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A Brown/RISD Visual & Literary Arts Magazine Vol. XIV Issue II

Letter From the Editors This spring, VISIONS saw the quick transition of a new editorial board, which allowed us a rare opportunity to reconsider our perception of the beautiful. With a more lateral approach, we saw beauty not only in elegance and tact, but also in the provisional and the mundane. This issue is a survey of remembrances, experiences, and dreams. We hope to give you a glimpse of the rich stories within the Asian/Asian American community on and beyond Brown and RISD’s campuses. Since our creation in 2000, we have grown and further solidified our purpose of unifying the voices and giving sound to the narratives that have been silenced in the past. Firstly, we would like to thank our contributors, whose cultural wealth and diversity have played a singular hand in the realization of our magazine. Secondly, we are grateful for our editorial board, our copy editing staff and our web team for their unwavering diligence. So much of what VISIONS has become is a sole result of their hard work and dedication. Finally, we would like to thank Dean Kisa Takasue, founder of VISIONS, and the Third World Center for their continuous support. As another issue comes to completion, we sadly see the departure of three of our editors: James Eng, Sharon Sun, and Mary Fei. However, with their leave comes the start of a new trajectory. VISIONS looks forward to the opportunity for growth and the potential for progress that will shape its future.

Marble James Eng, Brown `14

Visual Art Editor-in‑Chief James Eng ‘14 Managing Editors Sharon Sun ‘14 Michelle Pombrol ‘16 Art & Photography Editor Mary Fei ‘14 Literary Editor Betty Kim ‘15 Layout & Design Editor Chelsea Wang RISD ‘15 Digital Editor Christina Choi ‘15 Associate Art & Photography Editor Brandon Wang RISD ‘16 Associate Layout & Design Editor Hae Jin Park RISD ‘15 Publicity Chair Yiwei Zhao ‘16 Networking Chair Winnie Shao ‘16 Freshman Representative Mia Gold ‘17

Copy Editing Staff Sienna Bates ‘16 Gabrielle Hick ‘16 Bailey Hu ‘15 Carol Kim ‘15 Jie Hao Kwa ‘17 Cindy Ma ‘16 Christine Moon ‘13.5 Paige Morris ‘16 Web Staff Sienna Bates ‘16 Bianca Eyales ‘17 Lisa Lee ‘17 Photographer David Weinberger ‘16 Printer Printninja A very special thanks to ... Kisa Takesue Undergraduate Finance Board Pan Asian Council Office of Institutional Diversity Department of East Asian Studies Department of Comparative Literature Department of Visual Arts Department of Music Department of Theater Arts & Performance Studies Contributors and staff

On the Cover Veronica Ni, RISD ‘16 Skylines, Digital Contact @VISIONSBrown




Spirit of the Renaissance Michaela Gross

Wedding Phillis Hai

My Brother’s Keeper Yvonne Cha




Jaipur Divya Bhatia

Boobs Rosaline Zhang

Droopy Cheese Carol Lin




Blue Jay (Artist’s Brother) Taehee Whang

在家 Carol Lin

Quilt of Page and Shadow Meia Geddes




Hong Kong Lauren Cheng

Secret Walk Hae Jin Park

Plastic Bags Ayoosh Prateek




Harvest Hae Jin Park

Rinse Rust Thin Fray Beyon

Nuwara Eliya Joshua Shiau




Animal Shelter Ke Peng

I Belong Here Too Michael Ee

A Womb Filled with Water Cia Matthew



Buildings Amy Chen

Pascal’s Wager Steven Pestana

28 The Memory Room Divya Bhatia


Literary Art

Nuwara Eliya Joshua Shiau 27

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. Disclaimer The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of VISIONS’s sponsors.

Gardening as an Act of Resistance Jess Chen

5 Flinders Melody Cao 7


The Airports Dora Chu

Absorbed Julia Borden


31 Alice, Disconnected I Max Kaplan

Caligula Speaks Jaemun Park

30 Just One Word Mitch Akutsu 33 The Breathing Clock Tiffany Phu 37 Fruit Lucy Zhou 39 The Family from America Kathy Wu



Melody Cao




examining her handiwork, the woodworker fingers the rounded edges of her wooden disk then exhales, unleashing a cloud of fluttering sienna dust. the rusted clamps hug the disk tightly with their metal grasp and groan as they are wound tighter and tighter. they emit a final squeak; they can be coaxed no further. she begins hacking. the mallet is swung high, ready for descent. the chisel glistens against the wood, ready to glide through twisting splinters. then the mallet and chisel meet, only to skim across the wood’s grain and hurtle apart. a sliver of maple veneer is uprooted, then two, then several. a mound of wood shreds materializes. knuckles gleaming, she grips a rasp, which bares its wicked, ragged teeth. the rasp bounces across the disk, abrading unwelcome facets into the feeble powder that would seed her hair and flesh. in rhythm, it rocks until she sneezes. gingerly rubbing her nose with a blistered hand, she whips her ponytail to the other side, pushes loose hairs back, then resumes.

Spirit of the Renaissance Melody Cao ‘16 enjoys velocity.

Michaela Gross, Brown ‘17 Book Sculpture

The Airports


Dora Chu




When I find myself people watching at the airport

The TSA agent is the only one who allows her gaze to linger

where the lives are often too packed


and the chaos too tangible, I’m startled by this sense in something that

Though, I see that her eyes betray her of


disorder embody

and the disgust that seeps order

As if they’ve tried too hard to and the



than the moment that one is allowed in a place like this through.

The suffocation that I feel is remarkable and terrible — when the filled aircraft is as silent as it is —


volatility of humans proved too fatal.

and I have many cacophonies yet to make —

plus insistant — il est plus insistant —

But my father says he likes the place where people planes and plans reside around the clock

Parce que les aéroports ne ferment jamais Et peut-être l’amour malavisé pour eux est dans mes gènes Et quelquefois, mon père et moi, nous sommes la meme.

Because the airports never close

And maybe the misguided love for them is in my genes

And sometimes, my dad and me, we’re the same.

more insistent now the noise has ceased and I am too still — waiting. How do I dare to be the only audible soul in this recycled air, in the shared oxygen and the sky borne fears.

Dora Chu ‘16 highly recommends sriracha mayo.

Caligula Speaks





Jaemun Park

A watch is intermediary between different places to be as if the small hand, hunted by the embrace of younger self is some violence against the reminder of sounds vertiginous and daft. In the end, all tickings lead to Rome: the great testament to the decay of first worlds wrapped in undivided light. What about the fall or rise prompts immediacy, incessant and trouble to erase ? What about the rooster's chime awakens stirring that prefers to forget caged-in dreams ?

It wandered twice barked, realized the end of unwanted memory, and softened. Thus Caesar meets the end of his glory and a dog finds platitudes in absurdity. Still man doesn’t let fall the oak upon which his chicken stands. Here goes the unyielding chronicle of the watch, its hands! Here comes autumnal rest, an orientation to silence the clock’s livid tongue, her clicks, her chimes: to live without the romance of rise and decline.

I once saw a mongrel weep over a canine loss.

A Peek into the Pink City, Jaipur, India Divya Bhatia, Brown ‘15 Digital Photography

Jaemun Park ‘16 has three watches in his room — all busted.


My Brother’s Keeper



Yvonne Cha


my brother was a boy so white and round he was an albino monkey eating bananas in his underwear and peeing in our maid’s pepper plants always sagged his pants because he had no hip bones but when you put on hip hop he knew how to work his moves he never got to suckle his mother grew up an angry toddler until my father taught him better beat him with a yardstick he used for measuring fabric the beatings did not quell his temper but his pale butt would swell bottom lip would quiver he could not understand that paternal love from a cold Korean father was something you felt from sincere discipline — a slap in the face is harder than a hug and that’s how you are to remember that you are worth more than an apathetic embrace rise above the synthetic distaste your father forges for he purges his insides of warmth to teach you that outside is a place void of comfort no couches it’ll be cold no torches you might starve no chances after the one that you are given by parents who have begotten you my brother yoonho was born in the year of the tiger and though solemnly fierce he never asked me why we lived the way we did until he was 8 I was 12 and sitting in the living room filling out a high school application when he asks me with the most serious fucking face I have ever seen “Why can’t mom and dad live together ? ” I was unprepared at the time to answer his question I had just gotten out of an intense love affair with a 19-year old guy from Queens College we used to talk of marriage over the phone and one day my dad overheard promised to kill me if I kept my word but it only pushed me further into the arms of a stranger because they were warmer than my father’s even when I had gotten bullied in 6th grade and kids laughed at my leaking period and threatened to kill me with spit balls and paper planes I ran to my daddy and told him I wanted to die I don’t remember his saying anything to change my mind so when I found a college boy who offered solace because his pop was gone now alone with his mom he claimed he understood I let him have me deflower me we never made love but I am thankful he spared me because as soon as 8th grade started he broke up with me told me he had another bangable Chinese chick in his philosophy class named Albee but like a kid I chased him anyway took the bus to his house after school with an apple juice jar filled with folded paper cranes it was the only way for me at my young age to express my longing I refused to acknowledge that we were over until I realized he had used me

Blue Jay (Artist’s Brother) Taehee Whang, RISD ‘16 Oil Paint

when we first met he bought me lunch on his birthday afterwards we went back

transferred to a parochial school where all the kids were white and weird

to his place told me he had to grab something real quick but instead he sat

because I wasn’t cool enough to endure the brutality of public school bullying

me down on his bed started sniffing my neck told me I smelled good and I was

my brother was too young and he was my only friend but so often I forgot to look

enamored by good looks and soccer–playing physique I let him touch me and I

to him because I felt the constant weight of his skinny body and round head in

was confused but relieved because maybe he approved of me and I was happy

my arms I could not drop him but I could not put him down either because to

until I went to church that day and realized something was horribly wrong I told

lean on his shifty shoulders we would both crumble under the heat of my mis-

all my friends that I had been raped by him and every time he came to church

takes and he for the sake of my sins

people started giving him dirty glances he was confused and I feeling helpless told him what I had told them yet he didn’t get angry told me he didn’t care if people knew about us because he was willing to lose his reputation for our love and with the promise of love I took back my words thought that it corrected any kind of wrong I ran to my friends and apologized for lying said it was for the attention and I lost them and their trust I was left alone with only 19-year old Brandon my bible study teacher who knew it was illegal but kept silent until he

when my brother almost failed kindergarten because he could not learn to speak english my parents worried that he would not amount to success and I felt the pressure to pick up his luggage give him guidance and courage but I was wrong about him my brother did not grow up to be like me he did not fall in love with the devil or run into trouble with bullies and old weirdos he feigned innocence and ignorance acted like he did not see or understand anything but

needed an excuse to leave

under his wise breaths excused everything my brother is 15 today and 7 years

I was so eagerly infatuated even though he would lock me up in his house put

anchor of his heavy head pulling my sanity towards family I would have cracked

ago I would not have realized that his burden was my strength without the

on some Korean comedy show where old dudes would do weird things and we

under false pretensions of love and protection real love is in the roots of accep-

would pretend to watch like it was normal we never left his room unless it was to

tance and my only redemption was my brother’s silent contention I was still his

eat at the noodle place a block away I would lie to my family and say I was going

big sister and for that all was forgiven.

to praise team practice but really I would crawl into his bed and suck his dick he would never come in front of me said it was too messy and I never questioned it because it was my first time seeing a real-life penis and I thought maybe the porn I watched when I was in third grade wasn’t accurate the highlight of our relationship came when we went on a double date with another pedophilic couple the guy was 20 the girl 13 and Brandon told me apparently she had done everything from doggy style to cum facials and he said it was because Chinese people were sick and I was quick to agree because we were Korean Christians in love and that’s why we could sneak out of late night services during retreats where I was a student and he was a teacher sit behind a wooden staircase and he would only finger me while I chewed on his neck not caring whether God was present I distinctly remember hating myself but loving him because he saw me as worth more than the forbidden I was 12 when he finally pushed me away he claimed it was because he could get locked up for it and we both knew that from the beginning but it was heart wrenching because he didn’t love me enough anymore to not care about law and order at the time I wondered what life would look like alone and I really thought I was truly alone I wallowed in coldstone ice cream started getting greasy and fat my dad retreated into the house of his 90-year old mother living in the projects next to Queens College my mom was busy trying to make money in china I

Yvonne Cha ‘16 believes she was a rapper in her previous life.






Droopy Cheese



Carol Lin



fantasize how you want this to end


i hope you are somewhere breaking hearts


marry me, dressed in firearms

4. fists:

our lovers are ashamed 5.

cranberries on ya cheek raindrops on my cupcake


cheers to the sadness of surrendering so we’re proud again


stay home you weren’t my only luxury item


twirl and twirl sparklies and sparkles


i am so happy today that i don’t have to write this poem

10. don’t convince me

don’t teach me anything

Hong Kong Lauren Cheng, Brown ‘15 Mixed Media on Canvas

Carol Lin ‘14 is a Taiwanese artist with ginger lilies on her arm.

Quilt of Page and Shadow


Meia Geddes






Words caught, unsaid, trying to manifest

The air inside the back of my mouth circles

in sound. Air became something less than

about. I need to ask the dentist to hold my

open. A foreign taste of sour bananas and

mouth open. The juice inside an orange

textured oranges. Quivering eyes, I tried to

or a banana sometimes transfers between

grasp onto the way that one says what one

sections within the piece of fruit. I need to

wants, to linger not fall. Their very eyelashes

massage the oranges and bananas or crack

created thoughts, in the curving sweep of

them apart. If I could I would give birth to

their blinks, imperfect. I looked out the stain

ripe bananas and firm oranges, but I can’t

glass window, swallowed. My tongue curled

because I’m stuck with these, and anyway the

about saliva.

grocery store is closed.



I walk in sound circles, in memories laden

I am prepared to be unraveled, pressed upon

with grunts of distaste for what was. Like

and rolled out, soft and supple. Like a yoga

when one sees a pile of book clippings, pages

mat or a piece of dough. I am already imag-

aching with cuts and sores. Or shadows bro-

ining the singing flattening. It is time to be

ken and groaning and echoing in wet grave-

exposed. I hope to be as smooth as the best

yards at twilight. I am less than open. My skin

gravestone or the most velvety shadow.

is of sour bananas and textured oranges. I am an imperfect thought. Windows and saliva


swallow me.

I am ready to be a folded card of thoughts in eight installments. As I recall, someone glued


the aching pages and stitched the shad-

Something little grows inside me, but I don’t

ows into a quilt. Or maybe that was me. The

know what it is. A feeling, perhaps, or a word.

needle was a sentence and the words were

A story, maybe, or an obsession. A memory

thread. The quilt would cover a newborn.

virus. It grows and I can feel myself becoming obese, less than ample. I ask the one who is


not myself to tell me how it is, but I receive

My body loosens to slip into something like

no answer. I aim to expel this growth by

sleep. I drool like a baby.

translation into words. VIII. I sing in my dreams. I think I hear a rustling of Harvest Haejin Park, RISD ‘15 Digital Media

pages and shadow. Meia Geddes ‘14 likes quilts,pages,and shadow.


Plastic Bags



Ayoosh Prateek


There is something fascinating about plastic bags, floating in the stratosphere, symbols of plastic love, discardable affection. Soaked from the fresh rain, we dip our hearts into water streams. Absorbing it like sand, let it seep into your pores. New York in the rain is a new beginning for us. Umbrella conversations are a beginning for us. Air leaving lungs like smoke — it fills the space we let it. Nothing resembles us more than a recently used ashtray. Dipping myself in cloudy waters of whiskey, my breath is warmer than the weather. It wants out. Drowning yourself in the rising smoke, steps are leaves swirling in the storm. You want out. There is something fatal in flight, pool drains wait like mouths. Gravity (we have been waiting for you). Strings snap cleanly (lift off). Dancing on the ballroom floor, we move like tops. Our body slides along glass, light dripping from your shirt. We stand under umbrellas, over puddles of lightning. Evaporating like smoke, we fill the space they let us. Everything exhilarating when unfamiliar. Plastic bags, the inability to breathe. Animal Shelter Ke Peng, RISD ‘15 Archival Inkjet Print

Ayoosh Pareek won’t give up what he wants most, for what he wants now.





Nuwara Eliya Joshua Shiau

In the loose gravity of the hills kneading roots into high groundwater welling in the subconscious pulling up through stems to the lips of leaves picked & cracked awaiting travel awaiting wet keen to remember your grandmother the nervous shimmer of summer & standing cheek to cheek with a girl you have been thinking about for a long time

Nuwara Eliya Joshua Shiau, RISD ‘15 Photography

Joshua Shiau ‘15 dabbles in doodle.


A Womb Filled with Water



Cia Matthew


Their house is made out of tarp, cheap metal shingles, and sticks. The kitchen table, cot mattresses, and three plastic chairs all face each other in the small space. The walls hug the one-room house tightly, and the smell of trash and wet grass freely slips in through the crack around the flimsy door. The roof used to leak onto Elsa’s bed, but her Ma rotated everything in the room to the right so the leak would fall into the bowl on the kitchen table. Ma’s husband shows her the most love on that table. He breathes out deep belches and burps of appreciation after turmeric-filled stews and coconut chutney meals. His overstuffed stomach hangs over his belt far enough that it tickles his groin when he eats. And Elsa watches as he adjusts his crotch under the table with one hand, and rolls the curried rice into balls to place into his mouth with his other hand. Ma’s husband kisses his pale yellow, chai glass more than anyone else in his house. When he kisses Ma, it is never her lips. As full as they are, he keeps his own lips pursed and distant. Sometimes he bites her lip when they make love, but never a gentle kiss the way a water droplet lands on their tarp walls. And his eyes. His eyes rarely look at her. Ma misses this the most from her husband. Being watched, being looked at, being noticed. Instead, his eyes stay occupied on dingy old newspapers and the hanging out breasts of gypsies in town. During the day, Ma’s husband works for the milk store at the edge of the village slums, where the last row of houses meets the Kerala jungle. He tells the neighbors he’s equivalent to the milkman, flaunting himself to be the assistant of the shop owner. Yet, lies are vehicles to carry pride and he rides his far. In reality, Ma’s husband works for the cows. He follows them and feeds them, and he moves their shit out of the front of people’s houses. Once dark, he herds them back to the milkman’s store. Ma’s husband has become used to the stench of manure, and it no longer tickles his nose. He’s used to the stench the same way he is used to masturbating with his wife beside him. Ma and Elsa have also learned how to adapt. They are adapted to living in a house made of tarp, sticks, and dissatisfied appetites. And they are adapted to drinking and smelling spoiled milk – the leftovers Ma’s husband brings home. Buildings Amy Chen, Brown/RISD ‘17 Fones Construct

Elsa was born into a home without a calendar, but Nature kept time for them. In the last trimester of Ma’s pregnancy, Kerala was burning and writhing for water.

The monsoons were as late as they had ever been; it was nearing mid June and

protection the sari gives her, and clenches onto the folds of cloth instead of his

the ground remained parched and thirsty from the long months of summer.

large hands.

Ma went into labor after midnight, the time when the slums’ drunks and dogs wander in the shadows. She bled and pushed and shat and cried for five hours that night. She prayed through screams and whispers, and her mouth went from gaping open to partially open to gaping open, mimicking the pushing and contracting of her ripping vagina. God take it out. God let this be over. The first birth is the worst the gypsy-midwives told her.

Ma’s husband eagerly empties himself into water-damaged lands each night. He pumps and pours to create a son, yet his streams do nothing but float lazily over the fragments of her old womb. His son-liquid merely collects in water pockets that casually dry up. During it, he doesn’t twitch if Elsa begins crying, and remains too occupied with his own streams to tend to the baby’s tears. It pains Ma’s ears, yet she is too frail to push him off. Ma only pushes back when he

The clouds gave birth to Elsa that night, and Ma was used to transport her to

presses too hard against her chest. Achayan, please. Easy. She will not allow her

earth. All Ma remembered about her daughter’s birthday was that it was the

daughter’s precious meals to leak out of her lactating breasts.

first day of the summer monsoons. Her Elsa was Kerala’s rain. The clouds spread apart and poured out water just as Elsa crawled out of Ma’s vagina. She came with blood, urine, and slimed shit coating her six-pound body. Her newborn cries were completely unheard, for the synchronized downpour smothered out her high-pitched wails. The rain was heaven’s majestic applause, trembling the cheap roof shingles above them. Ma was covered in sweat and tears, her body

It is after Elsa’s birth that Ma begins to slouch. The soggy leftovers of her uterus, shattered and useless, sit at the bottom of her belly. They pull her hips down and cause the slight curving of her lower spine. As her spine loses its strength, her shoulders begin collapsing forward. And her palms begin to carry invisible weights that pull them towards the ground, as if the earth is beckoning her to

wet without stepping outside.

shrink into it.

Nature did more than release Elsa that night. Nature also entered Ma’s body the

Throughout Elsa’s toddler years, Ma’s husband stubbornly screws her. He has no

second Elsa left it. In her place, it created a typhoon in Ma’s uterus. Its waters and winds rotated in a fury that ripped away chunks of her insides. Ma felt her womb become a vortex. It churned and groaned, exploding into spasms. Deep convulsions fractured her middle. The vortex twisted and sucked the fertile lining out of her uterus; her womb robbed. o Ma’s husband doesn’t hold vaginas. His old, fat friends advice him for next time.

Get stronger. Get younger. And you will put son-liquids inside her. And so he spends lengthier days collecting cow shit, walking and bending his back extra. He brings home more leftover, slightly spoiled milk, and he drinks it with thirst, hoping to feed his bones and fat. While he works, Ma sits on the edge of their cot and prays for him to get stronger. She prays for money to buy more chicken

shame when his daughter awakes during the night, simply scolding across the room for her to turn her head and sleep. However, Elsa is a child of the rain. The rain doesn’t wait for others to decide when it comes. It comes when it comes, and abstains when it abstains. Once she is able to climb in and out of her cot, she audaciously approaches her half-naked mother and the naked, fat man. Elsa tugs the piece of her mother’s sari that is falling over the edge of the bed. Ma’s husband is never happy at this and barks at her to go bed. Sleep you dirty girl.

Close your eyes and go the hell to sleep. You perverted girl. Whose daughter are you? Ma’s daughter. Ma’s daughter. I am Elsa, Ma’s daughter. Else comes to memorize and repeat that phrase every time Ma’s husband asks her whose she is. She states it with pride brimming out of her broadened

and beef and butter. And she prays for her womb.

shoulders and torn clothes. The same tone and resilience no matter when she

When her husband comes home at night, he still doesn’t kiss her. Yet he meets

her hair or when she squats down to pee outside.

on her the cot nearly every night, haphazardly sliding her sari off her shoulders and up her legs. Often times it is still left half wrapped around her, as she screws him tangled in the yards of cloth, which she wears the next day with stains and pulled threads. The sari’s soft fabric is the smoothest part of her nights compared to her husband’s prickly, hairy body. She welcomes the thin layer of

is asked, whether it’s when her parents screw in front of her or when Ma braids

Whose daughter are you? Ma’s daughter. Ma’s daughter. I am Elsa, Ma’s daughter. Cia Mathew '14 is lost in cherry blossoms.





The Memory Room


Divya Bhatia




The room with the memories holds still As each one screams its story Out into the open where no one listens, But everyone watches – silently, As the man in the wooden boat carries his living with him, His boat bursts with his proud array of spices Bright gold turmeric for his family, Malicious red chili powder for his losses, Swirled cinnamon sticks for his journey, Flower-headed cloves for his dreams, And tiny mustard seeds for the bullets taken – Each exudes his familiar situation as Remnants of his second migration The first, by the Mughals out of the land of Kush and Then, forced by men wearing red coats through Kashmiri peaks Into the unfamiliar land of the people with spices in boats The charred edges of his boat reek with scars From the bloodbath of the night before where Next to the well, his family shattered. He combed their pieces from the ground And threw them into the well, Threw them at the red-coated infantry, Who just watched – silently, As the man in the wooden boat carried his life to The murky water, where its purity cleansed him But did nothing to compensate, the shadow Cast upon his boat remains, Never to be erased, but only forgotten as Years after, his next generation ventures, Quaked out of their homes, Out of the land of spices, to An unfamiliar world where thousands Of captured and developed memories are Alive, but never listened to Gardening as an Act of Resistance Jess Chen, RISD ‘13 Etching on Acetate, Digital Color

Divya Bhatia '15 is probably napping.

Just One Word


Mitch Akutsu




Flooding dangerously from my soul A desire to speak, to fill this hole A hole that I live with from day to day A desire to speak, a desire to say Just one word A word that will ring and reach your ear, Past a barrier invisible, but audibly clear Easy to hear for just you but not me, A language I lost on the other side of the sea Just one word With much practice and effort it can be reclaimed, But the sound of nativity will always be maimed, My blood and appearance take away my excuse, I’ve tried and I’ve failed and will accept the sad truce That I can keep talking and talking but never be heard, Only because I mispronounced Just one word

Absorbed Julia Borden, Brown ‘14 Digital Photography

Mitch Akutsu ‘15 loves to go roof-hopping.





Alice, Disconnected I


Max Kaplan, RISD Office of Intercultural Student Engagement Polaroid

Phillis Hai, RISD ‘16 Ink and Digital

The Breathing Clock


Tiffany Phu

“ You’re ridiculous,” he says quietly, and smiles faintly. “Tick, tock. Are you telling me I’ve been listening to a clock? If there are seconds and minutes, would they be counting up or down?” Counting down, counting down. Ends are easier.

I can hear my own heartbeat. “I don’t know. Would it make a difference?” I reply. “Have you ever considered that I could be lying?” I ask him. “I don’t know. Maybe it makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes, I Yesterday afternoon in the corridor outside my apartment door, we stood in

wonder if anything makes a difference with you,” he says, staring at the creaki-

the warm sunlight that illuminated all of the dust around us. I wondered how

est spot on the wooden floor.

something unclean could look so beautiful, and waited for the “goodbye, see you tomorrow.” He instead said, “I love you.”

Pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter. For the background of songs, calming clocks honestly make more sense than calming raindrops. Tick tock tick tock

“How does somebody lie about their heartbeat?” he asks in return. Today, we sit. I know that he believes my pulse picks up within his vicinity, measured out in quick heartbeats. “I don’t understand. How does somebody lie about their heartbeat?” he asks again. I settle myself uncomfortably within the folds of this beaten red couch, and show more profile than expression. The novelty of first turned into second and third dates trickled into a realization of stability, and is strangely uneasy.

tick tock, sit back and let time pass. I think, you should let me pass. That hurt. Eyes meet eyes, and I suppose it is true that they are the windows to the soul. The light catches an edge of resentment in your pupil, glinting. Stop. Leave the curtains down, and draw the shades shut. Houses sit side by side, but I have learned not to peer too hard. And if you dislike eye contact, keep your eyes focused between the eyes; a little higher if you care. Between these windows, stay hidden. “Yeah. Maybe you’re right. Nothing makes a difference to me, who cares,” I

“People lie all the time,” I reply. The little white pearl of a lie blooms and

finally say. If he gives up, so can I.

there is something fascinating about the way its surface reflects everything else, white white white; the way it winks with a flash of denial. The sky is green and

“I didn’t mean it like that. I care,” he says.

the grass is blue and I will not love you. He reaches across the red, worn expanse and it strikes me how large and pale his hand is. “I didn’t mean lie about my heartbeat. I meant lie with it.” I say, shifting in this red, red seat. He tells me, “Okay,” and maybe all the energy released in that one word did not leave enough to keep that hand hovering. It drops. I win. “Did you know that when baby animals are separated from their mother, wrapping a clock in a blanket comforts them? They think it’s the sound of their mother’s heart—that’s a lying heartbeat.” It’s true, this trickery. I am quite steadily attuned to the rhythm of my heart and life, and I know that it jumped when handshakes turned into hand-holding and it heard itself skip a beat. There are hidden noises in the background of songs sometimes; you think that the track slowly singing of forever is what calms your nerves, but really it is the sound of raindrops.

“Sure. Right.” “I do. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” he says, and pauses. “We’re arguing about counting… I love that you’re so passionate about these things,” he laughs. Pearl white peeks from the corners of my mouth when I start to speak, but I quickly conceal it, “You can’t just say love—” and stop. The way that disappointment begins to tug at his face sends just about three hundred volts worth of guilt through my system. It takes more muscles to frown, but honestly, with me here, it must be no work at all. Sadness is sticky. Once you get it somewhere, every awful throbbing sore that passes by clings on until it’s a conglomerate of all that is wrong with the world.




There is silence, and I burrow my hand into the couch, searching for something


like change. “Did you know that everything falls at the same speed?” I eventually




ask. Regardless of hope, optimism, and everything else that makes things lighter, all will fall at the same speed. “Yeah, I know,” he says. I am not sure if I can apologize, so I move closer to him. I once told him that my heartbeat lied, and he now listens to my breathing. We stay there in that moment. There is a certain mortality to it all, and I almost ache when I think of how it must end. How much can your lungs take in before they let go? Did you know that lungs filter the dusty remorse and aches from the air for your cells? You are my filter. Breathe. IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyou replays like a lullaby, the echo of this afternoon’s interaction. It is amazing how much those words washed over everything once uttered, lapping at the shores of sadness and leaving it salty fresh once more. Until the pounding of my heart pumped blood running circles around my brain, and I think too much. “Did you know that babies breathe the best?” he asks. “Really? Don’t suppose they offer lessons,” I say. I guess that I did breathe better as a baby. And, yes, so did he, so did you— so we all did and then we forgot the secrets of inhale, exhale, refresh and repeat. Or maybe the air was fresher back then, without the pollutants of pessimism and trial and error, oh so much error. I grow tired of words, and lay my head on his chest, where breath and beats intertwine.

Casa Della Morte Tiffany Phu ‘14 is graced with a poor memory and compensatory mechanisms.

Rosaline Zhang, RISD ‘14 Clay/Installation





Fruit Lucy Zhou

The knife swishes back and forth steadily like tides whispering on sand. A smooth ring of rind trails behind—rough hands and lonely sighs make up your composure. You sing a little tune, basking in memories of past lives left pristine, of baby cheeks pressed against soft lips. Gone are the dances with children sleeping in cradles of glass— she has grown up to spit the seeds of fate back in your face. What can you do to pull her back in your arms? What to do but wait for time to erase the spite in her soul? You cut a slice, juice falling down your shirt. The fruit of your skin waits, ignorant of your hurt.

在家 Lucy Zhou ‘17 runs barefoot.

Carol Lin, RISD ‘14 Film Photography

The Family from America


Kathy Wu




We scratch at dirt on the stoop of the old family house— milk, biscuits, liquor for the shu shus and yi mas, a village I could hold in my hand. Gestures that feel like returning— Welcome Home, a table set with rice, fish. Pavement, blue jeans, toilets, vaccines things they do not have. As halfbare children bat stray cats

Look, she bore us a son. My father laughs, tucking chopsticks,

great aunts grin with single teeth, towards granddaughters—

stretching a promise like rope across oceans, while my brother, the last of the Wu family men, forgets Chinese at the rate of falling.

Secret Walk Kathy Wu ‘15 is living in her laptop and waiting for spring

Haejin Park, RISD ‘15 Digital Media





I Belong Here Too 3 Michael Ee, RISD ‘15 Linocut Print

The Family Tina Choi ’15 is attracted to anyone that sparkles James Eng ’14 would like the duck, please Mary Fei ’14 forever lives sunny-side up Mia Gold ’17 wakes up ***FLAWLESS Betty Heeso Kim ’15.5 needs some sunshine to-go Haejin Park RISD ’15 loves eggs and egg is the only food she can cook Michelle Pombrol ’16 just wants to dance, mom Winnie Shao ’16 wants to explore more of the world, and learn Ikebana Sharon Sun ’14 ca$hing out Rinse Rust Thin Fray Beyon Gouache & Watercolor

Brandon Wang RISD ’16 watches shadow lines run Chelsea Wang RISD ’15 likes stripes Yiwei Zhao ’16 world explorer

Pascal’s Wager Steven Pestana, RISD ‘14 Digital Collage & Booklet





Explosion Diane Zhou, Brown ‘14 Oil on Canvas





VISIONS 2014 Made In PRC



SPRING 2014  

Volume XIV, Issue II

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