SAILFISH XIN XIN ’12 GOUACHE & INK
Letter from the Editors
Fall 2010, Volume XII, Issue I
Can a man and a woman ever really just be friends? Is the glass half empty or half full? Perhaps you’ll find answers to questions like these in this issue... or maybe they’re never quite answerable. Either way, visions is a magazine that strives to create a medium that delves into all varieties of subjects and gives voice to numerous possibilities and realities. We can’t promise perfect answers, or even possible solutions, but we are happy to provide a forum that highlights the rich and diverse perspectives within and surrounding the Brown and risd Asian/Asian American community. We (Melanie, Yue, and Wendy) have seen visions change so much over the past three and a half years. It all began in April 2007 at adoch, Brown’s welcome event for prospective students, before we were even official Brunonians. Unbeknownst to one another, Melanie, Yue, and Wendy had all picked up a copy of visions at the activities fair. When first semester of freshman year rolled around, they all decided to join the E-Board: Melanie and Wendy as co-publicity chairs and Yue as co-webmaster. Now, as the outgoing editors of the magazine, it is unbelievably exciting to reflect upon how much visions has grown and witness the ways it continues to grow, both at Brown and risd. We are overjoyed to have so many readers and dedicated visions supporters at our Release Parties, and we cannot wait to see where the magazine will go! This semester, the visions E-Board has expanded considerably, and we are thrilled to welcome our latest members. Their ideas and voices have been refreshing, contributing significantly to the evolution of the magazine. In Spring 2011, a new group of editors will be joining Stella, our current Art & Photography Editor. We are excited to ‘pass on the torch’ to Susie, Katherine, Ayoosh, and Viv! We would like to thank Dean Kisa Takesue for her continued support of visions. As the founder of visions in 2000, she has guided visions throughout its evolution, and we are grateful for her dedication. We would also like to thank the Third World Center and risd’s Asian Cultural Association for their cooperation in helping us build a passionate Asian/Asian American community here in Providence. Most of all, we want to thank everyone who is a part of visions. Your experiences, and your willingness to share them with us, form the fundamental core of our magazine and of the community we hope to empower. Thank you, readers, contributors, and supporters, for your hard work and dedication! Now, we invite you to join us in Envisioning and Building a Stronger Asian/Asian American Community. Peace & Love,
Melanie, Stella, Wendy & Yue
Editorial Board editor-in-chief
Melanie Chow ’11 & design editor Yue Pang ’11 art & photography editor Stella Chung’13 managing editor Wendy Sekimura ’11 layout
Yue Pang ’11 Joseph Han risd ’12, Amy Kim risd ’13 associate editor Susie Ahn ’13 associate layout & design editor Katherine Ng ’14 associate managing editor Ayoosh Pareek ’12 cover art
Panpan Song ’12, Margaret Yi ’12 Larry Au ’14 webmaster Tram Bui ’14 networking Stephanie Kim ’12 risd representatives Celia Chung risd ’13, Jiwon Kim ’12 illustrations Wendy Sekimura ’11 freshman representative
Susie Ahn ’13, Courtney Clark ’11, Kathy Do ’12, Marisa Ideta ’11, Krystii Kim ’13, Christine Moon ’13, Sharon Sun ’14, Jennifer Tan ’11, Winnie Wang ’14 printer
Brown Graphic Services
a very special thanks to
The Third World Center Kisa Takesue, Director of the Stephen Robert Campus Center The Office of Student Life Undergraduate Finance Board The risd Asian Cultural Association Ann Hall, Brown Graphic Services All our contributors and staff
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.
Table of Contents submission from Brown submission from RISD
prose & poetry the city breathes back, Yvonne Yu an afternoon contour, Yue Pang 灰光灯 / Limelight, Wang Yin (translated by Christina Pan) Roots, Archipelag-a Sexual Tension, Ayoosh Pareek Good Morning, Beijing, Kai Huang Family Secrets, Eleanor Kim Royalty, Shiman Shan Haiku, Kalau Almony gratitude, VyVy Trinh lunatic, Tanya Nguyen Translating ピカドン, Jason Beckman On Airports, Panpan Song August, Natalie Villacorta Desiccate, Fatimah Asghar Space, Masumi Hayashi-Smith my passport is red, Abigail Chen trái tim, Kathy Nguyen gold mountains, Vivian Truong
4 6 9 10 14 17 20 22 23 26 29 30 32 34 36 38 40 45 46
art & photography Sailfish, Xin Xin Rainy Street, Nahun Kim The Glass Bead Game, Angelica (Seung ah) Kim Overlook, Kristie Huey The Children of Sapa (Sapa, Vietnam), Hang Nguyen Backyard, Linh Pham Static, Alex Toyoshima Pull, Larry Au Self-Portrait, Joanna Lee pair of eyes, Devon Cupery Old Man, Jian Shen Tan Old Man in Turban, Jian Shen Tan Trust Fall, Keenan Jay Emily, Kathleen Yan Of Time and the City, Luna Chen No Jumping No Stomping, Han Sheng Chia Central Park, Lily Chan The Conformist, Celia Chung Bitter Melon, Gan Uyeda November Laundry, Haruka Aoki Pensive, Nikilesh Eswarapu RISD Bike - Pause of Time, Yining (Mary) Shao In the Rubble, Fatimah Asghar Vapor, Clifton Yeo Untitled, Zung Nguyen Vu Dignity in Disaster, Charis Loke Candy, Stephanie Teo March, Xiangjun Shi
a 5 8 11 13 15 16 19 21 22 24 24 25 28 31 33 35 36 37 39 41 42 43 43 44 47 postcard postcard 5
the city breathes back by Yvonne Yu I can see all of this city through my skin, in my ribs, in my indents and my thins. Smoke gathers. Windows fog. Streets watch back. Start to define nights by their brightness because the lights are never off. Glows buzz deep into your lungs, taking warm flesh into their hands. Marking down the edges of our skyscrapers. Square after square of heartless neon geometries where every angle is perfect and every process definite. Yet paint flakes off of walls, spiral pirouettes into side-street chicken soup. Every butcher pushes his red hands at you. Never feel fear with your night-lips on this city keeps its eyes in the typhoon gutters. Humid air wraps full of full. You stick to your own skin. You rattle your bus-edges. Go down to the harbor sometimes and watch old men with enough wrinkles to carry their lighters. They spit tobacco off the docks as they pull the ferries in. Their skin tells more stories than your spine ever will. And when they call out, listen because there are sixteen tones in Cantonese and they’re all ugly and alive Wake chalk-hand-drags from your throat through this city and feel powerful, permanent I could breathe this city down my throat and for a second I’d own everything. Old women burning joss sticks on the sidewalk. Foreign tissues scouring my landscape. Sometimes I eat the city and sometimes the city eats me. But sometimes my walls suck up the smoke. And the typhoons rage down my edges. And when I breathe the city breathes back.
(yvonne yu ’13 is always underdressed for the cold weather.) 6
RAINY STREET NAHUN KIM ’14 MIXED MEDIA
an afternoon contour The art of hiding in plain sight is finely honed in department stores—inside clothing racks, sneaking glances at feet shuffling beneath lax sleeves, detached, waiting to push through hangers and discover you, sitting, staring, big doe eyes and mouth slightly parted. The stifled yelp of horrified surprise, a shock that sends hundreds of floaters into the unfortunate shopper’s field of vision, lasts for only a second. Always easier to pretend nothing ever happened. By the time you leave, there are no more layers of fabric to shield you from the pavement, the sunshine, the acute angles reflecting metallic street signs onto store windows. Window shopping blocked by the image of your own face in place of a belt, a mannequin, a green leather wallet. Throes of large coats squeeze into the horizon, the small peek of light between buildings where the street disappears into parabolic functions. Dusk is the most hazy time of day; late afternoon pollution seeps up nostrils, only to be swatted away by a cold wind that cuts three of five senses loose into the open air. Each corner is rushed, each person walks in the same direction until intersections consume tiny roads, a flood of motion swallowing small tributaries of travel, every turn turns a knob on a door aching to burst open and consume your peripheral vision. Somewhere along the way, you’ve lost the ability to wait. You’re nine years old, the ground still sparkles, light hits you just a tad slower than it does everyone else, the ones who have memorized their daily paths by wearing specific indentations into the rubber soles of their shoes. Content to dance in semi-circles around the avenues and boulevards, where GPS devices will pronounce Drive as Doctor before stopping, for this brand of repetition can only bring you back to where you started, so the only solution is to stop early, refuse to join the curves together, sit down in a patch of coffee nearly snapped shut by a glued-in-place protractor. But you don’t recognize signs, only signals. Underground, hoards of adults discover you within themselves, nostalgia pulsing through them at the speed of the subway car, rocking back and forth. Try not to press yourself against someone’s legs, they won’t appreciate the way you look at them, as if they can see some part of who they had once been, when the world was theirs to carve out instead of carve in a small hole to call their own. But you don’t recognize this stare. There is only one direction in which to continue, down the tunnels, a curve that slams you against a leather briefcase, a brief hiss, a button to push. The doors move to the side and, like all doors, you don’t walk through as much as fuse into a shapeless mass, oozing out before spreading in various directions. Even so, you feel as if you are sliding down and up the escalator, a mixture of uphill and downhill that is beyond your control as blocks are crossed and subverted underground. You close one eye (keep the other open for anyone who tries to touch you, touch your small, leather knapsack) and 8
by Yue Pang imagine that you are at the fairgrounds, one small hand with short thin fingers clasped around your mother, swinging your arm back and forth as lights from the carousel become brighter and the sky turns a deeper shade of blue. Your mother is not here today—she squeezed your cheeks by the perfume counter, led your black patent shoes onto the smooth pavement, and taught you a quiet lesson about letting go. The dry skin and long, red nails leave an imprint on your palm that resembles the moon when the light it gives off is so miniscule the tiny crescent becomes superimposed by streetlamps filing up hundreds of feet into the air. Her instructions are clear, marked with specificity, cardinal directions that provide you with a tingle of pride whenever you see how your classmates still cannot differentiate between east and south, except really you’re always going southeast just to go southwest, and the patterns on your left and right are the only things that remind you of how useless it can be to walk in a straight line and not hit another building, another cement wall, another set of chairs that no one bothers to sit in during the winter. You know you’re heading to the right house, slipping in between corners and familiar faces that do not recognize you in return, but sometimes the distance from the outside to the inside feels the same no matter where you start. And there’s a trap, here, somewhere, a trap that pushes you along as you run forward, turn on the same foot, and run backwards again. It’s your favorite feeling, the idea that you can lose yourself by forcing yourself to find your way. The way to the piano teacher’s small apartment by the river, where ringing the doorbell doesn’t mean anything except climbing another seven flights of stairs because taking the elevator would mean getting there faster than you’d ever want to—you secretly hope that the boy in there before you is running late again, his bird-like wrists slapped by a ruler that absorbs all the words your teacher wants to say but cannot express without a physical demonstration of frustration. And all these talents you are learning, dance, skating, violin, piano, painting…to you, they’re just blocks of time that prevent an extra bowl of pudding, another hour on the swing, an afternoon nap. Your mother tells you that when you are older, you will be the one person to stand out by actually being able to express these kinds of skills, that boys will want to tuck a strand of your hair behind your ear, that girls will stare until their eyes dry out, that strangers will lean against doorways and dream about a different past where they could have had these lessons, these week after week repetitions that magically amount to something greater than their parts. But you can’t possibly believe this. You haven’t even been in the world for long enough to realize that the distance from 0 to 9 in the date amounts to ten, not nine, years, and already there’s a part of you that is breaking off,
drifting away, a bulb that wedges itself between the first stair in your piano teacher’s apartment building and the sound of the door closing behind you an hour later as you jump back onto the street. At night, the words at home become too long and multi-syllabic for you to comprehend. The deeper pitch of your father booms: “selfsufficiency!” so many times that it muffles any intelligible forms of defense. It becomes easier to simply close your eyes, go back to the best time of day, the moment your mother’s back fades into another camel-colored coat and you feel like you are on a giant boat that the ocean’s wide but gentle fingers are controlling, somersaulting you underground until you roll into the subway car and curl into a more comfortable shape by the doors. A marble on the deck of a deep mahogany-paneled ship, scratching and rolling your way in any direction the waters will take you. When you catapult back into the open air, your feet slide as if you are in the ice rink that is reserved for lessons on Thursdays, slipping and being tilted every which way as you try to regain your balance, arms out, one leg gracefully arched perpendicularly behind you. That’s the reality you would prefer. Everyone else skates figure eights but you love spinning, spinning so fast and you get so dizzy that the goal turns into staying still on your own bladed feet instead of attempting a twirl that you know you couldn’t land even if it meant choosing between that and jumping into the river with pockets loaded full of misshapen rocks. You spin around the aroma-filled afternoon food carts, look for a dead end where a hand could go against a wall and maybe someone was even following you, until this point, until you are incapable of going any further. But it never happens. There is always another loop, another possibility, another way to find yourself exactly where you started. You have a friend, maybe. On the bus you take to get back home, a boy, maybe your age, maybe shorter. Today, he lifts one palm so that it faces you. You tell him you don’t read fortunes, that your father said that’s just another form of fraud that weak people rely on to something about sewage and their insecurities. This possible friend doesn’t know what you are talking about, so you just stare at his hand. He says, see how these two lines aren’t connected. You nod. He says, you’re not looking hard enough, look harder. You don’t know how to, so you squint, but everything just gets blurrier. He pats your face with his palm. Or maybe it’s a slap. You’re not very good with telling pressure differences when people touch you. There’s the ruler, the ice, the charcoal, the bow, the bowl, the book, the pinch. He says, something is crossing through, can’t you see? You never see what I mean. It’s true, you think. You never do. What he means doesn’t mean anything to you. Your friendship is not two lines that never meet. You always do. At the point of a triangle, when you both look out at the bus and realize
it never arrives from directly in front of you. That would be too easy. So you stand in that spot, the small angle between the street with piles of fabric and the street with fabric discarded in piles where the bus comes to take you home. It’s called Hiding in Plain Sight, the title of the movie now playing by your art teacher’s fancy apartment. The poster is a giant pair of orange lips, so orange you don’t even think mixing your mother’s makeup like the quivering globs of paint behind you could recreate it. From your art teacher’s window, the light bulbs illuminating the title turn away from you, towards other lights, lights that warmed you on the walk over. A hand on your head. The tap of a paintbrush on your shoulder. A tone. You’re not old enough for that, you hear her say, look at the fairgrounds instead, do you see the blue and the green and the red? Every child from this neighborhood can look outside a window and see them. It’s there just for you. Just for you, you repeat. In two days you’ll be able to go, your mother will take you again, buy some pink cotton candy, stuff your mouth full of sugar, let you burrow yourself in her trench coat. You always wish to never be seen.
(yue pang ’11 will never resist an impulse. Especially if it’s terrible.) 9
THE GLASS BEAD GAME ANGELICA (SEUNG AH) KIM ’14 CERAMICS
灰光灯 / Limelight by Wang Yin (translated by Christina Pan)
这声音里有阳光 这骨头里有歌声 这灯光里有透明的空隙 这红裙里有雨 这舞蹈里有血
This voice has light This bone has songs This lamp has transparent shadows This red dress has rain This dance has blood
不是八月, 不必如此寡言 不是深秋, 不必像海洋那样不住地叹息 暮色盛开的花朵 蝴蝶为露水所湿 如同天堂的眼睛
It’s not August, refrain from such reticence It’s not Deep Fall, refrain from sighing ceaselessly like the sea Dusk blooms the flowers Dew dampens the butterflies Like the eyes of Heaven
(christina pan ’13 is watching the sunset on a plane.)
Roots by Archipelag-a
This piece is about me This piece is about you This piece is about us Dedicated to all those who came before us I identify with the power of being a brown-skinned woman Deep within the crevasses of the earth A network underground Filipino Roots envelop me Generations of thick gnarled roots: from halfway around the world The history of our hands: they held each other when we had nothing familiar to hold on to Hands shook hands across oceans. Welcomed into new homes new lands. Those hands I claim that
doesn’t make me who I am But in some ways, I feel like they are all of who I am I’ve found my strength in these roots and I’ve learned to take that in stride But sometimes, I can only move forward without looking back My roots travel back overseas where the tropical water first nourished our lives: an inevitable part of our past But when I was young, I cursed you for raising me along your culture. I wanted theirs. I wanted everything they had For once, I just wanted to walk down the street with my head held high. Comfortable in my own body, in my own skin All you see is brown skin small figure
I resent my dark hair slanted eyes
And off goes your yellow fever! But you never stopped to consider that We aren’t all the same. But I wanted to be. Tired of being different Afraid of being alone I can be a lot of things, and I’m not sure who I am, but it has everything and nothing to do with the color of my skin. Please stop staring… I am who I want to be. And so I stand here…taking a breath…of fresh air…
OVERLOOK KRISTIE HUEY ’12 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Above the surface, I bloom into a woman, branching out as an individual I shine with the nourishment that stems from the roots that ground me. Below the surface, my heart pumps Filipino blood, arteries red with passion for life, veins blue with sacrifice My pulse is proof of all those that made it possible For my heart to beat this loud, for my voice to say aloud, that I am proud Proud to be… A daughter A sister A woman Pinay I am proud to be Filipina Pride in a struggling nation led by its values Where sometimes family outvalues a paycheck Where siblings are treasures, parents are leaders, and lolas are legends Whose stories of military takeovers, of losing everything in the war, and of watching their children uproot for a better life in the States Those stories, their stories, my history root me in what I stand for Sacrifices I can’t even begin to understand Hardships they had the strength to withstand
My roots My roots are the reason why I am still standing. Today, I stand up to my fears, embracing my— My lolo’s sun-kissed skin My mother’s slanted eyes My grandpa’s loving smile My father’s loving heart The sum of their lives. The sum of their lives in me… My privilege is in a small wooden house on a Philippine provincial island Where the rice pot is bottomless Where I never experience any hunger Where I am always welcomed home My wrinkled lola scoops her sustaining love onto your plate even after you say no, thank you. There is no agency in her love, you cannot choose it or reject it. And when she smiles, crinkles in the corner of her eyes spread to mine All these people in all these nations, generations ago. The sum of their lives in me. My roots are varied. Variegated. Different. A cross between a mango tree and a white oak Hapa. Half. Both. I contain multitudes. I contain, I contain, I contain multitudes. You who have gone before me, I will not forget you, You who will follow me, you will not forget me, We will remember where we are now, We will remember where we are from. We are all a part of an intricate network of our common pasts. I will become the strong, thick roots of the future. My story will be told, too. Preserved. The oceans we cross will not drown our voices or wash away our histories. But carry us back to those islands in the sun. So I will cross oceans. Change lives. Grow up. Grow out. Grow strong.
(archipelag-a is a sisterhood born from a kinship of words.) 14
THE CHILDREN OF SAPA (SAPA, VIETNAM) HANG NGUYEN ’11 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Sexual Tension by Ayoosh Pareek
I told her we were too far, to be in love. I’m sure I breathe out in the direction that would carry my air molecules to Providence, She says. Walking down her patio I can’t help but give my feet a mean stare to slow down Lost in the smell of sundried tomato wraps filled with scrambled eggs and guacamole. You and I are like the yolk and the white. We both flow with fluidity inside the shell, But when things come to a boil, We can’t help but separate.
(ayoosh pareek ’12 is spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.)
BACKYARD LINH PHAM ’14 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
STATIC ALEX TOYOSHIMA ’11 OIL ON CANVAS
Good Morning, Beijing by Kai Huang
To justify free market reforms that ran counter to Chairman Mao’s brand of communism, his successor Deng Xiaoping argued that, “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” My parents, Huang Ming and Lei Xia, named me…Kevin. If there’s anything the Chinese are good at, it’s painting cats white and catching mice fast. Good morning, Beijing. On Saturday mornings, my people leave the mice to their own devices and send our youngest off to stretch out their tongues (miao1 miao2 miao3 miao4). HanYu PinYin is the most commonly used Romanization system for standard Mandarin Chinese (miao1 miao2 miao3 miao4), using our Western alphabet to turn upwards of forty-seven thousand cryptic characters (miao1 miao2) into simple combinations of twenty-six letters (miao3 miao4) and four distinct tones (miao1 miao2 miao3 miao4). When I was twelve, we retroactively came up with the name KaiWen, so that I could feel a little less out of place on Saturday mornings. Isn’t it sick? The stick of something to your tongue that’s already dead? The mangled, anglicized remains of language lying lifeless like a small bird left twitching on the doorstep of the emperor’s palace. Good morning, Beijing. Two summers ago, I went from KaiWen to Kai, dropping the Wen and keeping the Kai so I try could remember When I used to wonder Why cats like me are often called Bruce. Or Jackie. Or Kevin. Brian. Eric. John. Mice are named Jerry and we Uncle Tom. Bombs over Beijing tonight and the mice are everywhere. The mice are everywhere and I am hunting in the emperor’s palace. Fresh golden cheddar decorates the dusty corners of each stone pillar. The snip-snapping of mousetraps is my soundtrack. [snap]
2.6 million pounds of British poison were dumped into the Pacific. First Opium War. [snap] 30 million people starved to death between 1958 and 1961. Beijing reports three years of “natural disasters.” [snap] 1989. Tiananmen Square. Student stands in front of tanks. Makes the cover of TIME Magazine. Disappears. [snap] Six thousand Beijing homes were demolished to make room for the $423 million Bird’s Nest. 2008 Summer Olympics. Stadium now sits unused. [snap] My entire generation took piano lessons [snap] And tennis lessons [snap] And violin lessons [snap] And swimming lessons [snap] And if you guaranteed admission to Harvard to anyone whose immediate family members would leap from the windowsills of Empire State Building [snap], half of Flushing, Queens would fly tomorrow. [snap] Cats are careless with those eight lives they borrowed. [snap] Quiet. Incense is burning on every corner and back alley of our city. My fifteen-year-old father sits in a restaurant on the eve of his departure to a counterrevolutionaries’ re-education camp, where he will spend the next six years of his youth. Good night, Beijing. He tells me, “There are some things we should only whisper of when even the dogs have gone to sleep.”
(kai huang ’11 is locked in.)
PULL LARRY AU ’14 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Family Secrets by Eleanor Kim
iron lace railings wild olive trees. brain-colored streets.
she shook, a broken-heart, automaton, her jailors love her.
she drowned the pool in ivy. new orleans, he will come.
drop your cigarettes on the lilac bedspread.
when he comes to visit her, there will be death in the attic.
hang her from the family tree, let him retire from the world.
â€œi am the line between mad and maid,â€? rub her ashy bones.
malady my lady call, buy her funeral forget-me-not. p.s. plumb her veins
(eleanor kim â€™11 loves the fall and would like a road-trip to New Orleans.) 22
SELF-PORTRAIT JOANNA LEE ’11 EARTHENWARE WITH ACRYLIC & COPPER WIRE
PAIR OF EYES DEVON CUPERY ’11 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Royalty by Shiman Shan From across the table, George is laughing. His eyes are drowned in the delicate laugh lines that form. He is a gesture drawing, clothed and animated and given sound. When he laughs, his neatly aligned teeth fill his face, gums exposed. Happiness shoots off the paths of old smiles like fireworks. Like fireworks, they are gold. When he stretches, arms up behind his head, his shirt goes along with it, and his boxers peer out. They are fire engine red, or the red of Snow White’s lips, shouting warnings and threatening stability. It is unbearable sometimes, when he looks at her. Pauline is not fluent in the language of eyes. She is, in fact, an immigrant who has failed to assimilate. And as time goes by, Pauline is not getting any better at the language. George’s eyes are blue and grey, sometimes green, and always well-lit from the inside. Around them, all Pauline can see are specks of gold. Golden eyelashes, golden eyebrows, gold leaking into the valleys where his cheeks turn into his forehead. Pauline looks down, trying to focus on the dishes. The soap on the sponge is running out and the sponge itself seems to be holding onto life with great effort. She lathers down mug after mug of fiesta-ware left over from breakfast. “So I have this friend…” George begins. Pauline looks over at him. He is wearing a black t-shirt, standing with his feet slightly apart, a go-getter stance, and his arms are in the sink. “…and so for a whole month, he…” He lifts up his hands subconsciously to make a gesture to
support his story, and she can see his upper arms, smooth and white, a set of Wedgwood china. She thinks about how dear he is. “What a trooper,” he finishes. Pauline smiles, thinks about his skin, how it would feel under her fingertips, and rinses off another mug. George steps off the elevator and heads for the door with a box in his hands. It is not a plain cardboard box, but one that had held some appliance. He has been leaving the building with the box everyday this week. Because of George’s knack for wearing royal blue and Pauline’s 20/15 selective vision, she can spot him from a mile away. Today he is wearing a checkered shirt made up of royal blue lines. She has seen him a number of times this week in the lobby of their dormitory, but never had the swiftness or courage to speak to him, to interrupt his destination-driven rhythm. In all these instances, he had held a box in his hands, and it seemed to her that he was moving the contents of his life out of his dorm room a little bit at a time. But why did he have to do it in such small amounts? Moving isn’t like eating, so quicker is better. Today, though, with a softened sense of self-awareness, she caught up to him in the lobby and asked him what was in the box he always carried with him. He laughed at her observation and told her that it was only electronic gadgets for a class, carried in a box because he didn’t want them to be ruined if he carried them in a bag. It made sense. Pauline nodded her head assuredly and kept her disappointment hid.
(shiman shan ’12 yearns, autumn deepens.) 24
Haiku by Kalau Almony
嫉妬哉 君が呑まれた其ノお湯を Jealousy! That water, swallowing you 発車を待てば待つほど 自宅哉 The more you wait for the first train, Home!
(kalau almony ’12 could never write poems without words and fingers to count the syllables.) 25
OLD MAN JIAN SHEN TAN ’15 OILS
OLD MAN IN TURBAN JIAN SHEN TAN ’15 OILS 26
TRUST FALL KEENAN JAY ’14 35MM FILM, DISPOSABLE CAMERA
gratitude by VyVy Trinh
emily: Oh, earth, you’re
too wonderful for anybody to realize you. She looks toward the stage manager and asks abruptly, through her tears. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?
stage manager: No.
Pause. The saints and poets, maybe—they do some. Our Town. Act iii. Thornton Wilder.
still. Still. Bless me anyway. I want more life. I can’t help myself. I do. I’ve lived through such terrible times, and there are people who live through much much worse, but...you see them living anyway. When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children, they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don’t know if that’s just the animal. I don’t know if it’s not braver to die. But I recognize the habit. The addiction to being alive. We live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough, so inadequate, but...bless me anyway. I want more life. Angels in America. Part Two: Perestroika. Act V. “Heaven, I’m in Heaven.” Tony Kushner. I. To Mom. To Dad. To my sisters. I know I don’t know how much I love you. If I knew, if I really knew, it would be impossible for me to go to school out here on this dream coast, chasing aspirations through old brick buildings, ivy weaving in and out of this labyrinth. This place is certifiable esteem, history books bound in cows’ smoothed skin, hallways built by back-bent slaves. This place is critical thought, full meals at the swipe of a card, discussions and dissertations. It is arts, liberated. It is intellectual freedom. It is nothing. This place is nothing for the girl who has everything. I know I don’t know that you are already everything for me. If I knew, if I really knew, I could not squander these four years here. If I knew, I could not want more, chase more as I do, put you on hold as though you will be around forever. I have not lost so many people close to me. Not like some. Not like most. As a kid, sometimes I would imagine my mother dying. I would picture my elementary school finding out. Whispering in the hallways. I imagined wearing black. Exploding into puddles of tears. Collapsing into a teacher’s arms in front of bewildered classmates. I imagined collecting the world’s sorrow. Some people in my fortunate position still have such imaginings. I am older now, and I don’t. I don’t wonder. There are people I love who are stalked by the shadows of the dead, or whose hearts are carved with their shapes. I can’t fully understand how they ache, and I never want to. I can imagine it too well. My heartache for them, an impossible fraction of what they endure, is enough for me to know that what I have deserves to be embraced urgently. I often encounter people who don’t know, who don’t feel the weight of everything we’ve got. I meet artists wishing for the inspiration brought forth by incredible pain. I say only fools wish for incredible pain. I am too grateful. I love too practically. Please live forever. 28
I had a dream once. It ended in fevers and a collapsing into sobs. I dreamed my baby sister had died. In some kind of violence, the only kind that could take her young breath from her. I was there. I lived it. I felt it. The phone call. The folding of my heart upon itself. The scream. I could never. Please live forever. It is impossible to know. To know how much we have. Only the dead know. But I can come close. I can try. All we can do is try. The point is not to reach full understanding, but to at least try. That is the only way to live, I think—loving people with inadequate gratitude. II. To my friends. To strangers. To streetlights, blinking at night, casting green and red shadows on wet asphalt. To corner stores. To diasporas. To silver rain falling sideways. To bread, rising and golden. To crooked murals on the walls of public elementary schools. To confectioners. To itchy pine trees. To air, cold like menthol in my lungs, in. out. One after the other. Not forever like I wish, but for now. some days i just fall in fatuated again with this absurd place for which i left the warm womb it didn’t snow in there as it does now on my bare shoulders but now i don’t mind shivering here bones shaking on themselves singing we’re here we’re here we’re here III. To T Our voices filtered funny through the phone, we say softly, “If you need to go, go.” It is almost laughable how much we say this. I am so demonstrably ready to let you leave me if you are so called, it almost sounds like I want you to. In truth, this preparedness, twisted and perverse, is my way of letting you know how much I actually want to lock you away with me for: ever, myself, and safekeeping. But I like you too much. And so I offer to let you go, over and over. This is what we do. We are worst-case-scenario people: If I die. If we don’t work out. If you need to leave. What we mean is: Never die. I hope this works out forever. Don’t leave. Isn’t it true, though? It’s as Emily says in Our Town, which I read when I was thirteen and unraveling. Who really knows the value of anything? I don’t want to wait until you are gone to know. So I remind myself every day that you could be gone. This is my way of remembering. My knees wrapped around your waist, our tongues searching for each other as urgently as oxygen. I am holding your fucking perfect face in my hands. You ask me why I am shaking my head. It is because I wish we were not both writers; there are so many clichés I want to say to you. Those three words have become a contract, a deflation, an end, a box. I think I would rather keep them on the edge of my mouth than let them spill over to you. I like restraint; it keeps me moving toward you, and I never want to arrive. Maybe I never want to know that I have you so that I’ll never lose you. I don’t want to own you, wrap those words around you, claim you. If you need to go, go. Being with you is a kind of pain. It is cross-country phone calls, twilight train rides, video chats, mail. It is brief oases in Manhattan before our lives reclaim us again. It is unraveling me. But I just want more of it. I just want more. March 2009 (vyvy trinh ’11 is selling homemade cupcakes to raise money for flood relief in Pakistan.) 29
EMILY KATHLEEN YAN ’12 ACRYLIC
by Tanya Nguyen
hole punched in inked paper; ten years ago, my mother told us we could catch you. so we flitted outside, grassy sea tickling bare feet to set out our net: a water-filled bowl and retreated to our wooden, splintery deck to observe. ahoy, there you appeared in our makeshift aquatic cage. but of course, it was only your paler twin, a mirror image who soon, too, evaded capture; an elusive great white fish. these days, my pockets are crammed with the trappings of a college student. i still manage to lose most things. “what are you?” a young boy asked me this, curiosity spilling out of his shifting eyes like his untied shoelaces spilling out of their eyelets. what am i? dear, when my life is full of readings about demagogues like demigods and papers on sclerotic politics and meetings and practices to be late for, my mind hardly has time for reflection. but i do what i can. i eat (plastic-wrapped) mooncake and sip (microwaved) tea in my dorm room, waxing philosophical about the alary movements of childhood and the moorings of maturity, about dualities and wholes. through my window, i gaze at you, celestial aperture. i have learned: you can’t be caught.
(tanya nguyen ’13 loves the sound of an orchestra tuning.) 31
by Jason Beckman
The translatability of ピカドン (pi・ka・do・n) echoes in my mind as not question, but undertaking— to convey a word that words cannot hold; to translate the culture engraved in language. Too massive for explanation, it calls out to be poetry. It is comprised of two parts: ピカ (pika) flashes quicker than a synapse can connect reality to realization. It is the singular moment of contact—a single atomic flicker, as silent as prayer. Though we did not bear witness we see it; as the sound scratches our cortex we share a human awe that disintegrates, transient in nuclear wind. + ドン (don) and its low, rolling “o” looms on the horizon of a landscape that unfolds in the collective memory of generations. We do not condone its presence—an unwelcome tone, one that heralds destruction. It is distant, but rattles through the body, soul-deep. When it is spoken it rumbles in the throat. = When the two pieces are joined together in ピカドン, the result is atomic onomatopoeic—ピカan instant, ドンan eternity; the world’s fate changes at their point of contact. 原子爆弾 (genshibakudan – atomic bomb) is a complicated word; it does not fit easily in the mouths of children. ピカドン is simple, devastating in its innocence. As ピカドン is written or spoken, the event recurs in the mimesis of language. It flashes in memory, rumbles through the throat a distant poetry, terrible poetry. As it lives in language it cannot be forgotten.
And so, I offer my translation of ピカドン: ピカ the sound of a flash of light is the voice of a child innocent and spontaneous instantaneous sears your eyes makes you forget makes you want to forget but you don’t know what, yet an instant that sounds like laughter before ドン shakes within your heart fills your ears, your memory everyone’s eyes skyward searching no remnants of lightning the end thunders through generations the flow of history and time crack crumble fissure to core it approaches billowing burning blooming into night
(jason beckman ’11 is just a daydream in the mind of an introspective dragon.) 32
OF TIME AND THE CITY LUNA CHEN ’13 PHOTOGRAPHY & GRAPHICS
On Airports by Panpan Song
This is an essay on airports. What I mean to say is that it is set in airports; it is in a very general sense about airports, insomuch as any number of words can occupy itself with and within a collection of places. Take: the distinct, cigarette smoke-laced smell of Beijing Capital, the Vogue and the mint mojito Orbit lying on a perforated metal bench at Gate 18 in Seatac, the white wooden rocking chairs in Charlotte, where those delayed or on layover install themselves, sighing into cell phones and swaying backwards, forwards. Picture Tom Hanks stranded in The Terminal at JFK, George Clooney nursing a late-night drink at another airport bar in Up in the Air, Alain de Botton writing A Week at the Airport from behind his desk in the departures hall at Heathrow. French anthropologist Marc Augé, borrowing a phrase from American city planner Melvin Webber, termed airports “non-places.” We might quote Rory Stewart and call them the places in between. This dichotomy of place is, of course, indispensable to the concept of the airport—that it is at once every place and no place, that it is defined by other places (the places you’ve been, the places you will be). Airports mean change, temporality—the confusion of space, the pause and the shift of time. They fill the space between; they are the necessary gateways to different cities, continents, lives. Inevitably airports make their way into our stories. They form the backdrop for comedies and tragedies, from the anguished goodbyes at security to the long-awaited reunions at arrivals. Within them unfold the tentative beginnings and lingering endings, the turning points and the transitions. Alternatively, they are the momentary places of overlap between otherwise disparate stories, the points of intersection where worlds merge, narratives intertwine. Which is to say, maybe I was the one who left the Vogue and the mint mojito in Seattle; maybe that was me sitting in the last rocker at Concourse E of Charlotte/Douglas International, wavering and waiting for the red-eye to pvd. These stories could be mine, and real, or mine and fabrication—in any case, I can’t hide; I am everywhere in this essay (read: though I meant for it to be a piece on airports, it is really more about me). You can see me clearly: my crippling perfectionism, growing introspection, chronic fear of stagnation and perpetual hunger for the unfamiliar, for anything that feels new, uncomfortable. Already I am tiring a little of this place, this plot, so here we are at its denouement, which like any ending is just as much a beginning, a departure for the indeterminate—incidentally, just how I prefer it. Because I mean to be definitive, I will end before I fall into lyrical soliloquy or some other vague and histrionic finale—I don’t want that kind of melancholy, I want to leave laughing. On airports, in airports, look for me in that indefinite middle ground: I’ll be languishing in its transience, caught in time and space and always these words, these stories.
(panpan song ’12 is facing the hours.)
NO JUMPING NO STOMPING HAN SHENG CHIA ’14 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
by Natalie Villacorta
It could have been any afternoon in late August when we climbed into a beat-up rowboat evading the fingertips of jealous September floating out on a journey of eternal youth The only wrinkles were wind blowing over water fingers running through warm wake The only gray was mid-river rock high-walled cliffs stark against smooth bottom pebbles The only blur was silt swirling with each stroke Two benches for just one pair left no room for other rows face to face every word was heard or we cheated by touch to bridge the inches The only yelling was to be heard over the roar of rapids The only confusion was a swarm of dragonflies The only jealousy was of reflections on the looking glass surface intimately tracing every move of golden sun caressing each slope of skin of breezes carrying away laughter of wooden oars holding the otherâ€™s hands
(natalie villacorta â€™13 is row, row, rowing her boat gently down the stream.) 36
CENTRAL PARK LILY CHAN ’13 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
by Fatimah Asghar
the moisture out of one’s bones and leaving only dry, brittle marrow left. Often spurred by interactions with close former friends that leave you winded, scarecrow straw hat burnt crisp in the sun, panting for breath as your mouth goes numb, and you are convinced that you can never, ever know what it means to be whole again, where each breath stings and you know that they’ve taken all they needed from you, and left a pile of limp bones in their wake.
(fatimah asghar ’11 is being pulled by multiple magnets.)
THE CONFORMIST CELIA CHUNG ’13 OIL, WATER, NAPKINS
BITTER MELON GAN UYEDA ’11 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Space by Masumi Hayashi-Smith
I walk inside Bags unwieldy, space compressed, arms against legs against faces, the air is thick. I am taking up space. With my two large bags in rush hour traffic, I am taking up space. And she sees me. Moving further back, she looks me in the eyes and speaks: Excuse me Excuse me, I am talking to you. Don’t you realize that I am running away from you? You are taking up my space. I am taking up space. A lot of it. You have no right to my space. She says. You have no right to my money or my family’s access to education. You have no right to be in this country. You don’t have the right to this country just for having killed someone. You are taking up this space here. You have taken my money and my family’s money. You have no right to my family’s money. I don’t want you in my space. I don’t want anything more to do with you. I don’t even want to look at you. She holds up an envelope. Its tattered edges mirrored in cellophane. I am left with the silence and humming of machinery. With the depth of my own thoughts. Who are you, and who am I, I wonder. How is it that I hear the mystery of her accent just as loud as her words. Who are we? Refugees? Foreigners? Natives? White? Asian? I am a child of the Mayflower on one side, and have weathered four generations of American xenophobia on the other. She could have traveled here ten years ago. But in this moment we as isolated people disappear. We are two bodies wrapped in multitudes of history. A single self never distinguished from the lingering holds of face, hurt, fear, trauma. She sees in multiples. Between us, entire landscapes of populations collide. Her mouth bubbles words most never dare to speak. The ugliness sinking in the cauldrons of their bellies. But what if this is only bearing to surface that which was always there?
(masumi hayashi-smith ’10 still loves the public transit system.)
NOVEMBER LAUNDRY HARUKA AOKI ’12 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
my passport is red by Abigail Chen
There is a big Ear collecting our thoughts (I can only hope). This is what the Ear has had falling on him for the hundreds of sunrises and sunsets prior: a gentle soft pattering of my softly patterned thoughts— snow (—or cherry blossoms—or dust). My words likewise are soft, bearing no stain, leaving an invisibility—a trail gleams in its wake, disappears like a partially remembered dream. Ah, yes. The thoughts: (and here, we begin to hear the drumbeat of this woman’s life—insistent—forgotten). Some days the throbbing red of a thought: Home. Step. Home. Step. “I plant my ownership with each foot, claiming, like the British, the ground under which I have stamped my claim— Benevolent, Hope, Power, George, Thayer, Charlesfield, Bowen, Ives—my feet have tramped and tramped these streets, pressing onto their breasts the evidence of my presence. Yes—here and here. I re-ink my steps—darken my bond. Mine&Mine. That which I love, that which is mine, that which is home. Winter literalizes this process of five years in the making. My footsteps in the snow=mine, mine, mine, mine, yours, yours, ours. Ours. And on the broken sidewalks, the eternal potholes, the byways and alleys, carparks, lawns, sand, mud, soil—I have made that bold blood claim—yes, yes, Yes, mine, mine, and Mine. Home stretched across the trails I have cut into this city like a web—home pressed (despairingly) into the asphalt and concrete, leaving, I hope—some mark, some sign—perhaps the sparrow flying off with the sudden clap of its wings.
[And yet in the very act of tracing and retracing—insisting and insisting—I know the tide comes in, washing away those scrawls, bird feet marks, blank slate.]
(abigail chen ’10, ma’11 is searching.) 42
PENSIVE NIKILESH ESWARAPU ’12 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
RISD BIKE - PAUSE OF TIME YINING (MARY) SHAO ’12 PENCIL ON WHITE PAPER
VAPOR CLIFTON YEO ’14 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
IN THE RUBBLE FATIMAH ASGHAR ’11 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY originally printed in MUZZLE Magazine
UNTITLED ZUNG NGUYEN VU ’12 DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY 46
a heart is the joining of two question marks, one reversed, as doubt? lingers like can’tcer, drops clinging between moments of sweetness
trái tim by Kathy Nguyen
a heart is the organ which a monkey grinds, rented daily from the livery, cranking out beatless jingles for a bit of change a change of pace-making a heart is a_part but some holes are greater. or as Ngoại would say, dipping it in soy sauce: “it is the best piece of cây a-ti-sô!”
(kathy nguyen ’13 never chokes on art.)
gold mountains by Vivian Truong gum saan. this story has long since been erased and written over, but if you hold it up to the light you can still see the traces. this story is about the search for gold. it is about panning in foreign rivers, seeing home in the swirling sediment, but finding nothing when it settles. this story is about finding nothing and spilling everything, about white-and-white photographs of railroad workers shaking hands, the thousand words of yellow bodies left out of the picture. these are our words. my grandmother hoards quarters. she won’t let anyone spend them, says that yongyong needs them to do laundry. not sure if she knows i can just get them at the bank. but every time i take the bus back to college, my luggage is heavier by thirty or so quarters. they sit in a plastic sandwich bag tied off with a rubber band, small metal discs smothered under wrinkled dresses, poetry books and bras that still remember foreign palms, lips, fingertips. they can’t read these words. they have never really tried; only half-spoke them when drugging the men to rape the women, or looking down at us from twentieth-story resort room windows while we picked opium and bullets out of our veins. last fall my parents went back to visit our relatives in vietnam. when we’re all home in december, i look over my father’s shoulder as he flips through the pictures on our digital camera. he says here is your grandmother’s cousin, second aunt, her family, their restaurant. here is the herbal medicine store in our old neighborhood; it was there thirty years ago and now it still stands. this tiny screen is my only window to looking into places i have never been; seeing people i’ve never met who carry my blood. he says here is the neighborhood we used to live
in. my father flips to a picture of an arch in front of what looks like a cramped alley. it marks off the street where the chinese-vietnamese live. here is our house. you see that tree? he asks. we planted that tree. it’s still there. and i wonder why my father chose just to take a picture of the tree and not the house behind it—how strange to imagine other people living in the very space you grew up in. this used to be their home. now they have become american tourists, snapping pictures from sly angles. this story has long been erased. they have written it over; this is not a railroad but a boneyard. this is not a railroad, but bleached ribcages laid out across the earth to connect a country we were told we could die for but not belong to. this spring i go home and visit my grandmother in brooklyn. i climb the white stepladder to place incense on the buddhist shrine mounted on the wall. on my way back down, my aunt fingers the bracelets on my left wrist. it’s too bad i lost my job; if i still had the employee discount, i could buy you another one she says. i ask my father about this on the car ride back to our house. your aunt got laid off months ago, he says, and i got another job. my father has been working twelve hours a day, six days a week, at three jobs he doesn’t like. and has not told me any of this for months. the streets are paved with gold and that is not a lie. we are not that sickly yellow they paint us, but when you cut us open, we spill out the light that glows under our skin. this is not a lie. and this country has cut us open again and again and again. that is not a myth. we built this. we built this. they spilled our light to build this. hold it up. hold this up to the light and see.
DIGINITY IN DISASTER CHARIS LOKE ’13 PENCIL
i call my father. i got this fellowship, i say, i think i can become a professor. it takes a while to explain what fellowship means; in the end i just say the chinese word for scholarship. close enough. this is how most of our conversations are, words half-morphed in translation. mommy and baba are proud of you he says. in english. are you happy there? he asks this every time i call and it’s only now that i realize how much he’s gone through, how much he’s still going through to hear me say yes, baba. i’m really happy here.
walking down these streets aglow with sunlight, behind a couple with linked fingers. thinking about how it matters so little and so much at the same time. how little things matter so much; how much other things matter so little. how much how little. how little. how little. how sometimes we are just looking for things that have slipped away from us, for sunlight and a hand to hold.
and here we are. here we are where we’re not supposed to be. here we are these bleached bones this yellow skin this golden light. here we are. we are here. when is that ever enough?
(vivian truong ’12 is biking through the fields of Hội An.)
’13 is blindly following this string, looking for a way out (or is it a way in?)
’14 needs another cup of coffee.
’14 likes to find the warmth in the cold.
’11 finds most things questionable, including ‘mellll’ and Superman.
celia chung, risd
’13 misses hopping on a plane and going on an adventure.
’12 is not an artist, not an economist.
’12 will never leave college.
’14 won’t be cinder-blocked in.
’11: Precisely - a clandestine romance in the library?
’12 is drunk off inspiration and wants you to get on his level.
’13 likes to eat dense fudgy brownies.
’11 is mired in syntax.
’12 is eating a little madeleine crumbling in tea.
’12 hopes to cook like her parents someday.
CANDY fall 2010 TEO ’12 STEPHANIE OIL PAINTING
VISIONS | BROWN/RISD
MARCH XIANGJUN SHI ’13 ACRYLIC
VISIONS | BROWN/RISD 52
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