn, who served as Editor-in-Chief in 2011 and worked as EIC Emeritus this year, for her steadfast leadership throughout her time with the magazine. We will also miss our Managing Editor, Christina Pan, who has executed her responsibilities with great diligence. Last but not least, we would like to express our immense gratitude to the team of wonderful copyediting staff and the rest of the board who have put in countless hours in refining, polishing, promoting, and producing this issue. Respectfully yours,

Larry, Christina, Mabel, Phuc Anh, Carol & Katherine

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editor-in-chief larry au ’14 managing editors mabel fung ’15 / christina pan ’13 art & photography editor phuc anh tran ’16 literary editor carol kim ’15 layout & design editor katherine ng ’14 publicity anny li ’15 / lauren tsai ’16 networking michelle pombrol ’16 / sharon sun ’14 risd representatives amy chen, brown/risd ’17 / yidan zeng, brown/risd ’17 freshman representative winnie shao ’16 webmaster winnie wang ’14 eic emeritus susie ahn ’13 copy editors sienna bates ‘16 / gabrielle hick ‘16 / heeso kim ‘15 / julie kwon ‘16 / anny li ‘15 / karwai ng ‘13 / angell shi ‘13 / brandon wang, risd ‘15 photographer alan shan ’14 printer brown graphic services a very special thanks to the third world center kisa takesue the office of student life office of international affairs modern culture and media undergraduate finance board pan asian council asian american heritage series east asian studies visual arts contributors and staff mission statement VISIONS is a publication that highlights and celebrates the diversity of brown and risd’s asian/asian-american community. we are committed to being an open literary and artistic forum for asians and asian americans, as well as other members of the university community, to freely express and address issues relating to both the asian and asian-american experience. VISIONS further serves as a forum for issues that cannot find a voice in other campus publications. as a collaborative initiative, VISIONS attempts to strengthen and actively engage brown and risd’s vibrant community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as the larger providence community and beyond.

on the cover inverse grace sun ‘16 digital 4

email visions.brown@gmail.com website www.visions-magazine.org facebook www.facebook.com/VISIONS.Brown twitter @VISIONSBrown disclaimer the opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of VISIONS’s sponsors.


contents art 1 inverse grace sun 2 the evolution of private danny chen gavin huang 8 emerge, collapse jess x chen & noel’le longhaul 10 risd xx abigail best 12 resting at 186mph suzanne wu 13 (my quiet world) lily jen 15 venice brandon wang 18 what happened to you michelle lin 20 siblings linh pham 21 frames annalia sunderland 22 rhythms of china michael feng 22 the veil michelle mao yu 23 agency matthew emmanuel lim 26 beauty veronica ni

27 30 33 34 37 38 41 43 44 46 48 50 51 51 53

words

6 kleenex cia mathew 8 my / body / stands / against / forgetting jess x chen 11 smile for me le tran 12 not a destination taylin im 14 dumaguete, part iii. rexy josh dorado dumje 16 loaded language and trivial language philip leiberman august guang ‘best wishes’ 19 museums jane kim paige morris little lightning 21 calligraphy trans. lydia yamaguchi jan cao inmate of the panopticon 24 a valediction to the dead letter ji yeo karwai ng arisa draws 25 nine-yard stella chung kavya ramanan twisty dance 28 nip evil in the butt dianna xu muhammad sheeraz common simple beautiful 36 the curious nature of momentarily being julia leung with and without catharsis meia geddes sarina mitchel don’t worry, everyone will get one. 39 black pine by the seaside trans. eunice kim yebin so 40 the schoolyard rainy day in mong kok anny li minkyung mary kang 42 sexual tension (pt. 4) auspicious ayoosh pareek annie swihart 45 do you ever wonder where balloons go? untitled iris pak amy chen 45 tea time chakra dragon postcard jaemun park catherine seabrook 47 connection: 香港 epilogue postcard tiffany phu theresa wang 49 the curious ladybug deep purple talia wong estella ng

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kleenex by cia mathew

Our Walmart winter coats could barely hold back the fierce, Chicago wind. It slapped our naked faces and stung like a backhand to the cheek. I tried to keep my head up, but within minutes my face was buried in my Papa’s shoulder. Papa carried my four-year-old self to school every morning. We only had one car, and Mummy took it to work, so Papa and I walked to and from preschool every day. Though only a half-mile, the walk felt like an hour-long trek. My toddler legs would give out before I finished one block, and Papa was always carrying me by the time we reached the red brick house with the wooden door. I found warmth and ease in the crevice between Papa’s burly shoulders and his bare neck. My arms were his scarf, and my breath kept his nape warm. I was keeping Papa warm. He needed me just as much as I needed him, and my body heat was the only way I knew how to repay him for carrying me. With my face tucked into his shoulder, the pungent scents of curry that had settled into his coat fibers smothered my nose. I would inhale deeply when I smelled the curry, because I thought that would make the scents stay in my nostrils longer. I wanted the aromas of Mummy’s cooking to attach like a thousand thumbtacks along my nose, that way I’d always smell the comfort of home during the school day. That way it’d mask the alien scents around me. That way it’d make acting American less nerveracking. Having only been in America for three months, I despised the unfamiliar scents of the Lysol disinfecting wipes and the yellow, fish-shaped crackers that infused my preschool classroom. The Lysol made me feel like I wasn’t clean enough for the American room, and my dark skin only made me feel dirtier. The fish crackers were

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bland and unnecessarily loud to chew. In comparison to the spicy, rich flavors of Indian rice and curry, the crackers only comically satisfied my taste buds. Their crunchiness scared me the most; I always thought I was chewing too loudly, and my classmates would stare at me in disgust. So, I’d put the crackers in my mouth and let them sit there quietly until they disintegrated—no chewing required. When the snow came, it seemed like the length of our morning trek doubled. Snow was rude and inconsiderate; it’d shove its way into Papa’s sneakers every time. He never complained, but I know Papa’s socks were wet and his toes were frozen. I always hugged his neck tighter when it snowed; it was my effort to at least keep his neck warm as his toes froze. Papa had to wear his non-water resistant sneakers, because we could only afford snow boots for me. Regardless, Papa made sure to get me the nicest ones from Payless: dark blue, Superman boots. In India, blue and pink weren’t associated with boy and girl, and Superman and princesses were all unisex, but Papa didn’t know my boots were for boys, and neither did I. However, I quickly realized the other girls in my classroom had pale skin and light pink boots; the boys had pale skin and dark blue boots. I had neither pale skin nor proper light pink boots. Trying to act American was hard enough, but as a four-year-old with dark skin and boy boots, I quickly accepted that looking like an American was impossible. One winter morning it was twenty degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind-chill of five. We didn’t even understand what wind-chill was, but we knew what it felt like—hundreds


of safety pins bouncing off our bare, cracked skin. As he walked with my face hidden in his neck, I heard Papa mutter under his breath. I assumed he was cursing the cold and his frozen toes, so I would wrap my arms around tighter; I hoped to keep him warmer, but he never stopped mumbling. I asked him one day what he was saying; he said he was praying he wouldn’t slip. His feet were cold and his shoes were heavy from the water weight. He wasn’t used to the snow; he didn’t know how to walk in it. Like an infant taking his first steps, he awkwardly tried to step in someone else’s footprints, but kept stepping a bit off. Over his shoulder, I smiled at the trail of doubled prints. When I looked into Papa’s eyes, I saw specks of doubt glisten like the snowflakes caught in his mustache. He seemed to be wondering if Mummy and he made the right decision when they left India. In India right now, Papa would be walking in his flip-flops: sun-kissed dirt setting in between his toes and little pieces of soil finding shade under his nails. The eighty-degree, humid heat always made Papa’s skin moist; his sweat glowed like he’d caught pockets of sunshine. Here, he caught pockets of snowflakes that left his skin dry and rough. I watched as a snowflake fell on his nose and melted over his cracked skin. As we walked, two twin streams of mucus crept down from my dry-skinned nose. My fingers were unusable under my oversized winter gloves, so I’d lick the snot off my upper lip instead. Some days, the brutal wind numbed my face and made me oblivious to my dripping nose, until the stream dripped down my chapped lips and I tasted the salt by accident. One time, Papa caught me licking it away; he scolded me and told me that’s why Americans made Kleenex. He came from a home where toilet paper was a luxury and the idea of paper for wiping your nose was plain absurd. However, in an effort to make our house look more American, we bought one box to keep on the living room table. We used it sparingly. I secretly thought my nose would get lighter if I wiped it with Kleenex; maybe I could look American after all. I wiped extra hard and hoped to get some of the dark skin off with the snot. Instead, I was left with ashy, cracked nostrils. Papa never walked me all the way to the entrance, because he feared that a teacher would start a conversation with him. Self-conscious of his English, he avoided talking unless he needed to. I wish I could’ve gotten away with it like he did, but teachers intentionally started conversations with me. I had never seen blue eyes like theirs until I came to America, and their blue beauty had a hypnotizing effect on me. I could barely stare back, let alone talk to them. I was self-conscious of my dark brown eyes, and wondered if everything on me,

from my eyes to my boots, was too dark for this country. My teachers spoke more slowly and loudly if I failed to respond the first time. I would listen to them repeat foreign sounds, and finally mumble a yes—usually unsure if that was the right answer. Sometimes I just repeated what they said and hoped they’d stop talking to me. I knew I had said the wrong answer when they’d smile at me with a painful, condescending look, to which I always looked down quickly in response. I felt ashamed and weak from my failure to comprehend. One-on-one conversations were a prerequisite to the foreign world of making friends in preschool. The entire concept was completely foreign to me; no one had taught me how to make friends in America like how I was taught the ABC’s and the 123’s in English. So, one morning, I decided to ask Ms. Pratt for some friends. I spent the entire morning mustering up courage, and then I approached Ms. Pratt and asked, just like I did for markers or a bathroom pass, “Can I have friends, please?” Ms. Pratt smiled sweetly and replied with her blue eyes, “You have to make them, dear.” My limited English vocabulary associated “to make” with crafts, and visions of miniature, cutout paper people came to mind. My face showed no response, but my eyes shifted to the Art Kart in the corner of my room. Ms. Pratt followed my gaze incorrectly to the two, pale skinned, pink-booted girls in front of the Art Kart. She took my hand and guided me toward the girls; we went through everyone’s names and she asked, on my behalf, if I could join them in their art. I was sure they would say no, and had already decided friends weren’t for me before they responded with their “yes.” Yet, unsure if they had agreed, I remained still next to Ms. Pratt until she pulled out a chair next to Emily and gently pushed me into it. I saw Ms. Pratt smile before she walked away; she was proud of my “made” friends. Emily, Karen, and I spent the next thirty minutes coloring pictures of Winnie the Pooh. I didn’t dare speak a word. However, I did wipe my nose with a Kleenex from my pocket, because that was the most American thing I knew how to do. Apparently, that was enough, because Emily complimented my neat coloring and invited me to join Karen and her tomorrow. After free time was over, Ms. Pratt approached me with that same smile and asked about Karen, Emily and friends. I wasn’t sure what she said, but I mimicked her smile and gave her a couple “yes, yes” and “good, good”s. Beyond my incomprehension, this time I was particularly distracted. I had spotted a brand new Kleenex box in the classroom. She finally let me go, and I exhaled a sigh of relief; one more conversation done, twenty more to go in the day. But before I took my seat, I went and stuffed my pockets with at least ten Kleenex each. Cia Mathew ’14 is a secret agent for God.

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my / body / stands / against / forgetting

I. my body is: the phantom limb my parents severed from their wounded tree, carried half-way around the world replanted in american soil before i speak my first words.

by jess x chen

their relationship’s eulogy is my childhood.

in this soil, they wed for twelve years. they are two tectonic plates intersecting; i am the seed they planted in the earthquake when their lands split, for the first time, i breathed the night sky.


emerge, collapse jess x chen, risd ’13 & noel’le longhaul, risd ’13 screenprint II. childhood is: the drone of an airplane passenger seat’s embrace carrying me back and forth between father and mother. III. mother is:

was severed and forgotten. VII. forgetting is: my mother being without father. my mother being without home.

a six letter word. the first time i spoke it, she showed me how to embody each letter. i was hers as she was mine. in the nine years we wait for our green card, she whispers to me: “do you remember all i went through so you can know this?” this texture of homework. this drone of an airplane. this existence. this body. this family. IV. (family is:) what my life danced around the absence of. so i put these things in its place: this entire country. my friends i would learn to call transient at the rate my mother found a new job. the words i write. i’m learning to bend this country’s language into houses i can hide my true self. in all this, i hide myself from my own country. V. (country is:) the hole an archaeologist digs in my flesh. the tunnel they find all the way to china. where the beijing taxi driver asks me: “what is the funny accent?” and the easy answer: “i grew up in america.” when i look into the well of my chest, i know it leads me to the truth. VI. the truth is: the night of the divorce was the night the thread between -my ancestry my language half-forgot

took its place --

and and

my life the language that

without him, the tide takes her in, our bodies are slabs of marble, waiting to be chiseled away by the hands of america. forgetting is the unconscious rewriting of our history. VIII. history is: learning to camouflage with surroundings. a hereditary lesson passed on between families of prey. VIX. i pray: in the thin river at the bottom of the canyon between mother and father; its waters hold the only memories they share: red guards, red books, and the stain of a generation’s phantom pain. my body is the only reminder of the love once there. I know now, family is invisible it flows through my blood. it follows me throughout my life. X. life is: to let my family roam free, every room inside my flesh. each pump a release, each pulse, a letting go. Life is awakening on this stage, on this blank page, to discover: I was never alone. Jess X Chen, RISD ’13 is drawn to the transience of live performance - as it passes away the moment it begins beating, quite like a human heart. 9


risd xx abigail best, risd ’16 digital photography

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smile for me by le tran

Braces are a rite of passage, right? Braces are a coming of age. Braces symbolize Americanism, right? Straight teeth, bright smiles are Hollywood—are the United States. In the dimness of my aunt’s living room, thirteen feet away from the first Christmas tree I ever took a picture with, I lay facing the ceiling. There were patterns on it, bumps formed by what looks like paint frozen before it could drip off the wall. My brothers instructed me not to move. My mom told me it would only take a second. My father with the pliers, ready to pull. The rubber around them—to help the grip I guess—was red. Maybe there was some black on it, too. One moment I was shaking with fear. Not necessarily from the fear of insanitation or something going wrong. I was six. Pain was all I was afraid of. But it didn’t hurt. Or at least I can’t remember if there was any pain. I don’t even remember if there was blood. I just remember not having front teeth for a while. I didn’t care if anyone laughed at me. I thought it was natural for kids my age to be missing two front teeth. I even kind of liked it. From Saigon to San Francisco, my mother’s entire family fled from Vietnam. By boat, by plane, or by will, somehow the Nguyens found their way to the West of the New World. Here things were different. Here I had to run to keep up with other children on the cement roads, even cement pavements! They all walked so fast. Things were also different because I was only allowed to get one new toy every year. So my mom told me I had to choose carefully. It was an action figure. In China they say they know someone is American if they have straight teeth. Am I American?

bothered to worry about teeth. But theirs were straight— naturally. When I turned 13, the conversations kept coming. “I want braces.” That line, verbatim, would often come out my mouth at 8:23 a.m., on the ride to school, going down East 19th street. I was already late to school, but I was usually late. Punctuality wasn’t a big thing in the Oakland Unified School District. I guess there would have been more occasions when I brought it up. But mornings were the only time I saw my mother. She didn’t come home from work until after I had fallen asleep. My brothers took me to a consultation; I went to two. The first doctor said it would take five years and five thousand dollars. My brother said hell no. One tooth, five years? The second only said one year. Suspect. We crossed that option out real quick. Then time just went by. High school happened. There was alcohol, there were drugs, and there was a person I wanted to date. I didn’t want metal caught in the way. Only the vestige of my desire for braces remained. It wasn’t just the inundation of concoctions that resulted in endless inebriations. Around this time in my life, something struck me, right in the core of my being. Maybe it was because I fell in love, or that I grew up. Or my friends affirmed my self-esteem. Maybe it was because, at 14, I finally became fluent in English. But I did not feel any different. My accent was what others noted as being “American.” Maybe, just maybe, I could still be “American” and have my tooth in the shape it is.

My tooth (the big one, the one they say is permanent) was already growing in. So we had to pull out the small one. It grew out crooked, slanted a bit. It is the only tooth I have that’s “imperfect.”

Just like that, time went on. 16, I was firm on loving myself, all of myself, for myself. The question came up again: “Do you want braces?” No. No, I do not.

Does it make me un-American?

My mom smiled, “It’s character.”

My brothers didn’t care much, though. They never

Le Huy Nguyen Tran ’13 loves running into the ocean.

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not a destination by taylin im fly me into a world where the sun is a pizza pie sliced and served under a microscope drop me from this world where the mud pies are really thick globs of earth and the dried cakes don’t wash from our hands and mouths I used to think that “foreigners” were a select group of people but never me I still do sometimes and when I sit alone outside the wind stops by to remind me that the world exists between the mud and sun and that no matter where I am, this is home Taylin Im ’15 dreams of being ambidextrous one day.

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resting at 186mph suzanne wu, risd ’14 digital photography


(my quiet world) lily jen, risd ’13 video with sound, runtime 18:28 http://youtu.be/LA5UmvdnI0s 13


dumaguete, part iii. by rexy josh dorado

In the Philippine tongue, lolo means grandfather. Reverence and a kind of snug intimacy are tucked in the space between those repeated syllables: the same familiar respect that’s manifested in the classic motion of reaching for the elder’s hand and placing it against one’s forehead in greeting. During my distant childhood, lolo meant those hard knuckles against the inside of my thumb—skin worn rugged by the rough but exact work he did with his ruler in the office and his hammer in our backyard. He would build us a treehouse, he once told me. He knew just how to fire a kid up. But life decided otherwise, and we soon found ourselves anchored to opposite hemispheres. Years came. Years went. Over time, lolo came to mean nostalgia in the smell of cigarette smoke and the chipped paint of old pickup trucks. It meant a warm but faceless voice on the other end of the line during holiday nights. Those moments of confusion as his hearing and my native vocabulary concurrently caught rust. A ghostly, stubborn sense of connection to a land that grew ever fainter as my old memories grew scant. Lolo meant my heart freezing to the word “stroke” on the phone—and sweet relief to news of recovery. Time threaded us back together one summer, and we sat once again in the kitchen of his and lola’s (grandmother’s) house, circled by the scent of chicken that heated in the oven, by the sound of my little cousins who rattled across

the veranda, mounting the same scooters my brother and I had left eight years prior. Everything was smaller than I had remembered. With ripe eyes and an ancient voice, he strung together our genealogy, and I listened, caught in this vast narrative of which we were just the latest chapter. Lola descended the stairs with a little bag of photos in her hands—one that contained an entire life’s truths bursting through ragged edges and muted colors. Lolo’s feeble left hand, leafing through the pile, spoke of more strength than I could ever muster. Earlier that day, on the drive over, I told him how excited I was to see his house again. “My house?” he asked with a dry smile. “You mean our house.” Our house. Lola later took me, my mother and my brother to an unfamiliar yard across the street: a modest piece of land that she and lolo had bought for us, for that day when we would decide to lay our heads closer to home. “I hope you like it,” she said. “It’s not a lot, but it’s here.” A slight wind bit into my skin, then passed: inklings of tomorrow’s tide that would, once again, pull us apart. The distance that promised to cut short our touches, our talks, our attention. I gripped the air to register the heightened reality of what was then now, what is now then—that fleeting fullness of knowledge, of connection, that would soon come to pass. Until the next time. Rexy Josh Dorado ’14 is trying to pull some sense out of the scattering.

venice brandon wang, risd ’15 digital collage 14


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loaded language and trivial language by august guang

People here in Providence I’ve met recently don’t know that my name wasn’t always August. I moved here in the summer of 2012 from the Los Angeles area to start graduate school, and in L.A. people had known me as both Bonny and August. They transitioned smoothly from recognizing me as a woman to someone who was transmasculine and genderqueer. 16


No one I met in Providence accompanied me on the same journey. While exchanging stories of how our parents arrived at our names, I told a new friend the other day about my old name and she flipped out. She said it was like her entire perception of me had suddenly changed. Bringing that old piece of news up around here has been the same for me too—a sudden shift of perception. People don’t expect you to alter your own origin story. I tell people I moved to Providence from the L.A. area and they assume I grew up in California, say what a shock the snowy weather must be and ask how I’m adjusting. Terribly, by the way—but actually, I grew up in the Boston area, so I’ve experienced cold like this before. I tell people my name is August and they assume that’s always been my name, ask if my parents named me that because I was born in August. I wasn’t, but more importantly my parents had nothing to do with how my current name came to be. My therapist asked me once whether I would want my parents to switch to using August as a name for me. I said I don’t think so, because for them it would not be simply a name or gender switch, it would be a cultural switch as well. My parents picked my name out of a baby book based on the first two letters of the pinyin version of my name, and it was something that was easy to pronounce for them. It seems to be a common thing for immigrants from Asia; the friend who flipped out had the exact same story. When my parents call me by my name it doesn’t sound like Bonny; it just sounds like Mandarin. I can’t imagine August being said with a Chinese accent in a way that sounds like Mandarin. It would somehow feel like an active participation in whitewashing myself—as if assimilation doesn’t do that enough, as if being a hipster grad student listening to The xx and feeling comfortable in Urban Outfitters isn’t enough, I also have to take action against my parents’ choices and change my own name. To some degree I can understand how people of color can feel whitewashed, especially white-passing people of color. But for me, there is so much that is pointed out in me that is different from white people that I always am reminded that I am not white. My parents have very strong cultural pride and I speak a different language at home, so I always knew my non-whiteness—but it never struck me as bad, until second grade. I distinctly remember my second grade teacher holding me back from recess and forcing speech therapy upon me because I spoke English the way my parents do, with a lisp on the “th” sounds (mudder instead of mother, brudder instead of brother). That was when I knew for the first time that my non-whiteness was undesirable, and that the way I spoke and my parents spoke was wrong. I don’t have an accent anymore, and according to some child psychologists, I would have grown out of my parents’ lisp anyway given a few more years of exposure to other native English

speakers. I can understand now the way my secondgrade teacher acted was racist, but at the age of seven, I just felt like a bad child for being unable to speak correctly and having the wrong parents (she was also classist and sexist and pointed those prejudices out to me in traumatizing ways)–and language was a crucial part of those negative feelings. That’s a single story, but every anecdote is part of a larger system, a system built upon numerous microaggressions—asking where I’m really from, addressing me instead of my parents because I’m “easier to understand,” dismissing my mom when she tries to assert herself because they don’t know what she’s trying to say. A system built upon appropriation, commercialization and exotification of Zen meditation, Buddhism, Chinese herbal remedies. All of these white people with their Asian girlfriends and gaysians, these white people who are automatically treasured and catered to in Asian countries, these white people who decide to learn Asian languages because they’re so different, difficult, foreign. When they speak Mandarin they’re perceived as making an effort (and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad when people make an effort to not just default to English, so long as they don’t treat speaking in a different language like just fun and games), but when my parents speak English they’re dismissed for not being good enough at it. The nuances within language play themselves out over and over again. In a white person’s world I need people to respect the name I chose for myself, because my name is an extension of my gender and loaded with gendered connotations in European languages. To be Bonny is to be gendered in a way I have been trying to reject for a long time, and to be August is my way of claiming agency. But in my family, in my Chinese person’s bubble within white supremacy, the name itself doesn’t matter so much as my need for my parents to understand my gender and sexuality as something real and not something only for white people or extremists—which is how they view it now. I don’t need them to care about something silly like a new name; I need them to care about the identity that name stands for. My old name is a cultural narrative with implications—easy-to-pronounce syllables lifted randomly out of a baby book, a trivialization of English names, done out of necessity in an English-speaking country. A name spoken by my parents in a way that is perceived as wrong and foreign. It shouldn’t have to be that way. And so, I don’t need to be referred to as August by my parents. There has already been enough attempted erasure of my culture and my relationship to my family, and I am not going to contribute any more. August Guang (Brown PhD candidate, Applied Math) is trying to stay connected.

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what happened to you michelle lin, risd ’15 ink, graphite, watercolor

museums by paige morris We wonder when Minh Tran Le became a museum, how he decided how many floors he would have and at which points he would section himself off. Perhaps he had always been a museum to which we’d all been barred access. The person who first attempted to break in to the museum that was Minh Tran was a friend we will, for the sake of confidentiality, call N. N was what most people called an “art groupie”—a lover of everything painted, pictured, sketched, and sculpted— who followed exhibits from coast to coast, museum to museum. Some summers ago, N followed a black history exhibit to its dead end in New Orleans and met some curators who were splitting their time between Louisiana and Texas. N asked what they were working on, if there would be a similar exhibit springing up in Texas soon. The curators told N about the Vietnam War Museum that was in development just a few hours west. So it was summer again, and N decided to bring the museum to a museum. They started where most people ended: in the gift shop, turning over snow globes. “What exhibit do you want to see first?” N asked. We would later learn that N was probing here, testing doors to see if they would give, lifting the rope barrier a bit to see if a guard would protest.

woman in reverence. “Does she look familiar?” N asked Minh Tran. Minh Tran didn’t look at the picture. He shook his head “no.” The last room was dark except for the white glow of a film being projected on the wall. The footage was peppery, old. Soldiers trudging through mud, caskets rolling out of planes like parts on a conveyer belt, children turning a full 360 degrees to show the burns that spiraled their bodies like staircases. A man whose skin hung off his jaw appeared. The subtitles said his entire village had been doused in napalm, and he remembered children running out of the orange mist with their skin in all the wrong places. N said, “Have you ever seen anything like that?” Minh Tran watched the footage flash from tragedy to tragedy. N would tell us in the interviews that Minh Tran sometimes “zoned out,” got that fogged-glass look in his eyes, and the vein in his forehead would jump. This was when Minh Tran was remembering. N described the remembering as “sporadic, coming in bursts. It was up to me to pull the memories out of him. He would keep his teeth gritted and his mouth shut when you try to get the poison off his tongue. He wouldn’t let you in. So you have to pry it out of him.” On the museum wall, bodies were burning, and Minh Tran’s forehead vein was threatening to snap. “Is that what happened?” N said, nudging Minh Tran. “Did people really look like that after it was over?” Minh Tran shook his head, but now, it didn’t mean “no.” “I need to go,” he said.

Minh Tran set his snow globe back on its shelf.

“Go? We haven’t seen the whole museum yet.”

“Any one. I can’t stay long anyway, so start wherever.”

“Why would you bring me here?” he whispered. “This is not okay.”

“Fine,” said N. “Then I want to see the memorial.” The memorial filled three consecutive rooms, each dimmer than the last. Eerie soundscapes drifted through on strings of fog.

When N first met him, Minh Tran had been living alone in New York City. He didn’t seem to know anyone well, was newly immigrated and probably still shaking from memories of houses and friends that no longer existed.

N had seen most of the first room’s pieces before: a painting on black canvas with brown, mottled skulls showing through the dark, and that photograph of the boy with the swollen face and warped stomach. Some new material lined the second room’s floor, huge pieces on folding screens. N touched the 48x60” face of a burned

He worked the morning shift at the corner store N would stop at every day on the way to the 42nd Street Station. Whenever Minh Tran handed change over the counter, N noticed the burns on his arms. N had wondered if Minh Tran knew the English words for what had happened to him. If he knew English words at all.

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The day N walked into the corner store and saw some teenagers run off without paying for fistfuls of cigarettes, Minh Tran watched them go and said—in the saddest, smallest voice N had ever heard—“This is not okay.” In the museum N was saying, “Do you remember now? Tell me what happened. Don’t lie to me this time.” Minh Tran was crying without sound. “You didn’t burn yourself on a stove, did you? Or survive a house fire.” “I did,” he whimpered. “I did.” “You’re a liar, Minh Tran. What happened?” “I told you.” “I want the truth!” Minh Tran covered his head. He looked like he was

praying. “This is not okay,” he said. “This is not okay, this is not okay, this is not okay.” He was sputtering incoherencies. When the guards came to pull him out of the dark room, he fought them first, then went limp, exhausted from guarding himself. He came to us unconscious. Malnourished. Dehydrated. A building collapsing on itself. We are studying him every day. Our reports contain nothing substantial yet. We are running tests daily and turning up nothing. We still cannot pry his mouth open to feed him pills. We cannot pull the words from the bottom of his throat, the words that will tell us why he couldn’t look the burned woman’s photograph in the eye. Sometimes we cannot tell if he cries because of the nightmares, or because it hurts to be awake. Nonetheless, we are trying. We still cannot break into the museum. Paige Morris ’16 breaks into museums and leans on the glass.

siblings linh pham ’14 digital photography

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calligraphy / 毛筆字 by vigne fei, trans. jan cao

frames annalia sunderland ’15 pen and ink

Beneath the papers and within their bones we study the dispersion rate of ink Listening to the space between strokes magnified to its limit but just like the jet-black night, breath grows slower and slower Therefore when laying down the brush we see boiling snow under the sun 我們在好幾種紙與它們的骨骼裡,鑽研墨水擴散速率 側耳聽筆劃間奏 後者已被放大得不能再大 卻如漆黑的夜,呼吸越來越慢 所以,才能放筆時 看到陽光下沸騰的雪 Jan Cao ’13 overheard Federico García Lorca say that translation destroys the spirit of a language.

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rhythms of china michael feng, cornell ‘14 photography

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the veil michelle mao yu, risd ’13 digital photography


agency matthew emmanuel lim, risd ’16 cardboard, newspaper, glue, paint 23


aby karwai valediction to the dead letter ng

dead letter, n. orig. A writing taken in a bare literal sense without reference to its ‘spirit‘, and hence useless or ineffective (cf. Rom. vii. 6, 2 Cor. iii. 6). (Oxford English Dictionary)

the content of the subject matter but to the intonation of each word; one starts paying attention to the feelings and connotations of language. One starts to witness and take part in the revival of the dead.

The first day of classes is made up of dead letters. Words relegated to a sound or a murmur as one departs from another tightly packed lecture hall. Words tucked into a pile of syllabi in the corner of a desk. Words covered in dust, waiting to be discovered in the interminable rows of books in the basement of the Rockefeller Library.

The revival of dead letters lies not in the simple regurgitation of words but in their active interpretation. Those salvaged from the dead are manifest in “intertextuality”: dead letters regenerated through books, textbooks, handouts, syllabi, etc. are perpetuated and expanded upon in figures of speech, dialogue, and discussion. Fragments of dead letters become pieced into cogent palimpsests of active, breathing, living writing.

More than anything, one is struck by the overwhelmingness of it all. 68 ½ Brown Street does actually exist on the map. Abbreviations tend to begin with the letter “R” (the Ratty, the Rock, and now “‘the Ruth”). One learns how to adapt: the transition from listening to the four-tone, monosyllabic language of Mandarin to the melodic rise and fall of a twentieth century British fiction lecture requires one to adjust (mentally and physically) during a brisk 10-minute walk from one end of campus to another. By the end of it all, one starts listening not to

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And now holes of light begin to peep through the bookshelves. Moist indents become transparent on paper. One steps out of the classroom, and words of beautiful syntax fade into unintelligible sound. Karwai Ng ’13 has many thoughts left unthought.


nine-yard by kavya ramanan

afterwards I’m not sure which sari I chose because by the time I pointed at one of them I could only see the red-gold glow of your cheeks in the lamplight after I blew out the candles last time I wore a sari on my birthday. it’s in the crackling bag on my lap but taking a look now would be one step too far when I could find myself looking at gold swirls on gaudy red or green the color you tried to drown yourself in on your eighteenth birthday, full of doomsday visions of adulthood. there are only so many colors a bride can wear on her wedding day if she doesn’t want to provoke whispers and for me there are already too many of those to push the envelope any further, but I will have to blind my eyes against the flaming light staring in to avoid seeing the rust-red shirt you wore that night, too low-cut to release my gaze, every time my eyes accidentally see the mehendi that was put on my hands and arms and feet yesterday. I wasn’t there; I was in a garden I have never been in but I didn’t need to invent the details because you were there, right there, just behind that plant or this bush, hiding in the mouths of the flowers, to be found if only I could see you. Kavya Ramanan ‘15 is setting sail at last. 25


beauty veronica ni, risd ’16 digital 26


masked dances are a major element of the 10 day-long dumje rite at the pangboche monastery in the everest region of nepal. the purpose of dumje is to protect the villagers from disease and evil spirits. philip leiberman, george hazard crooker university professor, emeritus digital scan from kodachrome slide

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nip the evil in the butt by muhammad sheeraz

Latif was born on October 4, 1977, and in just five years and five days, he had learned counting from his seven sisters: one, two, three; aik, do, teen. His village had one long street for men and many small houses for women; his school was different from the one where his sisters went. They had told him who men and women were, and for some time, he would think he was the only man there. Sara, the youngest of all the women at home, yet still older than him, was his teacher by default. She taught him that reciting Bismillah before every meal would double it; that every child must learn A, B, C and alif, be, pe; that Allah is the biggest (even bigger than the street? he had asked once; yes! she had replied). She taught him how to say khoprra; that toffee should be crushed and not sucked (not by men, at least) nor swallowed in full (not by children, at least); and other things which he often couldn’t recall. On the sixth day of his sixth year (remembering his age was his sisters’ hobby), Latif’s mother sent him to masjid, Allah’s House, to learn Qur’an. There he felt sympathy for God, the biggest, having such a small House. All through the morning, he kept looking toward the gate hoping to see Him enter His House. The next day, Molvi Sahib made him sit facing away from the gate. Every time it opened, Latif looked back over his shoulder and Molvi Sahib would shout at him: taking eyes off the Qaida was a sin. Just that day, Molvi Sahib had beaten another child for a sin. After going to the mosque, he joined Sara for lunch at home. Expectantly, he sat cross-legged on the cold bare floor of the veranda. “Why has Allah given His House to Molvi Sahib?” he asked innocently. “Who says He did? He hasn’t given it to him. Masjid is Allah’s House, bus,” she said with certainty, and recited Bismillah to begin eating. “But Baji, I haven’t seen Him there…” “No one can see Him, pagal,”she interrupted. “But Baji, Molvi Sahib lives there,” he said, and forked his fingers into the plate of potato rice. “Molvi

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Sahib beats children with a stick when they do sins.” “Allah also lives in His House but we can’t see Him, bus.” “But Baji, He is the biggest, even bigger than the street,” he reminded her. She kept moving her empty mouth, chewing nothing. “Maybe He is living in the entire village, in all the houses or maybe in the street, and we don’t know because we can’t see Him,” he said thoughtfully. By the time he was ten years and ten days, he had learned many more things and unlearned many of those learned earlier: he knew how to read Qur’an, but didn’t know its translation; he could write letters and read stories; he had learned that his village street was wider than the streets of other villages. Its length could be walked in just ten minutes (but why were minutes smaller and hours bigger, when the minute-hand on the clock was bigger, moved faster, and travelled more than the hour hand?) and it had two ends: the sunrise end and the sunset end. He knew, too, that his house was in the middle of the street; that he was studying in a middle school; that his father had died when he was in middle age; and that Allah was the biggest—bigger than the whole world, which itself was very big. At the sunset end of the street there lived in a big haveli the Mockas, who often wore T-shirts and jeans, and who watched VCR and had cars and lands of their own; at the sunrise end, there lived in a big complex the Maskois, who usually wore shalvar (trousers), kurta (shirt), and caps. They attended processions and had cars and lands of Allah, not of their own. The sunrise-enders and the sunset-enders hated each other for these reasons and many others. Don’t just lounge around in the house parroting what is what and who is who, his sisters scolded him. You should play kirket, and become the Javed Miandad or the Imran Khan for Pakistan. But who to play cricket with? He was already hitting sixes on his sisters’ slower deliveries. He started playing in the street with a few of his male neighbors, but couldn’t


become Imran in bowling or Miandad in batting. He was average in both fields, a so-called all-rounder. All of his elder male neighbors were doing day labor in the nearby towns and unavailable to play. He had to play with the leftovers, who were either younger than him or crooked enough to challenge. You should join either the Mockas’ or the Maskois’ club, his sisters suggested. He could take turns playing one week with the Mockas and the next with the Maskois. On the eleventh day of his eleventh year, he went to the sunset end. The Mockas hardly ever came to the filthy middle part of the street, yet he knew many of them thanks to his sisters’ gossip. Finding them reluctant to let him play with them, Latif reminded the Mockas that his mother originally belonged to their clan. Assuming the role of a maternal uncle, one of the boys who might have been in his late teens extended his affection and made him sit on his lap, which was a bit odd. The lap-boy, Ballu, then inducted him into his team. Tony, Boby, Vicky, Sid, Dany, Ballu: all of them were great. Their exotic names sounded superb. They played the same cricket as he did. What made it an international setting was the way they spoke English, spiced with smiles and winks and abuses: oh bro; oh bastard. Wow! After the first inning, the Mockas’ servants brought cold drinks, snacks, and towels for them. He was overjoyed when Ballu dried his head with his own towel after lightheartedly spilling Coke over him. After the match, they took him to what they called their dressing room, built outside the premises of the haveli. Outside were two Jeeps and some other things which he couldn’t see in the cloudy dusk and because of Ballu’s constant affections. Inside, he saw many things for the first time in his life: the attached bath, the desk, the sofa (and the correct way to sit on it), the glass tables, the portraits. But what interested him the most were the revolving chair and the pendulum clock. They moved about so freely. Wow! “Why are you gazing at the pendulum?” Ballu asked, sitting on the sofa in exactly the same way Imran Khan sat in the portrait overhead. “You like its erection?” He winked at him. When Dany entered the room, Ballu said, “It’s outta order. That’s why it’s tilted toward us and not moving properly.” Dany took his catapult and aimed at the pendulum. The small stone flew out and hit the pendulum’s upturned end, pushing it backward into its place. “Oh well done, bro!” Ballu clapped his hands. So did Latif. “Now it’s been fixed. Dany has ways of his own to fix things,” Ballu told Latif.

Following his original plan, the next week Latif went to the Maskois. Although none of them were his friends, he knew almost all of them because he studied Qur’an and offered Friday prayers in their masjid. He reminded them that his father originally belonged to their clan. Abdullah, Asadullah, Salih, Zahid: all of them were great. They played the same cricket, but in a sacred atmosphere perfumed with In sha Allah, Ma sha Allah, Alhamdolillah. What he liked most was the way they called him ‘Latif Bhai’. Subhan Allah! After the first inning, they sat in a circle, drank cold water, and ate halwa—sweets brought by the students of their madarsa—their school. Abdullah said nice things about the rewards for practicing believers. After the match, they went to the mosque to offer maghrib prayers. He felt quite secure there. Not only were there two armed gunmen guarding the mosque, but an ambulance was parked there for any emergency. If, God forbid, anything happened to him, he could also be transported in Abdullah’s Jeep. At the end of a fortnight, Latif was in a fix. The jeans and T-shirts, the English language, the Coke break, and the dressing room were a real attraction at the Mockas’. The white shalvar and kurta, the sermonizing, the prayer in the mosque, and hoors in the Heaven were a real attraction at the Maskois’. He wanted to have both. The street was one, so there should be one team. It should be possible to drink Coke while listening to advice on religion, and wear jeans while offering prayers. He would not be submissively moving between the two ends of the street like a pendulum, but rather having a bit of excitement in his life. Erection, he smiled. During the break, he drank the bottle of Coke in one gulp, and after letting out an awkward hiss of a burp, he revealed his thoughts to the Mockas. A snake in the grass, was Ballu’s silent reaction. “But they are very nice people. They say nice things. You are nice, too. Our street should have one team.” He sounded more passionate than persuasive. “O ay, don’t tell me. Let’s make things clear.” Dany, who was aiming at the stumps, swung his catapult in the air and asked, “Are you a fundamentalist or secular?” “But I don’t know. I mean fundamentalist or secular?” He revealed his ignorance. “O ay bastard, secular is educated and progressive. Fundamentalist is narrow-minded and uneducated, ignorant.” Dany’s nostrils narrowed down to the point of complete closure before he spat on the pitch. “But I’m so-so, Dany Bhai.” “Lo ji! Meet Mr. So-so. Came to confuse us.” He walked away, leaving Mr. So-so embarrassed. “But I didn’t know they were bad people, Ballu bro,” he said apologetically. “Only bad? They are bloody cramps. They have spoiled our village. Now that mullah will contest my

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‘best wishes’ jane kim, risd ’13 silkscreen, inkjet print father in the elections. Do you know what his origin is?” “But they are my relatives, and Ma says we all are Adam’s sons.” Latif had to swallow a gulp of saliva and gather his courage. “Relatives? They are nobody’s nothing. Didn’t they make you vomit with their ill-smells?” “But I like the fragrance of the attar, Ballu Bhai.” Ballu gave him an angry look and walked away. Latif collapsed on the pitch, wondering why good people have bad enmities. He should apologize. He found Ballu watching a movie on the VCR. Latif didn’t understand the language they spoke in the film and looked at Ballu, who switched off the VCR and said, “Seems you mind it. Wanna sit? Come on.” As he tried to drag him toward his lap, Latif burst into tears and stood back firmly.

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“See, we do things openly,” Ballu said, withdrawing his hand. “Without any hypocrisy—not like them, those hypocrites. Come back to me if ever you make up your mind about being human.” Latif was shocked and disillusioned by both their openness and their humanness. He couldn’t imagine such civilized people doing these cheap things. In the evening, he shied away from his sisters. The next day he went to the Maskois. Upon being asked where he had been the previous day, he told them all that had happened. “They will burn in Jahannum,” Abdullah said. “They are drunkards. The drink of Umul Khabais doesn’t do them any good. They are corrupt Haramkhwars. Their women are also bad women.” Abdullah spoke with such


an air of obviousness that Latif hated himself for having spent any time with the Mockas. “Your mother was one of them.” Latif wished Abdullah had not said that. Abdullah shouldn’t relate his mother to those bad women. Abdullah, who had a beard and a Jeep of his own. Latif’s mother had once said that Abdullah was the best boy in the village because he had gotten his deen and duniya—preparations for life thereafter and worldly comforts together—at a young age. “Please don’t say bad things, Abdullah bro,” Latif begged. “Bro?” Abdullah shouted. “You don’t mind when they do bad things but mind when I speak up! Are you a Muslim or kafir? Are you with us or them?” “But I’m so-so; with both, but…” he mumbled. “Both? You want two enjoyments in one ticket?” Actually, he had no ticket at all. Ticketless in the ticketed world! “Your father left grandpa for a cheap woman. You are nothing but the son of a woman who eloped.” Latif cried again, even though he didn’t know what exactly ‘elope’ meant. He felt like the grass trampled by two fighting elephants. He went straight to his mother and asked what ‘eloping’ was. “You shouldn’t mind them, my son. They’ll grow wise as they grow up. You’re not what others tell you; you are what you think you are. You will be lost if you allow others to control your thinking,” she said, trying to strengthen his belief in himself. But Latif wanted to know what the word meant. “If a woman marries a man of her own choice, people say she eloped. No matter if she waits for thirtyfour years. No matter if all the proceedings are done following the religious teachings. Some people won’t stop reminding her children that their mother eloped. But you should stay strong, my son.” She fell silent. Latif had never seen his father—or maybe he just didn’t remember what he looked like. “Your father was a pious man, just like Abdullah, less a Jeep.” Latif ground his teeth. “At that time your paternal family had no cars, little money. He needed money and I a man.” She took a deep breath and continued, “Somehow we got married. But then your father needed a son, you,” she sobbed suddenly, and tears filled her wrinkles. Why had his father insisted on having him if he wasn’t supposed to stay with him? “I was a valueless resident of a complicated web of

traditions. I was caught in one of its knots. To come out of it, I had to untie it. My act shook the whole web. The turbans of those freely moving about fell down.” Latif yawned. “The property had been divided before my father’s death. My brothers feared being dragged into courtkachehri, and gave my share…” The session of maternal education would have continued had she not noticed that Latif was asleep with his forehead on her left knee. She kissed his head and murmured blessings: may you live as long as Khizir did; may the attack of your enemy miss its target; may the hot air never touch you. Latif’s sisters kept invoking his manliness. After President Zia’s martyrium, a lot of political activity happened all over Pakistan. He heard Benazir Bhutto’s speeches, and decided to gain for himself what she termed as street power. One evening, he gathered his neighbors and announced that he had everything for cricket: a tennis ball, a pair of portable wickets, and two bats—one for elders, one for youngers. He told them that he had also ordered a dozen caps for the players to save them from the sun as well as the cold air. The leftovers, who were bored of riding stray donkeys and teasing copulating dogs, started playing cricket with him again. He offered them Coke breaks too. Every Friday, he took them to the mosque; the Maskois took this as a cheap show of power. Within a few weeks, Latif occupied the entire street, playing cricket with minor appropriations of the ICC rules. He was the uncontested captain, manager, coach, and sponsor of his team, and a crownless ruler of the street. With practice, their shots became more powerful and their bowling faster, their confidence greater. He extended the third man and long-on and long-off boundaries. As both the elections and Latif’s boundary drew nearer, the Mockas and the Maskois grew worried. Abdullah’s grandfather was supposed to contest Ballu’s father. But then the inevitable happened: he gave up his candidacy, declaring his fullest support for Ballu’s father. This reconciliation between the Mockas and the Maskois left everyone dumbfounded. The sunrise-enders had now started teaching Qur’an to young sunset-enders. The Maskoi boys were seen practicing English. They went to watch political speeches on the Mockas’ VCR. The Mockas returned this courtesy by regularly visiting the masjid—in every prayer, at least one Mocka was present, right behind Abdullah’s grandfather. The Mockas had gifted a big dish antenna to the Maskois which they called Chhaata; it was for the political news only. Sometimes the Maskois watched films, too, to see how clean the roads of the developed countries were—not to see the Bollywood heroines’ nude waists. 31


The Maskois and the Mockas were now very happy with each other. What troubled them in spite of—or perhaps because of—their full participation in the political processions they had so far arranged was Latif and his team. All the street boys except Latif raised slogans in favor of Ballu’s father. Their voices grew louder as they drew nearer the big pots of Murgh Pullao. Ballu’s father didn’t need their votes as badly as they needed the chicken rice. The Maskois had banished Latif’s father while the Mockas had shunned his mother for what they spitefully termed as elopement. For Latif, their oxymoronic political alliance was no less shameful than an elopement. Trampling elephants, now at peace, would eat grass together. The grass between had to be consumed. Latif decided to revolt before it was too late. What he could do was stop them from using the walls in the street for political wall chalking. Allah lived there in the street. He persuaded his players not to allow anyone to spoil their walls. It cost him two jumbo size Coke bottles before the boys started erasing the text written on the mud walls of their houses. It read: Jeetay ga bhai jeetay ga—Yousif Mocka jeetay ga. Yousif Mocka will win. Abdullah, Asad, and Zahid came to them. Avoiding Latif, Abdullah told the boys how big a sin they were committing. He told them that Yousif was the name of a prophet. He described the punishment that was now due on them: they would be punished in Hell by Allah’s angels, or in this world by Allah’s pious people. Why would Allah’s pious men trouble the Angels for this little job? the boys wondered. On their way back, Abdullah sought his cousins’ opinions. “Latif must be taught a lesson,” Asad opined. “We must finish the evil in the beginning,” Zahid said. “They say ‘nip the evil in the butt.’” Asad was one of the Maskois who had recently joined an English medium school. “Take time. Think of the best way to cure him,” Abdullah concluded. The next day, Latif went alone to a house near the sunset end, wearing a handkerchief on his face and a cap on his head to save him from dust, and began erasing the text on the wall with a shovel. The Mockas would have let their dogs eat him had he challenged them in the normal days. But the elections were close and the young Mockas had learned the importance of timing: call even a donkey your father, if you have to, in the days of elections. So they watched Latif erase their slogans and did not mind it. Instead, they offered him their help in what they called “cleaning our village.” He erased one slogan, wiped sweat from his

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forehead, and went to the opposite wall. There, he placed the shovel down, veiled his face with the handkerchief, and removed the branch of a shrub that was blocking his way. But as he bent down to pick up the shovel, he felt what seemed to be small needles piercing through the flesh of his buttocks. Impulsively, he rubbed his hips; as he turned around, he found himself standing amidst neither angels nor pious people, but hundreds of honeybees humming angrily. With tears oozing through his eyes, he saw Dany waving his catapult. The more the piercing pain, the faster Latif ran. He rubbed his back fiercely. His trousers were slipping down his thighs. Maddened by pain and conscious of his manliness, he didn’t enter his house but went running toward the sunrise end of the street. There, he found Abdullah and company, and begged them for help. Unable to speak properly, he rubbed his back as a gesture. But by then they had developed an unforgivable interest in his front. He pulled his trousers up. “Call the circumciser, or just bring an ustra, a razor. It must be done immediately,” shouted Abdullah to his cousins. “His mother didn’t even get him circumcised.” He placed his right hand below his bellybutton to safeguard his genitals, but a dying bee stuck through his middle finger to land on his right ball. A loud shriek was the last sound he heard. When he regained consciousness, he was being tended to by his mother and sisters. “You know the whole night you were muttering, ‘there is no slogan in the street now, zindabad, pendulum, and the fixed.’” Sara spoke first, with tears still in her eyes. Ma tapped Sara on her head and told the girls to leave the room. Latif saw a spider knitting its web on the ceiling, not low enough to be seen by his mother’s weak eyesight. “Alhamdolillah, you are fine. What were you doing with the honeybees? Khair, everything happens for good. See, now you are circumcised. Even the thought of it scared me. It was a big burden for my shoulders, even more than marrying seven daughters off.” She was glad. “I should go and offer nawafil-e-shukrana; thanking Allah is a must.” As Ma left the room, he put his right hand under the blanket and felt his bitten ball. “BUT THERE IS NO SLOGAN IN THE STREET NOW… ZINDABAD… PENDULUM … THE FIXED,” he said hysterically.

Muhammad Sheeraz is a lecturer in the Department of English at International Islamic University Islamabad. Currently, he is a visiting scholar in the Department of Linguistics at Colorado University in Boulder, CO.


little lightning lydia yamaguchi ’14 photography

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inmate of the panopticon angela (left) & brittany (right) ji yeo, risd ’13 archival inkjet print

artist’s note ji yeo, on inmate of the panopticon “Inmate of the Panopticon” is the phrase Sandra Lee Bartky used in her book Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression to illustrate woman’s consciousness of the fact that she is under surveillance in ways that man is not.

brings to the surface the viewers’ natural impulse to judge. By encouraging an emotional outpour, I attempt to shed light on their submerged individuality, and to reveal the corner of a person untainted by social masks that are endemic to our age.

My series Inmate of the Panopticon is a combination of two different types of women. One type suffers from extreme self-regulation, distorted notions of beauty, and eating disorders. These women have very serious issues with their own reflections, and when photographed with a single reflex camera, they were literally confronted by their own mirror image by allowing me to record it on film. The other type is women who are aspiring actresses and models living in Hollywood, California, and who are interested in the process of being represented because they carry dreams of fame. These women revolve around the deep rift between self-perception and staged appearance. All the subjects are a classic trope of the American cultural landscape.

While in an environment of absolute silence for thirty minutes, save for the echoes of clicking shutters, the women who were posing in front of the camera started to forget about the existence of the lens and the photographer, to let their thoughts wander. We find freshfaced candor, soft and welcoming tenderness. We find eyes that are not windows into the soul but rather float on the surface, their expression as practiced as polished teeth. We find aloofness, and the gaze that recognizes the camera; we find poised acknowledgement, that of those confident in what they present. We also find an accusatory sadness, a surprised discomfort at the position that the camera places them in, as though the viewer is an uninvited guest in their world. We find eyes that are tired, that carry with them all of the person’s struggles, and eyes that betray the hints of a smile. A single eye pokes out as the plea of an ageless soul in an aging body. That eye contains the confidence of women of tremendous beauty, remaining in echoes as the body slowly fades.

By combining these two groups of women, I aim to illuminate the profound, if unconscious position of the aesthetic judge that the viewer inhabits. By forcing viewers to confront images of women who by definition have been judged continuously by themselves, this series

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the curious nature of momentarily being with and without by meia geddes Trying not to slip over The edge of your absence I waver At the margins Eyes closed Swaying back and forth My mind The line That swings me to and fro Holding your likeness before me As when one looks out to sea and Suddenly finds herself upon the water Having lost the feel of land Having become the great expanse I find myself here and yet absent Meia Geddes ‘14 thinks too much and thinks not enough.

arisa draws stella chung ’13 charcoal on paper 36


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twisty dance dianna xu, risd ’14 mixed media etching


visions in translation

featuring eunice kim K.D. Kim, who goes by his penname Wolsan, is a South Korea writer, poet, and religious leader. He was born in 1938 during the Japanese colonial period in a small city in Southern Korea, Susan City of Southern Choongchung County. Kim often writes from the perspective of one who has personally experienced the history of modern Korea, including Japanese colonization, the Korean War, rapid economic development, the IMF crisis (also known as the 1997 East Asian financial crisis), and democratic revolution. He has written over 15 volumes of essays and poetry collections that frequently reflect on social issues in Korea. He currently resides in Seoul and is an active member of International P.E.N, Korea. The following poem comes from The Blossom Inscribed in My Heart.

Black Pine by the Seaside

해송

Breath lowered, Enduring the poundings of the Western Wind, The one destined for endurance, Anything fair or rough

서해의 바람을 맞으며 숨결을 낮춘다 순풍이든 강풍이든 견뎌야 할 운명

Be it a raging Chinese sandstorm Be it a thundering Southern hurricane The lone, destined one Wills to block with its whole body

중국에서 날아오는 황사에도 남쪽에서 불어오는 태풍에도 온 몸으로 막으려는 외로운 사명자

The bent body facing east Tells a rough history

동향한 기운 몸뚱이가 거친 세월을 말해준다

Eunice Kim ’13 likes to smile :)

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the schoolyard by anny li

I.

Into the schoolyard the children spill.

They shriek raucous freedom under a blazing June sun. Summer is close and it clings to their sweaty backs, burning black pavement. One little girl stands waiting in the swirling mass, six years old at most. Her eyes dart about; she touches her hair anxiously. The sun trapped in her shiny bowl of black hair burns her hands. A narrow figure stumbles into the swarm. Older, with fluffy white hair. She cranes her neck taut above a sea of sweaty heads, searching for her own little girl. “Xin!” she calls out. “Xin!” A certain quality of desperation, of feeling adrift, tinges her voice. The schoolteacher approaches and asks her a question in articulated, slow English, but she can’t answer, don’t understand. “Ei?” and “Wah?” The noises coming out of her mouth are clunky and misshapen; they crash to the ground and skitter away in embarrassment. The little bowl girl watches it all. She freezes in horror as she sees the other children turn to listen to her lao lao’s broken words. She feels their stares and hears their ching-chong ling-longs, hotter than the fire in her hair. This is when her grandmother sees her. With shaky steps, the woman walks over and takes her granddaughter’s hand, holds on to it too tightly. She beams with pride, her desperation vanished. How was your day, Xin? What did you learn? But the girl rips her hand away in disgust. How stupid she sounds! The girl cannot find the words to respond because all she has is shame. Hot and searing, welding her lips together. She turns and leaves the schoolyard without a word. Over cracked sidewalks, her grandmother chases her home. She pleads to the girl the whole way: You why not happy? Then they are inside the apartment, and again: Xin, you why not happy? The little bowl girl hates cracks in the sidewalk amongst other broken things, like her grandmother’s words. The metal wiring the girl’s jaw shut explodes into splinters of steel defiance –– 40

Why don’t you just go back to China, You don’t belong here. This isn’t your home! She knows her words are black. Blacker than tar or sun burnt hair or holes that consume all matter. But Xin— do you love or not love me? No! Go home. Faces fall, tumbling down wells that have no bottom. II.

To stay afloat at sea

Stomach spiraling into an infinite well My hands scrabble at a hollow belly blood swelling over the brims of cupped palms It’s the only way to bail out this boat. I can’t hold these letters in my pen for much longer because doing so is like cupping water in my hands, water that always seeps out through the microscopic gaps between my fingers, and no matter how tightly I squeeze them together, words still escape from tiny fissures in my seemingly solid skin. This language is pouring out of me, filling the spaces I exist in—spaces you are not and will never know. I know you still think of that day but I wish you hadn’t listened. I know she seemed as stubborn as a rock, but really, she was only a pebble, skipping over oceans. Anny Li ’15 needs to hold your hand.


common simple beautiful julia leung ’16

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sexual tension (pt. 4) by ayoosh pareek I. Look, the sharpness of my breath is cutting veins again. I didn’t mean to breathe so hard on your wrists. Imaginary roses on sheets, benches have arms for you to hold. Lie with me on a bed of grass (I have arms waiting for you to hold). (the biggest bulb in our galaxy blew a fuse) Mornings as dim as the nights so we opened each other up like strangers (cold hands exploring in operating room darkness). Your skin smooth like stained marble, the space between us painted Taj Mahals in my mind. The white of my eyes laid out in front of you during our conversations – your words swallowed rooms in the homes my thoughts make. I need you like plants need the sun, like buildings need windows; (I need you like the space between steps). Come lie with me on a bed of grass and stare at my glow in the dark stars before we fall asleep to the sound of my fan. II. We were too young to be in love, I told her. I’m sure I breathe out in the direction that will carry my scent to you, she says. Walking down the hallway, I can’t help but think of the reapers that will come (first for me, then for you). Like evolution, we were nothing but a big accident. I slipped onto you like an oil spill, there was no friction between us, but there was no contact, either. Ayoosh Pareek ’12, in moments of weakness, imagines he is the one chasing the wolf.

catharsis sarina mitchel, risd ’15 caran d’ache crayon on masonite 42


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do you ever wonder where balloons go? by iris pak The ones that slip right out of your grip when for once we don’t lose by dropping, but by letting go Maybe, before helium grows weaker than gravity, all those lost balloons collect in one high place in the sky. As if there’s a clear rounded ceiling mounted at the top where for one moment the balloons stay still barely touching each other’s bouncy circumferences. There, the “R” and “O” balloons from Sam’s promposal join Ian’s unbirthday balloon that came with free cake from the Big City Diner and little Jenny’s red balloon that slipped off her tiny wrist at the zoo and Leni’s real birthday balloon that got caught on her classroom door along with the newly Mr. & Mrs. Matsumoto’s wedding arch balloons and the hundreds set free by the Punahou School graduates. They are glad because they got a chance to take flight before popping, and all their loose strings and ribbons tickle the backs of planes flying by. Iris Pak ’15 wants to be in too many places at once.

tea time by jaemun park She said to me: “How lovely it is we are such friends! To fasten ourselves like bees to a tenuous flame is one thing I have so despised.” Her hands were thinly scented.

don’t worry, everyone will get one. yebin so ’16 digital photography

I sipped my drink quietly and smiled in conceit. Jaemun Park ’16 drinks his coffee black. 45


rainy day in mong kok minkyung mary kang, risd ‘15 mixed media

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connection: 香港 Much like how the facial muscles will begin to move toward a smile split seconds before you feel happiness, eyes widen and pace slackens minutes before you perceive that you are lost. The vertical line high-rises of Hong Kong make this especially easy, coalescing together to form a city-wide mural of illusion. People slip in and out through this visual play, and it is effortless to get lost here; stand still and the sheer amount of life could very possibly sweep you away. The elevated walkways and shortcuts through high-rise buildings ensure that my thoughts are not grounded, and they wander aimlessly through this aerial living. There is a certain joy in connecting the pieces of a new world to the boundaries of everywhere you know to be in existence, especially here. It is a taxing yet comforting

by tiffany phu process, with the only caveat being that the more you get lost, the more difficult it becomes to continue getting lost. In this city, the MTR station is the hub of all worthwhile signs and usefully marked exits: a welcome respite for all who do not know where they are. The action of plunging back into the station to check the signs and maps—only to emerge in a completely different place with each exit— makes Hong Kong’s subway system a connection of Alice in Wonderland rabbit holes. This makes for a strange place filled with floating worlds and underground passageways. Someday, I might finally grasp them to intertwine and form my own tiny Pangaea—perhaps then, it will be a semblance of me. Tiffany Phu ’14 is grateful that the world is, eventually, round.

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the curious ladybug by talia wong A curious ladybug was born during a thunderstorm. The rain went to her head, and she grew up loving lightning. “Fool!” buzzed the bugs, but the curious ladybug didn’t care. One day a storm brewed. The curious ladybug flew out higher than ever, and she waited, quivering. Thunder! Air sizzled…flash! Light raced, struck. “She’ll burn!” the bugs cried below. An ember floated down, closer, until they saw that it was the curious ladybug, bright like fire. The oldest, wisest ant approached her. He raised an antenna in respect. “Henceforth, Ladybug,” he said, “you are called Firefly.” Talia Wong ’13 is remembering the little things and the rain.

auspicious annie swihart, risd ’13 gouache 49


the eboard Susie Ahn ‘13 is waiting for the waves to recede. Larry Au ‘14 stopped and looked. Amy Chen ‘17 grapefruits, walnuts, and pomegranates. Mabel Fung ‘15 dares to dream, but doesn’t dare to go on a roller-coaster. oh well. Carol Kim ‘15 has been left to her own (literary) devices. Anny Li ‘15 wants the music, louder! Katherine Ng ‘14 et tu, laundryview? Christina Pan ‘13 thank you, to each and everyone that I’ve met, I’ll remember you all. Michelle Pombrol ‘16 is in want of a sheep. Winnie Shao ‘16 wants a break from reality. Sharon Sun ‘14 XOXO. Phuc Anh Tran ‘16 is a bridge-burner. Lauren Tsai ‘16 tries to avoid taking herself too seriously, but isn’t terribly funny either. Winnie Wang ‘14 ^_~ Yidan Zeng ‘17 is taking it one Earl Grey at a time.

untitled amy chen, brown/risd ’17 silkscreen 50


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chakra dragon catherine seabrook ’13 ink and digital

epilogue theresa wang risd ’16 oil paint

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deep purple estella ng, risd ’14, acrylic on canvas


www.visions-magazine.org | visions.brown@gmail.com like us facebook.com/VISIONS.Brown follow us @VISIONSBrown

SPRING 2013  

Volume XIII, Issue II.

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