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VOLU ME 1 IS S U E 1 SP RING 2009

VOICES The Literary Magazine of West Valley College


VOICES LAURA SYLVAN

Editor in Chief

MICHAEL S. CHIANG

Assistant Editor

CHRISTINE KRAUSE

Managing Editor

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ JESSICA ZUMBAHLEN BRAD BOND DEBBIE WUNSCH

Senior Editor Art Editor Copy Editor ICC Representative

Associate Editors DANIELLE ARMSTEAD MOLLY CAHILL

JOSH HOWELL CAITLIN MCKENNEY

Staff JOAN CROWNOVER CRYSTAL LAKE TANI SANDA

JOHN FARLEY CRAIG MEIKLE PRISCILLA TRAN

Advisors JANINE GERZANICS

SUSAN SCHULTER


VOICES is published each spring and is produced by students at West Valley College. Current and former students, alumni, faculty and staff of the college are invited to submit their work for consideration. We accept original fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, literary criticism, opinion pieces and art on a rolling basis. Submissions and questions may be directed to editor@voicesmag.org. The views expressed in VOICES are not necessarily those of its editors or staff. West Valley College is not responsible for the contents of this magazine. No portion of the contents may be reprinted without written permission of the editors or originators. All rights reserved. Copyright Š 2009 by VO I C E S Literary Magazine Printing by Mustang Press, San Jose, CA

WWW. VO I CE SMAG.OR G


P OE T RY Garden Girl

1

MIRANDA ALLEY

Una Voglia Semplice

2

SARAH KATZ

sound

7

KIRSTEN MCKAY

harem

22

KIRSTEN MCKAY

Die Narben

27

TARA WYATT

Clichés

37

ASHLEY FLORIMONTE

For Omar

38

KAREN WALLACE

Paradise

47

DOMINIKA BIALEK

Lullaby

55

AMELIA LARA

Where Nothing Had Been

64

TARA WYATT

The Invincible Woman

65

ASHLEY FLORIMONTE

Mercy

69

RICKY JAMES NICHOLES


FICT I O N untitled

4

LENORE HARRIS

The Mermaid in the Harbor

9

LEANNE LINDELOF

Insanity

28

DAWN FADEM

Pretending

33

CARLEEN GEHUE

The Empty Moment

60

MARKUS ROBINSON

The Beast

67

MELISANDE HILEMAN

CREAT IV E

NO N - F I CT I O N

Anniversary

24

AMELIA LARA

Delivering Daddy

57

JOSHUA MARKS


A RT Lake Tahoe

39

JOANNA GODINHO-KHAN

Islam

40

HEIDI BRUECKNER

Asia

41

HEIDI BRUECKNER

Cellular

42

NICK MAKSIM

Chilli Peppers

43

JOANNA GODINHO-KHAN

Eetmoch

44

HEIDI BRUECKNER

lovesick

45

FOREST OATES

Retreat

46

TRICIA HILL

LIT ERA RY

A N A LY S I S

The Brevity of the Present—Interruption

71

ROXANNE RASHEDI

Polyphonic Journey

76

DOMINIKA BIALEK


A

L E TT E R

F R OM

T H E

ED I TOR

I began this project on the mere flutter of an idea. Some ideas sparkle in the imagination and, given a bit of attention, take on a life of their own. But in order to bring this book to life, I faced some basic questions. In this age of electronic pixels why print a book? Why create a literary magazine at all? I wanted to capture the elusive essence of our creative community and contain it within the pages of a bounded book. Like the ethereal glow of fireflies in a jar, I wanted to hold in my hands a glimpse of the illuminating hum of our community that sustains and inspires me. This book is a tangible manifestation of our community of voices. This book speaks, urging us to hold it in our hands, fray the edges of the pages with our fingers, and tuck it into the crook of our arms and take comfort in its immediacy. In reading it, we enter a dialog and are invited to add our own voices. As someone who still holds books in a special place of reverence—the smell of paper warm with ink or the sighing creak of a new spine being coaxed open fills me with hopeful anticipation—bringing this book to the community has been an amazing privilege and joy. Sincerely, Laura Sylvan


Garden Girl MIRANDA ALLEY

Beautiful blooms blossoming, stretching their arms awake, squeezing stems, and shivering leaves are coming alive inside of me. Pale flowers against bright green swaying with my self, yawning before wilting into nap-sleep. My body grows the Garden of Eden. Flowers and fruit, leaves and twigs, and nectars and pollens fill my stomach. Trunks grow strong in my legs, roots buried sturdy in my feet. Branches wrapping around my ribs, protecting my fragile fruit heart. My heart has been touched, but not defiled. A bite you took held seeds, and now my garden grows in you.

MIR ANDA

ALLEY

1


Una Voglia Semplice SARAH KATZ

Ho visto un ragazzino vicino al mare, Un bel ragazzino colla pelle abbronzata. Non ho capito le parole che sono venute dalle sue labbra, E lui non ha capito le mie parole. Cosi, ci abbiamo parlato coi nostri occhi. Mi pareva cosi puro, molto piu che i ragazzi del mio paese— Perche era giovane, troppo giovane per me. Pero mentre partivo, ho dato un’occhiata dei suoi occhi mi guardano, Ed in quel momento, ho deciso di ritornare—anni nel futuro, Quando lui sarebbe piu vecchio e potremmo essere insieme senza la vergogna. Si, quando verrebbe questo giorno, gli ritornerei—nel paese vicino al mare...

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A Simple Wish SARAH KATZ

I saw a boy by the sea, A beautiful boy with skin of bronze. I didn’t understand the words which came from his lips, And he didn’t understand my words. So, we spoke with our eyes. He seemed so pure, much more so than the boys of my land— For he was young, too young for me. But while I was leaving, I caught a glimpse of his eyes following me, And in that moment, I decided to return—years in the future, When he would be older and we could be together without shame. Yes, when that day came, I would return to him—to the land by the sea…

SAR AH

K AT Z

3


untitled LENORE HARRIS

I was sixty-one years old when I froze to death in my sleep. It was so cold that year—coldest in my memory. Snow seem to fall until forever and it piled so high it covered my head like a bonnet. The wind swam through the cabin like an otter in the river. It sang and it whistled as it went through the cracks, between the logs and mud that made up the walls, and the rags Marie stuffed in them to keep it out. A part of me didn’t mind the company. The sound was welcome from the silence the snow had brought. Nobody going to fields in the morning, no children to watch in the afternoon and nobody to gossip with after supper. If it wasn’t for the wind carrying the smell of burning wood I wouldn’t have known anybody else was alive. The feel of the wind had become more familiar to me than my own skin. How long had it been this way? How long had it been since I had felt warm—heat down beneath my skin seeping into my bones like ink spilt on paper. I had been cold long before the freeze. Maybe it wasn’t the cold from the blizzard that killed me. Maybe it was something else. Sometimes you get so old and so tired and death is more familiar to you than the smell of your own breath. You forget that you’re supposed to fight it, to close your door to it because you grow old and see it everywhere—in dogwoods that lose their scent, brown and fall to the ground, in the squeak of the chicken before you wring its neck, in the now-empty place where you once

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met your friends to talk, in the space where your man used to sleep and in the widening eyes of your children when they taken away from you. You forget death is the enemy and you open your door because it outlasted everything else and it was always there and reliable in its own way. It can’t hurt you. It just waits until the living gets to be too much. Marie had put the last of the wood in the fire. We had huddled in the blankets and every stitch of clothing we could find. Me in the bed and she in a chair, waiting for Joseph to return. He begging Old Stewart for more wood for me. I already knew. It took too much wood to warm the bones of an old woman. Cost him less money if I did die. I was too old for the field, too broken for the children’s house. I was useless to him. Since his daddy and my Major had been dead and gone, Old Stewart wouldn’t waste no time on me. Old Stew wasn’t like his father, Mr. Vincent. Old Stewart was mean and vexious even as a boy and growing up ain’t softened him a bit. Knocking over his sisters for their toys or a piece of cobbler, red-faced and angry. His daddy, Mr. Vincent were good as far as his folks could go and the Old Man... Not much to say about him. There only one thought I have when I think of him and it’s as cold as the wind was outside. I knew death was in me because when Joseph had come back from Old Stewart I hadn’t felt the crackling cold sweep over my body the way it should have when the door opened. Death had slid into my feet. They were already in that other world. Joseph stood over me, wrapped in blankets that covered everything but his eyes. I saw the white flakes on his lashes slowly disappear into water and fall onto my face and surely more water fell than was snow on his eyes. He’d have to go out and find some wood somewhere. Old Stewart wrote him a pass and told him to look where he had to. He clasped my hand and we both was shaking so hard. Me from old age and him from the cold. Marie gave him some tea and I heard them whispering in the corner of the room, scratches on the air along with the wood falling in the fire and the whistle through the cracks. Joseph would get Virginia while he was out. By then I couldn’t feel my ankles. Virginia, Marie and Joseph—they were good children to me. Never complained. Took good care of me even before their daddies died, even though I never spoke to them, never wanted them to be born and didn’t bother to name them when they was. I wanted to explain. They thought they knew the story— how could they? I asked myself that when I felt the death come over me and the life leave my body—did I leave too much unsaid, did I leave that task for others

LENOR E

HAR R IS

5


to do for me? I should have been the one to tell them. It stole up into my calves. The lower part of my legs didn’t feel cold anymore. Sometimes I miss the cold. Virginia came and she brought the children with her. She left the children by the fire and she and Marie each held one of my hands. Marie stared into the fire, rocking back and forth on her knees, painting her shadow across the wall in broad strokes. Virginia looked into my eyes, dry-eyed, holding my hand tight because we both knew the moment I couldn’t feel her skin against mine no more. She dropped my hand, pulled her grandchildren over to me, and told them to kiss my cheek. Georgia wanted to cry and Henry trying to hush her, clung to the heat of the fire. I hoped they would remember me. That the little ones would remember to give thanksgiving to me. I should have told them the lessons that my life has taught me and perhaps they would not have fear for me or been afraid before but there was no time left. I heard a chant and knew that my grandmother and grandfather would be before me. I had missed them but then, there wasn’t any time left.

 I been dead a long time. So long that I have greeted my grandparents, my ancestors and my children’s children. Ajuba to you, my children, I am here for you. I am here if you listen. All that I know is here for you. That and all that my parents know and my children know. They are not dead to you. We are all here for you if you listen. All that we have learned is here for you if you listen. We are here linked in memories, waiting for you because now there is all the time in the world.

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sound KIRSTEN MCKAY

for the boy that i love.

ours is not a simple love, my dear; we have chosen to build rather than be satisfied with the foundation we have been given, with what we were told was enough for us; dressing in layers & layers of tulle & wool, time after time i’ll curtsy & you’ll bow, practicing grand manners at grander dances with helium balloons flying high with our hearts; we’ll light the streets with our candy cane smiles, finger-spell our names and words so quietly no one could ever hear us except for each other, and marvel in all the endless secrets that make us both up; ours is not a simple love, my dear; it takes much more than shouting rooftops & eagles flying to appease our wild souls grand though those gestures may be for there are dances to be learned, there are kisses to be shared & there are storms to be caught in & days to sleep in past noon & nights to dance all through, & there are mornings & afternoons & evenings to wear away

K IR ST EN

MCK AY

7


& there are dreams to make true & lives to create, & promises to make & dreams yet to be earned, & stars to be wished upon & years to reel and reel in, reeling in like so many stars caught out in the sea ours is not a simple love, my dear; we weave out our hours in promises & we’re gone just as quickly as we came. flowers matching on our wrists & fingers intertwined (& suddenly there is no sweeter sound than your name)

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The Mermaid in the Harbor LEANNE LINDELOF

Her father married a crazy woman he’d met on the internet, flew to Las Vegas and pronounced his vows without telling anyone but Elvis. Or so Nina heard. She didn’t actually speak with him until after he’d divorced the anonymous woman— wife number three—and been diagnosed with cancer. Stage IV, he didn’t say what type. In fact, he didn’t even make the announcement to Nina; her mother did. She was wife number one and the only woman who’d borne him children. She said her ex-husband, a misanthrope to her view, was finally being forced to examine his life. And his imminent death. Which was not to say, she told Nina, that he deserved to die because no one really did, especially not of cancer. But he sure could have been a better person: a better man, a better spouse, a better father. But that was just her opinion. And she was sorry she’d said it anyway because after all, the man was passing away. Nina left the office trying not to think about him. She turned on the car radio—nothing interesting even on six pre-programmed channels—and stared at weary commuters likely as frustrated as she by the interminable flow of traffic. When she exited the freeway onto Hyde Street, drove under the overpass and onto the city road, she said to no one but the pale April sky, “Nei.” Nei, nei, nei. Her father was a Dane. He’d quit the old country after college, come to America, opened an import business, and used his guile and the last name he

LEANNE

LINDELOF

9


was so proud of (“Olsen with an ‘e’, not that hideous ‘o’ the Swedes have”) to make a stable financial life for himself. The rest of his existence—too many marriages, too many ex-wives, too much alcohol perhaps, though this was never substantiated—was less than secure. Nina looked at her phone: no one had called, though she thought she’d heard it ring. At Lincoln Avenue, she began making a mental list of groceries: cat food, fat free ground turkey, and, she realized as she turned onto Pine, a new toothbrush (dentists recommended buying a new one every two months to avoid bacterial contamination; this seemed more like romantic counsel than hygienic advice, but nonetheless Nina changed every sixty days). Left at Newark—bottled water—and right at South Main. Basil. She hoped what her father needed most while lying in a hospital bed sipping a morphine cocktail was not a visit from her. The porch light illuminated when she pulled up to the townhouse. Her cat, Henning, jumped through the light to greet her, creating large, morphing shadows on the concrete before stopping at her feet to scratch his face against her shin. He uttered weak sounds, looked The rest of his existence—too many up with eyes that were brighter than marriages, too many ex-wives, too usual. This was his plea for food. Nina had forgotten his dinner. much alcohol perhaps, though this She stroked the back of Henning’s neck with the edge of her briefcase. was never substantiated—was she should race back to the store less than secure. Maybe to find a special bag of kitty snacks to redeem herself—she could be there in fifteen minutes if she snuck into the commuter lane. But the last time she drove solo in the carpool lane she was fined $281 and told, by a police officer whose looks were much more pleasing than his personality, not to be a recidivist. She’d had to look up the term when she arrived home. She wasn’t used to four syllable words; no one had used them in business school. Supply, demand, profit—each two syllables. Loss, only one. She implored Henning to accept leftovers and walked to the entry where she stumbled over a package. Damn it. She picked up the box. On its plain brown wrapping, KARINA was written with felt-tipped pen. Since most people simply called her Nina, she knew the sender was family, feared the package was from her mother who believed in calling people by their Christian names. She’d always wanted to ask her how to address people of other faiths, but Mom probably didn’t

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realize other religions, or people, existed. The package was not from Mom. It was from Nina’s brother, Karsten, Dad’s only son (Nina was his only daughter, but that somehow seemed less important) and the only child who truly spoke Danish since Dad had sometimes broken into dansk with his male offspring. Nina had begged her father to speak Danish to her before her parents’ divorce, but he’d always refused, or been too busy, or said he’d forgotten. Even when Nina had threatened to buy language cassettes (to learn brilliant phrases like “good morning,” “good evening,” or “may I have some fish?”) he hadn’t seemed to care. She opened the box and found a stuffed little mermaid. Pinned to the right side of the lille havfrue was a note from Karsten. He was in town and planning to escort Nina to the hospital tomorrow to see their father. With or without her consent. He didn’t name the hotel in which he was staying (probably the Copenhagen), simply requested Nina not mention this to their mother and be prepared for his call in the morning. The phone rang. The land line, inside the house. Nina wasn’t in the habit of responding to it since the answering machine did such a stellar job, but she ran inside and lifted the receiver anyway. The serenity of her evening had already been subverted by a plush toy, so why not? She could use a diversion. “Hey Nina.” Steve. Steve the attractive distraction. Perfect. “Free for dinner?” He asked. Even better. She told him she was, and he said he wanted to prepare something Thai and bring it over in an hour or so. She said that would be great as long as he brought enough Pad Thai for the cat since she’d forgotten Henning’s snack and lied about having leftovers. In fact, the only sustenance she had in the refrigerator was milk, and it was probably outdated. Steve was not outdated, although he’d lasted well beyond his sixty days; he had been around for over a hundred now. In November, they’d met at a marketing conference with an open bar where Steve had approached Nina and her dirty martini and asked about benchmarks. Nina told him they should discuss the subject sometime—he could call her assistant. So he did. And the assistant gave the message to Nina and Nina called Steve. And they were happy for a while. Nina poured herself a glass of wine (nothing in her fridge but plenty of adult refreshments in her cupboard) and sat in her favorite brown, leather chair. She stared at the logless fireplace, sipped, wondered how to avoid her brother. Steve

LEANNE

LINDELOF

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knocked on the door. She sipped again and shouted for him to come in, the door was open. He brought Pad Thai into the living room and asked Nina if she would mind getting up or if she preferred to stay in the chair where she looked, he said, very sexy; he was going into the kitchen to have dinner. Nina said she loved the chair, said sometimes it gave her spiritual counsel, and Steve pulled her to her feet. He lifted her blouse and ascended a hand to her breast, said he wasn’t really hungry anyway. He tightened his thumb and index finger around her nipple, and she said that was very nice, but what about the cat?  Sunlight streamed through the wooden slats of the open blinds. Nina lifted her head from the pillow, tried to blink the light away, and wondered why she had forgotten to close the blinds before bed. She hated to be awakened by the sun, always closed the shades, every night. Why not last night? “Good morning.” Steve was the reason. Nina lifted herself to her elbows. She said good morning, let Steve kiss her, then asked what time it was. Steve guided her shoulder to the mattress and moved his hand across her back. “I don’t know.” He kissed her neck, began whispering words like love. His hand careened over her hips. “I don’t feel well.” The touching ceased. “What?” “Not good.” Nina’s head was light, her stomach turning. She wished the sun would disappear. “Karsten,” she said. “Your brother? How is your brother making you sick?” “He might be in town.” “Now?” “Maybe, I’m not sure.” She looked at the phone on the nightstand. Unnecessary expense, really, since she had her cell. But Karsten would likely use this one. “You don’t know?” “No.”

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“Well, if you don’t know,” Steve said, “you’re probably fine. Why don’t you just cuddle with me?” “I want to, but I can’t. I need to get up and feed the cat.” “I’ll bet the cat can’t do this.” He slid his hand between her thighs. “Nope!” Nina ran to the shower. When she returned to the room, a short, ivory robe around her now relaxed body (she loved loved loved peach body wash with aloe), she found Steve sitting, fully clothed, on the edge of the bed. She asked what he was doing. He asked what the hell was wrong with her. “Nothing.” She was happy. Why was he ruining it? “Come on Nina, you’ve been difficult before, but this is somethin’ else.” “What do you mean?” “You allow me to bring dinner as long as there’s enough for your cat, and then you fuck me and throw me out in the morning? What the hell is that?” No more joy. She opened the closet. Blouses were arranged dark to light, then skirts, pants, jackets. Shoes were on a rack against the wall. “I really care about you,” she said, “I’m just concerned about my animal. Can’t you understand that?” She turned to him but did not look. “Whatever. You’re unbelievable—UN-believable. I hope Henning enjoyed his snack.” Steve walked down the hallway. Nina watched. At the entry, Steve opened the door and crossed the threshold without looking back. Nina returned to the closet to choose an ensemble. She removed a navy skirt and cream blouse from their hangers, then pulled stockings from the mahogany chest. She sat on the bed and straightened her leg to roll the She asked what he was doing. He asked stocking to her thigh. When she bent what the hell was wrong with her. down to begin with the other, Steve’s scent rose from the covers. She looked at the sheet hanging to the floor, then at the pillow: the unmade bed held his trace. She reveled for a moment in the emerging sensation, then bent down to adjust the stocking. The phone rang. There would be no hiding, not even in her own home. Steve was gone, the sun was still shining, Karsten had arrived.

LEANNE

LINDELOF

13


“Hi honey.” Mom, not big brother. “Why aren’t you at work?” “If you thought I’d be at work, why are you calling?” “Well you don’t need to be snippy,” her mother said. “I’m just checking in.” Nina could feel her frowning. “I’m late, Mom, just pulled on my nylons. I really need to leave for work.” She didn’t say she planned on calling in sick this morning, which might not be a lie since her stomach was truly unsettled. Might have been that Pad Thai. Or Steve. “I just wondered if you knew how your father’s doing.” Mom wanted to know about Mr. Misanthrope. As if she cared. “I’m late for work Mom. Do you really need to know?” “It’s not like anyone would call and tell me.” That wasn’t true; Karsten would keep their mother informed. He was, after all, the favorite child. First born, only son, Danish speaking, the whole nine yards. “I don’t really know why,” her mother said, “it’s not like I wasn’t married to the man. For far too long, but that’s beside the point.” Nina said nothing. Sometimes silence was best. Her mother steered the conversation to her weekend and continued long enough for Nina to learn she’d recently met a newly divorced woman at church, a nice lady introduced by another single woman who suggested they all form some sort of group. Nina responded with a yawn and walked to the hallway, looked at Henning’s bowl in the kitchen. Henning had barely touched the milk from last night (that was probably Steve’s fault), and since Nina didn’t see nor hear the cat, she assumed he was sulking somewhere. When her mother began with platitudes like ‘take her under my wing’ and ‘I used to be this or that,’ the doorbell rang. “I should get that.” “Who would be at your door at 8:30 in the morning?” “I don’t know.” This was a dirty lie. Nina knew who was standing, probably flicking his nails or running his fingers through his thick brown hair, on the other side of the door: Karsten, the merciless prevaricator who’d promised on the mermaid he would call before stopping by. “I’ll call you later,” she said. Another filthy lie. Karsten rang the bell again and Nina walked to the door unprepared to face the phantom deliverer of mail. She knew little about Karsten’s life now, hadn’t

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inquired as to his well-being in a while. In fact, the two had had minimal contact since Karsten had relocated his family to a cooler, calmer place (his words) shortly before their father’s malignant announcement a year ago. At the time, Karsten said something about the inevitability of all Scandinavians heading north, told Nina there was even a colony of Danes and Swedes, though everyone knew the two should never intermingle, just a hop, skip, and a hoppe from his new home in Washington State. Nina envisioned Karsten skinny (always had been), smiling (he usually did), and as youthful as ever (damn straight). But when she opened the door, she found him pudgy, expressionless, and older. She tried to be happy enough for the two of them, told him he looked great, said he hadn’t changed a bit, the cool weather must be good for him. He thanked her and said it was nice to see her too, it’d been too long. He did not inquire about the package, didn’t ask if she had enjoyed the stuffed animal. He knew she’d adored it, unable as she was to sleep without a replica of the sailors’ muse as a child. “You hungry?” Nina led him into the house. “I had the continental breakfast at the hotel. What does that mean anyway, continental breakfast? It’s British, right? Like the English know anything about food.” “Not like the Danes!” Nina thought she should wink or punch him in the arm or something. “Gotta love ‘em.” Karsten didn’t bat an eyelash. He stopped in the entry and asked if they should go. “Already?” Nina’s stomach was growing nervous. “What about Henning?” “The cat?” “Yeah. I need to feed him before we leave.” “Dad’s in the hospital and you’re worried about your cat?” Nina had to love someone and the cat was the closest thing. “This has nothing to do with Dad,” she said. (Yet another prevarication.) “I just really need to feed him. It’ll only take a minute.” “The cat’ll be fine.” Nina wasn’t so sure, but acquiesced because she’d learned in childhood that Karsten wouldn’t take no for an answer. “I told Dad we’d spend the whole day with him,” he said, “so I want to get to

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the hospital as soon as visiting hours open.” “Don’t you want to chat for a minute first?” Karsten hadn’t moved from the entry. Nina hadn’t moved either. A year of awkwardness had caused them to hover near the door as if it were an emergency exit. “We can chat in the car. Why don’t you get your sweater?” Nina walked to her bedroom and Karsten followed. She didn’t know why. “Remember all those times Mom told us to take a sweater even when it wasn’t cold outside?” he asked. This sounded like chatting. “I do,” she said. “How is she anyway?” “You haven’t seen her?” “No, didn’t tell her I’m here. You know how she is about Dad sometimes.” That was true, but didn’t the favorite child have an obligation to be faithful to each parent? The nausea was rising again. Nina walked to the bedroom and greeted the closet for the third time this morning. She wished she could jump into the array, lose herself in fine fabrics, shut the door and pretend she were no longer there. “Hurry up.” Karsten was right behind her. She pulled a suit jacket from its hanger and straightened the lapels. She put it on, making sure she didn’t wrinkle her blouse. Her stomach turned. “Do you think we should take flowers or something?” Karsten asked. “I thought you wanted to get there early. Wouldn’t that take too much time?” Karsten said she needn’t be sarcastic, and why, since he was now standing in her room and could see the disorder, were things such a mess? He’d always thought she was a neat freak. Nina didn’t want to discuss it. She wanted to think of the reason for her lapse (Steve) about as much as she wanted to think about their father today. “It’s none of your business.” She regretted this phrase. “Slow down,” Karsten said. “I’m just worried about my little sister. You live alone with a cat. You work a lot and you haven’t talked about a boyfriend in a while. I’m concerned.” “No need to be.” She looked at the bed. It was unmade, yes, but why would she touch it when she could still smell Steve there?

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“I’m fine.” She could still feel Steve’s hand on her thigh, too. “Well let’s go then. There’s nothing else?” Nina didn’t inquire about her brother’s life, didn’t want to, especially now. She assumed he was still married, that his wife continued to adore him and that his two daughters were slowly transforming from blonds to mousy-browns. “Just let me call the office.” She dialed her assistant, Sherry, and told her she’d contracted some sort of bug and would be unable to meet her professional duties today. Sherry said not to worry, that things would be fine, everything at the office was under control. Nina wished she could say the same about things at home. “Shall we go?” Henning appeared in the doorway and Nina followed him to the kitchen, filled his bowl with chicken and shrimp. She escorted Karsten to his rental car. “You think we need flowers?” Karsten smiled, said, “sure do,” and the drive to the hospital began. They headed out on Meridian, and Karsten marveled at how much things had changed since his departure. He said that he thought the strip malls and coffee shops were distasteful, that such godawful constructions were a national epidemic, not unique to California. Nina agreed, and said little more. At Park, Karsten explained that while he missed the weather and the proximity of family and friends, he was glad to have relocated to a slower paced city. He said he wished Dad had moved as well because the change may have saved him, perhaps his illness was due to the pressure of big city life. He regretted, Karsten said, not having been more insistent when suggesting the move to their father. Nina was going to be sick. She told Karsten to pull over, and he stopped speaking in mid- ‘things could have been different.’ He turned into the parking lot of a donut shop with a neon open sign, a structure, he noted, that hadn’t changed in years, and Nina opened the door, vomited on the asphalt. She wondered if stress would cause her to get cancer one day, too. She pulled back her hair and held it behind her head. “I forgot about your weak stomach,” Karsten said. “You’re not ready to see Dad yet, are you?” “I don’t think so.” “I’ll get you some water from inside.”

LEANNE

LINDELOF

17


Nina removed her jacket and wiped her mouth with a starched sleeve. Karsten returned with a styrofoam cup, said he was going to get her a danish to go with the water, but figured she wasn’t in the mood. He laughed. It was nice to hear. “Thanks,” Nina said. He touched her shoulder, both hands. “You gonna be okay?” “Yeah.” She thought his eyes looked just like Henning’s. Bright, sweet. “So I guess we should go. And we should hurry—don’t want to miss too much of visiting hours.” Karsten helped her up and said he was glad she’d come around to the idea. He suggested he buy flowers when they arrived—how about daisies? “As long as they’re sanctioned by the Her father was staring at the screen queen.” At the hospital, Karsten searched and fiddling with the remote, for a bouquet in the gift shop and Nina raising and lowering his arms stepped into the elevator alone. When like Superman in tentative flight. she reached the third floor, a man with lowered eyes joined her but said nothing. At level five, two women entered the enclosed space. They spoke softly to each other while Nina scanned the ceiling, the walls, the little box for making an emergency call. She stepped silently out of the elevator at oncology. On Call Ogy. On call, all the time. Nina wondered how many physicians needed to work around the clock to aid the terminally ill. And how long, despite those doctors’ best attempts, before cancer finally destroyed them all? Her father was in room 825A. No one was in B. The dividing curtain wasn’t drawn when Nina arrived, and her father’s bed was far from the window. The room was dark but for a weak overhead light and an illuminated television screen. Her father was staring at the screen and fiddling with the remote, raising and lowering his arms like Superman in tentative flight. Nina entered the room and said hello. “Hi Karina.” He put down the remote and rested his arms on the white sheet smoothed over his legs and pelvis. His body looked small and frail. His feet stuck up oddly at the bottom of the bed and his hair was greyer than Nina had anticipated.

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“You look nice,” he said. “It’s nice to see you.” “Nice to see you, too,” Nina said. “What are you watching?” “Jeopardy.” She could hear the questions in her head. “But I can’t get a good picture. I’ve been playing with this damn remote for twenty minutes and nothing’s changing.” “Maybe something’s wrong with it.” “There’s always something wrong,” he said. Nina looked at the television, then at the strange metal device next to her father’s bed. The tree-like object looked like it may once have held overcoats. Now it supported a swollen plastic sack and a long, narrow tube that seemed to form a lifeline from the bag to her father. “Damn television.” “Should I turn it off?” “Forty years in this country and I can’t even make the TV work. Yeah, turn it off.” “This way we can talk more.” Nina didn’t know about what, hoped Karsten would arrive soon to maintain the conversation because generally, though not this morning at the house, Karsten knew what to say. She turned off the television and sat on the bed across the room from her father. “Why don’t you sit in the chair?” her father asked. “It’s closer.” “I’m okay right here,” she said. “I’ll leave the chair for Karsten.” “Where is Karsten?” “He had to pick something up downstairs. He’ll be here in a minute.” “That’s good.” Nina tucked her hair behind her ear. “How are you doing?” “I could be better.” “Of course.” What a ridiculous question anyway. Couldn’t she have thought of something more appropriate to say? Something polite, banal, benign? A nurse with a long, dark ponytail and light blue scrubs knocked on the open door as she entered the room. “Everything alright Mr. Olsen?” “Yes, but I’d like a better TV.” “You’re so funny! I’ll put in a request,” she said. “Is this your daughter?”

LEANNE

LINDELOF

19


Nina introduced herself and the nurse said everyone on the floor enjoyed Mr. Olsen. He kept them all, she said, in stitches. That was medical humor. Nina didn’t find it funny. “Can I come in?” Karsten arrived with the bouquet and the nurse said their father was a lucky man today. She said someone would bring Mr. Olsen’s lunch at 11:00 and he should buzz her if he needed anything before then. The nurses’ call button was on the wall. Karsten arranged the flowers on the nightstand and kissed his father’s cheek. He sat in the vinyl chair next to the bed. “How has your morning been?” Karsten asked. “Not bad, but I’m glad you’re here.” “It’s good to be here.” “How’s the family?” their father asked. “Happy up North?” Karsten said his family was doing well. The girls, now 7 and 9, were enjoying school. His wife, Mindy, had recently returned to work because with the kids becoming more independent, she was growing restless. It was a hectic transition but a necessary one, he told them, because Mindy hadn’t adjusted to the move as well as everyone else. But she was finally beginning at least to appreciate the seasons. “Shouldn’t be afraid of a little snow,” their father said. Karsten agreed. Nina smiled. Their father said he needed to go to the bathroom. “Should I call the nurse?” Karsten asked. “No, just help me up.” Karsten slid his father’s legs to the side of the bed. When he stood, Nina could see how skinny he was. He’d never been skinny, not like this. “Take my arm.” Karsten put one arm around his father and offered the other for balance. He guided the ailing man slowly to the bathroom in the corner of the room; the metal device rolled behind them. Nina began to cry.  She didn’t tell her mother about the trip until landing in Copenhagen. She called from her cell and her mother said she wasn’t pleased about Nina’s having left unannounced, said it was just another piece of information people had been

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keeping from her, seemed to be happening a lot lately, she was surprised anyone had even informed her of Dad’s death. “You didn’t need to attend the service,” Nina said. “Of course I did. I was married to the man.” Nina took pictures of the little mermaid, close ups because she truly was diminutive (Nina shouldn’t have been disappointed, should have known by the name) and tossed leftover pretzels to the swans preening in the harbor. Musicians on a nearby bench began playing something classical, tranquil, and Nina bought a postcard from their cohort to the left. She walked to Den Lille Havrue Café and wrote a note to Karsten. The old country was beautiful, she said. He should visit one day.

LEANNE

LINDELOF

21


harem KIRSTEN MCKAY

It is all I ever dreamed. Oh, to be counted among your many loves, to have a place in the corner of your mind. You’re a busy man of many means, important in this little world, and all men fall to your feet and all women to your smile. Oh, to be counted among your many loves, to have a place in the corner of your eye. I’m nobody worth dwelling on, yet you find time to give to me, though I know your heart will not be won as easily as that. Oh, to be counted among your many loves, to have a place in the sheets of your bed.

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You sing to me and make me lovely things, and I wear your cultured pearls ’round my wrist to show my loyalty. Oh, to be counted among your many loves, to have a place in the rooms of your house. But I never quite learned to share, and I know I will wither away unless you pledge yourself only to me, as I have already done to you. Oh, to be counted as your one and only love, to have a place in the center of your heart. It is all I ever dreamed.

K IR ST EN

MCK AY

23


Anniversary AMELIA LARA

Poppa died in the master bedroom in a rented hospital bed. It was the second house he bought, after my grandmother's, for him and his family before he married my mom. Mom said, "Dad always said he was going to die in this house." In memory of Lee H. Lara, Jr. March 21, 1928 - March 31, 2005.

April 5, 2005 The funeral. Suggested to mom, have it on Monday, 4 days later, 4 the sacred number among Lakota and many other Native American tribes. But turned out on Tuesday, April 5. I figured, that’s good too—4th month, 5th day. 5 was his favorite number, I don't exactly know why. My mentor and friend, Don once said, if anything were to happen to his sons or someone close to him that he would cut his hair. Indians do so out of a sign of mourning. Keep it short for a year, for a year you do not dance at PowWows either out of mourning, out of respect. So I ask Don to cut my hair, probably do it by the grave site. After the priest does his “Though I walk through the valley of death...” prayer. Then, Don speaks, introduces himself, says our family—my mom and I— asked him to say something about what the Lakota believe about death. He says—from what I can remember—for the next 4 days, my dad’s spirit will circulate among his family and extended family, that he may visit some of them. For everyone to send him good thoughts and prayers to help strengthen him on his journey.

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He says his daughter Amelia is going to make a hair offering and asks that they be patient and bear with us as he cuts my hair off. He says it is done out of respect for my father, and to send good prayers and thoughts with him. Don smudges the knife he will use, with sage, smudges himself, then he smudges me. Proceeds to cut my hair. It takes longer than I thought it would, several minutes, maybe 10 or 20 minutes, I don't know. Afterwards, he has a bag of tobacco, tells my family they can take a pinch of tobacco and drop it in the grave (the coffin had already been lowered), to send Poppa good prayers. I am pleased to see that most of my family chooses the tobacco, over the flowers at the grave site, some choose both. At one end of the grave, I have my loose bundle of hair—see it shiny, glossy, soft, black—in my hand. Drop it in the grave with a few pinches of tobacco. (Now that I think of it, I should've placed it in the coffin with him). And it's over. The whole time I stood there—during the priest’s service and when Don spoke and cut off my hair—I kept saying, “I can't believe it. I can't believe I am burying my father. I can't believe I am burying my father.” Repeated it over and over, as if I still needed convincing. Don drove me to my house for the gathering afterwards. He tells me to use the food we have today to set out a plate for Poppa for the next 4 nights. After dinner, place a plate of food somewhere out in the yard for him again to help strengthen him on his journey. I do as he says, was first going to put it by the Bird of Paradise, my mom’s favorite. Then see the cactus plants behind it near the corner of the fence, I put the plates there —he always loved cactus plants, would have a variety growing in pots on the patio sometimes. Make the usual rounds that day with long-lost relatives. Serve Don, at least once, make the introductions for those that want to meet him and thank him, and talk with him. My girls are there, Jessica, Melissa and Candida came down from Portland, OR. (Her grandpa is in the hospital, would die a few days later. She had two funerals to attend.) Good to see them come together for me. I’ve known the two of them since kindergarten (Melissa since even before kindergarten), and one a family friend since elementary school. Only one, Monica, couldn’t make it, also known her since kindergarten too.

AMELIA

LAR A

25


April 5, 2006 A year to the day of the funeral, when Don cut my hair. This was the last day of my list of dates. This marks the day I can start to grow my hair out. By no means does it mean an automatic end to my mourning, my grief. It has been a level of grieving and despair, the likes of which I have never known, that shakes me to my core. That I can’t cry for too much, or too long at a time, because it is too much and too deep to a point that it is frightening. And I wonder if it will ever stop, or at least not be so painful, as time goes on. I don't know, but I don't see it getting any easier, at least not yet. At a PowWow on March 18, Homestead HS PowWow, a friend, Brian, asks me if someone I know has died. He is the only one who I haven't told that knows. I ask how do you know, because I know I hadn’t told him. He says, “Because you cut your hair.” I say, yeah, but you don't know if I was growing my hair out or if I just cut it because I wanted to. He just says, people cut their hair when someone close to them dies, asks if it was a family member. I tell him, my father. He says sorry to hear that in his sweet, sensitive way, and soft voice. I can also start dancing at PowWows again. But I will wait... Don asks me if I am going to dance during one of the several Inter-Tribal songs/dances towards the end of the PowWow. I say, I don't have my shawl (the shawl Don gave to me about 4 or 5 years ago), I can't dance, it hasn’t been a year yet. He remembers and understands. Later I tell him, I am going to wait to dance for the first time since my father's death, at our West Valley College Annual PowWow that will be on September 30th. I didn't mention it at the time, but I am going to request that Don “introduce” me back into the community after my time of mourning the first year after my father's death. I will ask him for an honoring song and for him and my other extended family at West Valley to join me around the PowWow dance circle. I hope many of my family members and friends will be able to be there too. It will be a fitting way to honor my Poppa, to send him good thoughts and prayers...once again.

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Die Narben TARA WYATT

Down the road in royal blues, the darkest velvet paths doth intertwine in crimson flesh, a mesh of grief and wrath. Feel the textured ridges that remain like a tattoo. Look beneath the darkened lines and see more than we do. Each trip around the sun we take is one step through a portal. Rust-stained sky to east, then west, care not, does the immortal. Transparent liquid, crystalline, two prisms that display the story lost somewhere behind these windows of today. A day ago I wondered and a life ago I knew. No one teaches lessons as profoundly as you do. Cast away such skin deep flaws! Again, pass through the portal. Rust-stained sky, care not do I, for I, I am immortal.

TAR A

WYAT T

27


Insanity DAWN FADEM

Set in a dirty, drug motel room somewhere on Market St. in San Francisco, CA. The time is 2:30 am, after last call. Robert is sitting on the bed. Lilly is sitting on the floor and she is handcuffed to the metal frame of the bed. Her t-shirt is torn around the neck and her left eye is beginning to swell. Robert pulls out a small bag and puts some of the white powder from the bag onto the night table. He takes the plastic hotel key and lines up the powder. He methodically rolls a bill tightly to use as a straw and sniffs the powder deep into his nose. Closes his eyes and wipes the residue from his nostrils on his flannel shirt.

ROBERT YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME!!! YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, BITCH!! LILLY I’ve spent 4 years with you, Robert. I know you better than anyone, you know that. You never want to hurt me. Please take these handcuffs off me. I won’t leave you. I would never leave you. ROBERT I can’t trust you. You might be watching me. You may be working for THEM! LILLY Them? Come on, Robert. You’re talking crazy. You just did too much meth. You need to slow down. Please rest. You’ve been up for three days already. You must be tired. Come on, baby, let me take care of you. Please, I’ll do anything. Just sit down for a few minutes and relax. You haven’t eaten in days. Let me help you and make it better. Just take these handcuffs off me please. ROBERT FUCK! It’s after 2 am and I didn’t get beer! DAMN YOU! If you would just shut up for a minute and not nag and bug me all the time, I could think. GODDAMN YOU, BITCH! 28

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LILLY

I’m sorry, Robert. I didn’t know, I thought you had some beer left.

ROBERT ice!!

Stupid bitch, it’s not cold. You’re so fucking lazy, I don’t have no

LILLY Robert, if you take these things off, I will go get ice. I’ll get you a cold beer. I promise. ROBERT How do I trust you? I can’t trust you. It’s fucking hot in here. Did you turn on the heater? Shhhhhh quiet!!!! I hear something! [Robert glares at Lilly, putting his ear to the door.] LILLY

I don’t hear...

ROBERT

SHHHHHH. It wasn’t anything.

LILLY Honey, let me get some ice and I will get your beer cold. It will make you feel better. Please, please uncuff me. [Robert walks over, bends down to face Lilly nose to nose. He stares at her for a minute.] ROBERT You know I love you. I do baby, I swear. I love you more than anyone. I’m sorry. I just don’t want you to turn me in. LILLY Why would I do that? I love you. We are a team. All we have is each other. Why would I turn you in? Come on, undo these. I won’t do anything wrong. I will do everything you say. ROBERT Don’t make me hurt you. I don’t want to have to hurt you. You know I’m all you have. Your family doesn’t care. They don’t love you. I’m the only one who loves you. I’m the one who takes care of you. LILLY

I know. You take care of me. I promise I will be a good girl.

DAWN

FADEM

29


[Robert pulls his keys from his pocket and unlocks the handcuffs. Lilly instantly rubs her wrists. Robert puts his hands on top of hers, rubbing them also.] ROBERT I’m sorry baby, does it hurt? I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’m just so tired, you know? And I know they are watching us. Listening to every word we say. I’m sure there are microphones in the air vents. That’s how they know everything. That’s how they hear us! I get scared and I don’t want them to take me away from you. [Robert takes Lilly’s face in his hands and gently kisses her mouth. Lilly responds dutifully.] ROBERT I love you so much. I’m just scared and tired. I’m so tired. I need another line! I need some more stuff! I WANT A PIPE! I want to smoke it! That will wake me up! SEE IF YOU DIDN’T PISS ME OFF I WOULD HAVE REMEMBERED TO PICK UP SOME GLASS! DAMN YOU LILLY! [Robert pulls his hand back and slaps Lilly open-handed. He draws blood on her lip.] ROBERT

SEE! SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!! Damn, I need a line!!

LILLY (with tears rolling down her face, trembling as she wipes at the blood) Robert, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I love you. Let me get you a beer! Let me get you a cold beer. That will make you feel better. [Robert gets up and walks back to the nightstand and does the same ritual of lining up his drug.] ROBERT LILLY one.

Ok, I’m just gonna do this line and then I can relax.

I have some Clonazepam! That will relax you. Here let me get you

ROBERT Yea, get me one of those. Why didn’t you tell me you had those pills? Give me one of those beers. I don’t care if it’s warm.

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[Lilly walks over to her purse and takes out two small yellow pills.] LILLY

Where is your beer?

ROBERT LILLY

In the bathroom, in the sink. I was hoping you would get ice.

I will.

ROBERT

(in a mocking tone) I will, I will. But do you ever?

[Lilly hands him the pills and the beer.] ROBERT LILLY

I just thought it would work faster. I have plenty of them.

ROBERT joke.) LILLY

Why two?

Ok. You’re not trying to kill me, are you? (Robert laughs at his own

That’s not funny! I wouldn’t do that!

ROBERT It was only a joke, baby. Now come over here and give your Daddy a little sugar. [Lilly bends down and kisses Robert. She walks to the chair by the desk and sits down with a random magazine.] ROBERT

I just need to rest my eyes for a minute, ok? You just stay here.

[Lilly stays perfectly still and doesn’t make a sound for a couple minutes.] LILLY

Robert? Robert, are you awake?

[Robert lets out a small breath of air but doesn’t move otherwise. Lilly shifts around in her chair and stands up. She walks over to the bed and stands at Robert’s feet.]

DAWN

FADEM

31


LILLY (speaking softly to a sleeping Robert) You are finally asleep. After three long days you have crashed. I’m done Robert. I can’t do this anymore. I tried over and over again, but no more. [Lilly waits to see if Robert moves at all. Nothing.] LILLY

I can’t Robert. I’m better than this. The meth has stolen your soul.

[Lilly straightens her back proudly and turns toward the door. Lilly turns the handle and waits. With no movement from Robert she opens the motel room door. Lilly steps through, silently closes the door behind her. Lilly waits at the door and then runs down the street. She finally stops at a pay phone and picks up the receiver.] LILLY help.

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Operator? Please get me the police. My boyfriend beat me up. I need

VO I CES


Pretending CARLEEN GEHUE

The deck was slippery with the cold, salty sea water. The winds howled and forced the ship to rock furiously among the rough waves. Her shipmates scrambled about, trying desperately not to get tossed overboard. She couldn’t worry about them now. She searched the air frantically for the old parchment, but the rain was falling so fast and so heavy she couldn’t see very far. By some miracle she glanced upward and saw, snagged on the crow’s nest, the red X on a yellowing map. Despite the chaos a smile briefly appeared on her face before it was washed away by a harsh wave. She scrambled to her feet and charged for the mast. The ropes that were so strong now waved like kite tails in the tempest. She snatched one out of the air and began to climb. The storm tossed her in every direction but she would not be defeated. She wrapped her arms and legs around the mast and proceeded skywards like a bear climbing a tree. The map was almost within her reach; the rain stung her outstretched hand and her hair whipped against her determined face. Her fingers were about to grasp the map when she heard a voice from below. “Lucy, stop fooling around! I need my scarf for church,” the old woman shouted. Lucy peered down at her grandmother. “For God’s sake, getting a scarf from a tree is not rocket science, get out of your ridiculous little daydreams and bring me my damn scarf!” Lucy plucked the scarf from the branch and made her way down to the grumpy old woman. CAR LEEN

GEHUE

33


She decided to skip the last few branches and jump to the ground. Her feet hit the dirt first and were followed by the rest of her body in a less than graceful manner. The old woman stepped towards the young woman lying in the dirt and wrenched the red scarf from Lucy’s hands. “Are you hurt?” her grandmother asked in a not-so-concerned tone. Lucy shook her head. “Then get off your ass and get cleaned up, you are not meeting Jon looking like some mud-wallowing pig.” Lucy groaned at the mentioning of a male name but her grandmother never gave her a chance to protest. “Now, shut up, I don’t want to hear any of your whining about meeting him. He’s a nice young man, much better than the delinquents you usually go around with, now hurry up,” her grandmother grumbled as she made her way into the house. Lucy dusted herself off and followed. Since she was thirteen her grandmother had been trying to set her up with “nice boys”, but she wasn’t a teenager and she definitely wasn’t interested in someone nice. Experience had taught her that too often nice was synonymous with boring; at least the delinquents had a story. Her grandmother muttered to herself as she walked down the hall. Lucy snuck away, creeping silently up the stairs to her room. She closed the door and turned to see a repulsive yellow church dress laid across her bed. Lucy frowned at the garment and frowned more deeply at the matching hat and gloves. She held the dress up to her and looked in the mirror. The ugly yellow dress had faded away into a gorgeous ruby gown. Lucy looked around the royal room and motioned to one of her servants to fetch her tiara. She stepped into her elegant gown and another servant laced up the dress. She gazed at her reflection, her hair was pressed into perfect curls, and diamonds dangled from her ears. She let out a sigh of satisfaction as the first servant returned with a sparkling tiara. Lucy hopped off the low pedestal and lifted the tiara from the silk pillow. Placing it on top of her head she twirled around the room, watching the scarlet fabric ripple around her. She could hear the music from the ballroom below. It was going to be a wonderful night, she would dance until she couldn’t breathe and then she would dance some more. She giggled joyously at the thought but froze when the door flew open. “God dammit, Lucy,” her grandmother snapped, “I told you to hurry up, stop twirling around like a child and let’s go.” Her grandmother stomped off while Lucy took another look in the mirror. The lacy yellow dress was too big 34

VO I CES


and too ugly. She slipped on the white gloves and released a disappointed sigh. She left the house and got into a very old brown car. Her grandmother got into the driver’s seat and tossed her purse onto Lucy’s lap. Lucy opened the heavy bag to see bundles of money and jewelry. Lucy looked up at the woman sitting beside her. Her robbery accomplice tore off the black wig to reveal long blonde hair. She tossed the wig into the back seat before turning to Lucy. “We have to go, the cops will be on us in a second,” she said as she started the car and stepped on the gas pedal. Lucy whipped her head around when she heard the sirens sounding behind the car. “Crap, they’re catching up,” the woman said in a panic. “Get the gun under the seat.” Tossing the sack of stolen goods into the back seat, she reached under the seat and pulled out a large hand gun. She unrolled the window and leaned out holding the gun in front of her. The car swerved and dodged the other cars. The movement of the car was erratic and it was difficult to aim but Lucy was focused. She fired a single bullet at one of the many police cars; she didn’t need perfect aim but luckily she had it. The bullet pierced the tire and caused the lead police car to swerve in front of the following cars. As Lucy climbed back into the car the sirens grew quiet as they grew distant. The blonde smiled at her as they sped through the narrow streets and Lucy smiled back before looking again at the bag of money. “Quit grinning like a mental case and get out of the car,” her grandmother barked. Lucy kicked the heavy door open and stepped out into the morning sun. The old woman pulled at her dress and straightened her hat. Her grandmother waved enthusiastically at another old woman wearing an absurd orange hat and greeted her with a cheerful hug, something Lucy had never received. She peered around the gossiping old women to see a young man, about her age, with a miserable expression, and also wearing church clothes. Lucy felt a little better that she was not the only one who looked foolish. His coat was too small, his shirt an awful plaid and his tie pulled too tight around his neck. Lucy’s grandmother turned to her with an unnatural smile and said, “Lucy, this is Jon, he is Doris’s grandson.” Lucy nodded a hello which was returned with a half-attempted smile. Doris pushed Jon closer to Lucy and said, “Why don’t you two sit together in church, enjoy yourselves.” Lucy smiled politely at the old woman before heading into the church. Jon followed silently. They sat as far from their grandmothers as humanly possible. Lucy didn’t want CAR LEEN

GEHUE

35


to be there, she wasn’t even religious. They sat silently for a few minutes not even trying to make small talk. As the people settled in their places the preacher stepped up to the podium. Lucy smiled as his body twisted and grew into a huge scaly dragon. She drew her sword and tossed her hat away. Looking beside her she was surprised to see Jon, sword also drawn and ripping off his jacket. He grinned at her and took off his tie. Lucy returned the smile; perhaps they would get along after all.

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ClichĂŠs ASHLEY FLORIMONTE

The millions of fish in the sea Are swimming away Into the mouth Of a seductive shark And the passion that burns Like fire in your soul Has been drowned by Those same waters. There are always more, You’ll find someone, someday, Another burden To forgive and forget And the bright side that you chose As your alibi Leaves you unprepared for the dark. So follow your heart Into the terrifying unknown With one foot in front of the other And always remember That life will go on Whether or not you love one another. This too shall pass, somehow, somewhere We will meet again in this Lonely sea And you too Will be swimming away.

ASHLEY

FLOR IMONT E

37


For Omar KAREN WALLACE

He strolls by on the table, doglike on monkey feet, as I study. I touch his belly fur without his knowing it—I love him beyond reason—softer than his back fur, golder than his throat fur, denser than his tail fur, more vanilla than his ears. I taste his nose as it slides under my lip. “Omar!” I protest. “You can be sent back to Abyssinia. I do not love you enough to break out in hives. Back off.” It is raining, and the skylight is leaking again. I multitask. It’s because of the rain that I’m allergic to my cat. I am hearing Chris Martin sing “I will fix you” as the cold nose of desire reams my ear with the faint smell of fish, and he says to me, “My food is boring, and my mind is rotting. If you loved me, this would not happen, Chickie. I will leave you. I will risk my life for freedom, stimulation, and a fresh-caught bird.” I answer him: “I set you free. Vas y, alors.” The woods call cat, cat, and I multitask, weeping.

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Lake Tahoe, CA JOANNA GODINHO-KHAN

Summer 2008 Panasonic DMC-FZ20 Lumix Camera


Islam HEIDI BRUECKNER

oil, acrylic, mixed media on canvas 48” x 24” (2007)


Asia HEIDI BRUECKNER

oil, acrylic, mixed media on canvas 48” x 24” (2006)


Cellular NICK MAKSIM

created in Photoshop and Maya Art 55: Introduction to Computer Arts


Chilli Peppers JOANNA GODINHO-KHAN

Pike Market, Seattle, November 9, 2006 Panasonic DMC-FZ20 Lumix Camera


Eetmoch HEIDI BRUECKNER

oil, acrylic, paper on canvas 16” x 16” (2007)


lovesick FOREST OATES

acrylic, paint markers, spray paint on glass 26�


Retreat TRICIA HILL

created in Photoshop Art 55: Introduction to Computer Arts


Paradise DOMINIKA BIALEK

The paradise of yours is not of mine Even though our footprints mark the same ground I keep on asking myself: Are we refugees from the same Eden? Anywhere the same force keeps us to the ground Our paths fail to meet De Profundis Clamo ad te Domine The same paved streets lead us to wherever we are heading But we are not going together Not even in the same direction Your winter may be my summer Your heaven my hell I can see colors where you just see faded grayness decaying and then coming into flower again Like in the endless recurrence of events Don’t step on me if I am on my way, you may encounter me Next time you cross the same path * I do not have one of my own but The paradise of yours appears dreary to me Endless mindlessness of futile overexcitement resembles hell rather than the everlasting remuneration

DOMINIK A

B IALEK

47


your life becomes mine regardless of the difference of style Your choice turns into my choice I don’t have one of my own I do not have the paradise of my own yet. But Eden was not a concept It was a place we incorporated into our linguistic awareness Putting it into the frames of understanding. If the paradise was what we claim it was, would Eve have eaten the fruit? Would there be a serpent? Besides, from the modern feminist perspective we know that The paradise of Adam could not have been the paradise of Eve There is a difference of taste between the two There’s a difference of taste I wish we could ask the trees, the oldest animate inhabitants of the Earth But their splendid visages are decaying In the face of the glory of humanity I believe that if they could talk they would make a joke about original sin They would say that Adam might not have been there as well at all Eve got the main part in the first story that we know. The first paradise was feminine: Fertile and dazzling in its delights Hospitable and magnanimous with only one limitation that contradicted the very character of the place There could be no sins in paradise Neither rebellion * Now we refugees from the land of God Keep on wandering

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Even though we walk the same pathways Somewhere in the land of Canaan In the Fertile Crescent In the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates The paradise of ancient Athens or ancient Macedonia or Babylon Is not of ours There is a slight difference of taste In pottery that we consider priceless just because it’s not of our times In all the ancient temples built by slave labor that is not of our times In all the gods that we no longer worship In history we never learn from because it’s of our times because the paradise of yours is not one of mine and the holocaust of today is not the same as the holocaust of days passed The paradise of winter is not one of spring they are like carbon-based life in the ammonia world Endlessly contradicting each other I have never met anyone coming from a harsh winter dawn for whom the hedonism of the summer wouldn’t be overwhelming Neither have I met anyone who would enjoy the harshness of winter When already accustomed to the comfort of the sun Overly generous Indulging in its extravagance That can’t be a paradise Winter is a paradise of its own, not for everyone It is when the trees become trees for their own sake Not for the sake of its leaves, fruit, fragrance, or the shade they provide Only when of no use can they become truly dear

DOMINIK A

B IALEK

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Some would think that the paradise of winter resembles hell The same as I think that the paradise of summer does * The paradise of yours is not one of mine I know it because we are heading in the opposite direction And what you dispose of I collect and carefully nurture And what you strive for, I determinedly deride Nonetheless, I reckon that it is just a difference of taste It is not a metaphysical matter The paradise of the bold is not the paradise of cowards I can’t imagine the two of us just sitting under the tree of life Playing chess Or charades Not even hide and seek And then suddenly Here comes a martyr Of ours Whom you find a criminal The story of Alexander the Great and others Proves that there is no essential difference between a success and failure In the battle May be a discrepancy in numbers But in essence they are the same Will your Jesus save me when I hold my trust in him? Or will I die like a worm if I refuse to *

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Of all the animals in the garden I was given reason to believe To save creation Says Adam to Eve The reason set me free says Eve and she picks the fruit mindlessly There is no difference in taste, she says Mindlessly as well The roses They always smell the same Mindlessly Mindlessly Adam doesn’t listen He says, the Father gave me an assignment But I am not meant to be a gardener I feel threatened, exclaims Adam passionately I have a desire to fight and destroy What I am afraid of * Without wasting time and energy on pointless thinking Did he put down the shovel Meaningless are the hours of hesitation In face of the minutes of glory And I wonder, what about all the hours and days and months and years That passed by on the couch Trying to enjoy the moment that will never come back again My neighbor is making money in his life He is working two jobs and one more on the side While my brother after an intimate moment with Horatio Decided to agree on his carpe diem So now he seizes every moment playing computer games

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I was sitting in front of the mirror and asking myself: is it even worth it? It’s a face, just like many others And the voice… The voice sounds foreign Once I was driving and crying because I could not recognize my own voice I was speaking in the language that was no longer my mother language Then I looked in the mirror Wondering whether I can see anything My eyes are dreamers They used to be the color of beer but they turned green and wild and cold Please, don’t try to look into my eyes to see yourself My eyes, they are cellophane Don’t look for your paradise in my eyes Better ask whether the garden you are looking for In a garden of temptation Or knowledge Or happiness And whether it is still in front of us Or maybe we left it behind And there is no coming back There is no endless recurrence of things. * It is Winter when we are wide awake Dreaming about the Spring That always comes and goes But what if it won’t come again Like a fussy teenage girl trying to punish her mother who won’t understand anyway Yes, the Spring is a woman And so is the Winter All the seasons are, they have to It is only women who are always considered in terms of beauty as well as capriciousness

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So if Spring doesn’t come anymore will I finally believe that life is not insignificant neither is death but meaningless are the times when we dream because recklessness is all we need to be happy and, as Mersault said, the fear of death tantamount the fear of life Was he trying to say to my grandmother spent her life planting cucumbers and picking tomatoes and cultivating fields of rye and wheat peeling potatoes Her husband’s name was Adam And he had a paradise of his own A difference of taste Just a matter of preference * My parents were born in small villages One next to the other But they moved to the city Now with a neighbor Not only behind the wall but another one jumping up on their heads They wait for the one from the fifth floor right below To step on his head Or hers, to be politically correct. Once my mother could not believe her eyes when she saw an African man Walking down the street I always plan to ask her what she would say About the fact that the homo sapiens came from Africa… Were we once all black? The idea of races is astonishingly similar to the idea of religion Aren’t we all praying to the same divinity? We are all in the same boat DOMINIK A

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With or without Noah Regardless of taste My grandma prayed on the rosary that smelled like roses And (quite unintentionally) colored your hands red I thought that I would pray too if I had it So she gave it to me but then I thought it too precious to actually use it Beauty is useless, so they say. Later did I realize that once I had it I didn’t value it anymore And everything goes back to the history of Adam and Eve and the fruit Somehow called an apple (Scholars suppose that it might rather have been a fig). * My paradise revolves all around On the street and in the desert And in the back of the car In an opera The rose smells the same Always mindlessly It cries to the same side of the moon mindlessly And it dies in the shade of the same sun mindlessly De profundis

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Lullaby AMELIA LARA

Let me hold you in my arms while I still stand straight and Strong for you. Let me hear your laughter more often than I’ll see your tears. Let me hold you by one arm and one leg and spin you around ~ Until we’re both crazy dizzy. Put your feet on top of mine, and let me teach you ~ Dancing steps. Let’s roll down grassy hills, laughing all the way ~ Just because. Let’s walk barefoot and feel The cool, soft grass The rough, beach sand, And the warm, loose dirt, ~ beneath our feet. Or the moist, squishy mud ~ between our toes.

AMELIA

LAR A

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Let me see what parts of me you imitate. And learn what it is that makes you ~ Uniquely You. Let me see you walk in the mountains where I have walked, and Learn, what I have learned. Let me see you When you first Listen to the wind blowing in the trees; Smile, when the warm sun shines on your face; And Laugh, when the waters of rushing rivers flow through your fingers; And Smell, the scent of the wild mountain earth and the sweet pine trees. So, let me hold you in my arms, while I can still lift you off the ground.

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...Before I am too old. ...Before You are all grown up. ...Before it is too late.


Delivering Daddy JOSHUA MARKS

“Grab her leg, Daddy!” I knew with those words my fantasy of experiencing a 1950s-style delivery was dashed. Those words had been cheerfully directed toward me, the new daddy, by the delivery nurse. Ever since attending birthing class, I had this wistful notion that somehow, some way, I could experience my child’s birth in the way I had observed in old movies. The dads in those movies were never seen in the delivery room. They nervously paced back-and-forth in the waiting room, holding a box of cigars, waiting for the good news. Alas, this was not to be for me. From the moment the nurse uttered those fatal words, I knew I was destined to experience a very real, in-your-face, modern delivery of my baby girl. A month before, my wife Sia and I had started going to weekly birthing classes. Our teacher was a delivery nurse. She was a dynamic, energetic lady with the deepest shade of red hair I had ever seen. It was a waterfall of long, curly hair that fell just past her shoulder blades. Her hair had a silky sheen that reminded me of something right out of a Paul Mitchell commercial. I would stare at her hair when I couldn’t bear to look directly at the vivid visual aids she would employ. I came to love that hair. Our teacher held nothing back. She gave it to us straight. I recall our teacher talking about how to use mineral oil to “ease the stretching” that occurred during delivery. She held a small jar of mineral oil in her left hand. Her face was open JOSHUA

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and serious. Without even blinking an eye, she said evenly to the men, “A week before the delivery, it would be a good idea for you husbands to use mineral oil to start stretching out your wives’ vaginas.” She gestured with her right hand making a hook with her fingers and pulled the air in a jerking fashion. I was so appalled that I unintentionally uttered, “Hell no!” The class broke into laughter. Luckily, our teacher smiled and took my comment in stride. But since that time I had this growing fantasy that perhaps I would be spared the horrors she showed us and experience my baby’s delivery like the men in the good ol’ days. I held on to that fantasy as long as I could. I was still holding on when the anesthesiologist came to give Sia an epidural. I held on to it when he left. I was the condemned man who vainly waits till the last moment for the Governor’s call while the executioner squirts out fluid to test the needles. By then the delivery nurse had Sia on her back with her legs in the air, raised in victory, half-naked for the whole world to see. She wasn’t using stirrups. I suddenly noticed her right leg begin to droop. The nurse noticed, too. “Can you keep your leg up, honey?” she asked Sia. Sia replied bemused, “I don’t know. I can’t seem to feel my right leg.” The nurse gave me the job of holding up Sia’s right leg. The fantasy was over. I had front row seats, so to speak. The only way I could avoid seeing “everything” was by closing my eyes. The delivery nurse was afraid I might faint, and told me to keep them open. She called in an orderly whose sole purpose was to watch me. The orderly was a plump middle-aged woman with a friendly smile. She sat in the beige recliner at the corner of our small room. Meanwhile, Sia was a champ. She was breathing hard, but she never complained and she never cried out. Her hair was bedraggled with sweat, her face pale and clammy. I tried rubbing her shoulders. She huffed. “Please don’t touch me.” Shoulder rubbing was out, so I tried reassuring her. I said, “You’re doin’ great, sweetie.” Sia grimaced and gave me an annoyed look. I shut my mouth. I resigned myself to just holding her leg, trying to keep my mind occupied. The delivery nurse had been sitting on a rolling stool and suddenly rolled herself to the low chest of drawers that was situated to the left of the bed. She pulled open the first drawer and took out—mineral oil. Oh, crap. To my relief the delivery nurse did not ask for my assistance. She did the “stretching.” At first, I avoided watching by looking around the room. With the exception of the bed, recliner, and drawers, the only thing to look at was the TV. I deemed it inappropriate to turn on the Niners’ game right then. The 58

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only window in the room had a view of the lower roof. The white linoleum floor had nothing interesting to observe. I did a mental shrug and resignedly decided to watch the nurse turn flesh into rubber. However, when I looked, I had to do a double take. I was amazed to see a small tuft of hair! My baby was coming! I suddenly felt elated. All my previous squeamishness disappeared. “Honey, the baby’s coming! It’s coming!” Sia grunted in reply. “It’s time to really push, dear,” the delivery nurse commanded. She reached over to the room phone and dialed a three-digit number. “Hi. Tell Dr. Silverman it’s time. Thanks.” The delivery nurse returned the phone to its cradle and resumed her attention toward my wife. Within ten minutes, my wife’s OBGYN, Dr. Silverman, arrived. He whooshed into the room like leaves pushed by the wind. He flashed me a smile and grabbed the other rolling stool in the room. He placed himself next to the delivery nurse. Dr. Silverman and the delivery nurse hunched over my wife like football players in some kind of bizarre huddle. Time seemed to slow, and I felt a surreal peace settle within me. No longer did I feel squeamish. I didn’t want to get out of the room. I was where I wanted to be, where I was supposed to be. I watched with eager anticipation as Dr. Silverman helped pull out my baby, Haley. I laughed when I heard her first cry. Haley looked like some bloody Martian, but I thought she was beautiful. Sia was half passed-out with a wry smile on her face. I kissed her hand. “You did it, Hon. You did it.” I am so glad I was there.

JOSHUA

MAR K S

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The Empty Moment MARKUS ROBINSON

A confession? Is that what you came for? Ok then…here it is. I killed a man yesterday. At least I believed it to be yesterday or maybe it was today; maybe even hours or minutes ago. I’m not really sure for you see I never write anything down anymore; ever since I started to forget things. I’m just now starting to piece my scattered memories together so I might as well tell you what I do remember. I remember a pale woman, skin like cloudy water, standing before me. She was draped in all black, which made it seem as if her pale face and hands were suspended in space. She was crying as she looked at me; the shrill piercing cry of a child, but her mouth was not moving. I remember she held something… something in her arms...a bundle. But even now, if my mind attempts to focus on what it was that was wrapped in the bundle a sharp pain pierces through my temple and the visual becomes a blur. I remember we stood in a dark room and a door was open, illuminating the pale woman in all black from behind. And the man behind her? Yes…there was a dark man there too. He was standing in the doorway as the natural light seemed to silhouette his black frame. He didn’t cry. I remember she backed away from me, slowly stepping backwards toward the dark man; into the light. I remember the gun. It was a silver colt with a brown leather grip. I knew it was leather for I knew how leather felt in my hands. It was warm just like the

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skin of a cow. This must have been the weapon. I must have shot this man. The question was why. And now his blood is hardened in my clothes and slicked through my hair. I remember the child-like cries that grew to the forefront of this hazy scene. That is when I noticed that the weeping seemed to have been coming from the pale woman’s arms. I remember how each cry seemed to count my heartbeats I had been told of a place like this seconds before I forgot. once when I was a child; maybe in When I could remember again, it school or church. A place that was was the day after yesterday…or maybe it was yesterday…or today. I was covered absent of color yet was brighter than in blood…this man's blood. It was any light known to man. soaking into my clothes. Looking down I noticed it had created blotted pictures on my shirt; on my white shirt. These dark red pictures told of my murderous deed and weighed my stomach down with guilt. So I didn’t look down anymore. I looked around in search of my victim, but there was nobody…there was nothing. If I remember correctly, there was a severe absence of anything like a blank sheet of paper held before my eyes. There was nothing but white around me. There were no windows. There was no floor. There was only white and blood. I had been told of a place like this once when I was a child; maybe in school or church. A place that was absent of color yet was brighter than any light known to man. I only remembered hearing of this place, for I had written it down at some point, but the name of this white space slipped my mind at that very moment. I knew one thing though. I knew it was not a happy place or a place I wanted to be. I started to frantically walk forward, imagining I would reach a dark spot so I could hide. I needed to get away from this white light, but it seemed to follow me like a spotlight of guilt as I walked. So I ran, for I did remember how to run. I soon felt weak from the light, like I do at this moment, but I kept running forward. There was even a moment when I thought that the dark man could still be alive and maybe running like I was, as weak as I was, but then I stopped thinking for soon a steady headache would grow, which seemed to center in my right temple. I ran for a long time, yet the white seemed to only grow brighter around me and I was certain the blood was still there, for I could feel it harden on my shirt as it bounced off my chest. My head pounded with every step until I could hear my own heartbeat in my ears. I wanted to stop, but I did not. I could not. MAR K US

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I remember the sweat; the thick, salty sweat, which eased down the right side of my face and slowed my pace. I wiped my face as my slow pace became a frantic walk. I looked down at my hands and they were covered in blood. I stopped cold in my bloody tracks realizing that this blood, which draped my person and now covered my face, was not of the dark man, but my own. My heart was in my ears beating so loud it was deafening. And for a second I went blind…and then the next second I saw red. That was only moments before I forgot again. So there you have it my friend. That is everything I can remember. So here I sit. The blood has hardened thick and cold upon my body. It has hardened over my eyes as well. I just sit here in the white space, seeing nothing but dark. Trying desperately to remember what drove me to this point in time; a point in time which seems to have been forgotten by God. I’ve sat here for what seems like hours now talking to you; telling you of my crimes. So now I beg of you to tell me where I am. Find it in your heart to see past my sins and help me good sir; please, before I forget again. I beg of you, yet I don’t know your name I will still beg of you…please…I feel my heartbeat rising… A confession? Is that what you came for? Ok then…here it is. I killed a man yesterday. At least I believed it to be yesterday or maybe it was today; maybe even hours or minutes ago. I’m not really sure for you see I never write anything down anymore; ever since I started to forget things. I’m just now starting to piece my scattered memories together so I might as well tell you what I do remember. I remember my wife. She stood before me. The creamy skin of her hands and face protruded from a black evening gown; that which I had never been fond of. I remember she held our infant child wrapped in a bundle in her arms. It was then that she decided to tell me of her infidelity. I don’t remember saying anything after that. I remember he was I remember the empty moment. I there; the “other man.” He stood behind remember how the ice-cold barrel felt her in the open doorway basking in my and disbelief. I remember it was against my right temple. shock daytime outside, for his large frame blotted out most of the natural light, which peered in from the outside world; making this “other man” seem unusually dark…like a shadow. I remember the last sound I heard. It was of a baby crying; my child crying, as my wife slowly disappeared towards the dark man and closed the door behind them; leaving me as the dark man.

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I remember my gun. It was a silver colt, with a brown leather grip. I only kept it for emergencies. I remember the empty moment. I remember how the icecold barrel felt against my right temple. And when the moment came I remember how it counted my heartbeats seconds before I forgot.

MAR K US

R OB INSON

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Where Nothing Had Been TARA WYATT

Old souls sit on roofs wearing Converse, two pairs of feet at the edge. Invisible wings are somehow heavier and loneliness sets me above on this ledge. Voices and darkness, twinkling lights passing through worlds in cement. Recondite memories printed on scraps of processed dead trees and this month’s bill for the rent. Something now beats where nothing had been. What is this warmth in my chest? How have you seen through each cynical word? And crashed through each wall? And passed every test? Reading electronic pixels, it’s twisting the time in my mind. I’m slipping on thoughts and through puddles of rain and laughing and leaving my hatred behind.

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The Invincible Woman ASHLEY FLORIMONTE

Empowerment Holds hands with Abandonment; “Nurture,� A word pawned off As I feel. A door was closed and Locked Only to create An invincible wall To add to the invincible woman. Too strong to forgive Too strong to touch Too strong to embrace Or she will crush you With her logical grip Cold eyes stare beneath me In the vacant space Where I am found, And vicariosity is once again A concept Possible to embrace, but too late And dusty For her acknowledgement; The third person Third opinion Turned her heart cold Unable to receive Or transmit.

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Mother, why have you forsaken me? First in, First out, First hurt, First lesson, unlearned. Mother, Mother, Why have you forsaken me?

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The Beast MELISANDE HILEMAN

The feet of the beast are as black as midnight; the smell of sulfur exudes from its sharp claws and padded, furry feet. The sound of light walking, such as a cat on the prowl, emanates from the room beyond. With a horror beyond anything you’ve ever known you realize your life is about to end at the ends of those powerful claws. The door opens in front of you and light pervades your vision; you close your eyes to stop the glare. A roar pierces the silence; instinctively you curl up into a nearby corner, heedless of the skulls and other bones that fall as you cower. The beast enters, crushing bones to dust on his way to your corner. You feel the saliva drip from the beast’s cruel, forked tongue and you start your final prayers. You peek out of your hands that are covering your face and see many rows of sharp teeth, you brace for the impact as you feel its heated breath blow your hair. You see your life flash before your eyes in those few horrible moments when you know you’re about to die and can’t stop it. You see yourself as a child growing up on a farm, carefree and innocent. You see yourself on your first day of training as a necromancer. You then realize something: it was not anyone else’s fault but your own that you were in this position, you had conjured this beast out of pride, trying to prove you could master it but how the tables had turned; it was now the master and you, the supper. MELISANDE

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You are unable to cast your repertoire of spells with which you could save yourself because of the anti-magic field surrounding your cell. The beast had prepared well; it had somehow gotten a higher caste of demon, such as a Tanari or a baatezu, to put such wards on the cell before you had even summoned it. It had expected you to call it by its name, a name you had long forgotten in the seemingly endless days that you had been its prisoner. You look down, not able to see your demise, at the creature you’d summoned. You see scores of bones lying around you; none are sharp enough to even dent this foul beast’s armor. The tatters of your once beautiful robe lay all around you. You remembered how it used to look; it had been all black with complex designs in silver and gold, now they were going to be a tattered mess on the floor of this prison. You start to think, since the killing blow hadn’t come yet, that the beast had changed its apparently intelligent mind to leave you to rot another day in this foul prison. You look up to see if you are right, the last thing you feel are the claws forcing your arms away from your chest with a mighty sweep, you fall to the floor in a crumpled heap. The beast turns you upward, he wanted to make sure you knew your doom. You see his head drop slowly, your eyes widen as you realize your fate: he was going to eat you alive. You begin to struggle but the beast simply holds your hands down with his front paws. You scream as its teeth tear into your soft flesh. You feel your consciousness fading as the pain becomes unbearable. Yet you are unable to pass out, you wish you could just die now but the beast wants you to feel every moment of pain, every rib breaking, every artery ripping. After what seems like hours the beast leaves. You, just barely hanging on to consciousness, know you won’t live the night. The beast has left you to slowly bleed to death in agony.

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Mercy RICKY JAMES NICHOLES

They’ve given ample distance, five SUVs and a van 80 miles per hour flies this rugged caravan Craters and shrapnel are the scars that mark this land A never before seen travesty for these travelers in the sand A pothole and excessive speed cause a tire to explode The last vehicle in the group lies crumpled next to the road Crawling from the wreckage of the mangled metallic shell The survivors are now stranded where robbers and warlords dwell The first car that comes by sweeps them up in a hurry All are injured, most are bloody, and one man’s vision goes blurry It is obvious to their rescuers they need medical care They’re off to the nearest town, hoping they’re welcomed there The travelers and the villagers are of drastically different races Still these strangers are welcomed with urgent concern and kind faces A translator tells the people that this group needs hospitalization But the response is weary and it’s due to military occupation A local tells the story of recent bombings on their towns And the foreigners’ inquisitive looks now turn to guilty frowns For the country which they had hailed from was responsible for the hurt And the reason why the city’s hospital was reduced to rubble and dirt

RICK Y

JAMES

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The people paid no mind and seemed even more empathetic They quickly produced a doctor: the local caretaker and medic The hospitality of a meal and a home fills stomachs and settles fears With experienced hands he stitches, bandages, and even dries some tears This family speaks the foreigners’ language and articulates their motives well “If you’re a person then you’re our neighbor, no matter where you dwell.”

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The Brevity of the Present—Interruption ROXANNE RASHEDI

By illustrating Big Ben's eminence throughout Virgina Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway, Rashedi demonstrates how the socially constructed notions of time create constraints over the characters and their thought processes.

It is that synchronizing device that produces pulses at regular intervals. It ticks the seconds away, and with its harmonious bells, strikes the new hour. It is that which represents time: a clock. What role does a clock play in our society? Is it merely the ticking away of the seconds, and the passing of the hours? Does one’s awareness of time constrain one from delving into deeper introspection? In other words, does time detach one from moments of intense alertness, where one’s thoughts are in cohesion with one’s surroundings, and where one is discovering feelings that deviate from the ordinary flow of thoughts? In the eminent novel, Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf examines moments of intense alertness as her characters walk through the streets of London. Throughout the novel, Woolf shows how man-made innovations, such as Big Ben, interrupt the characters’ alertness in the experience of their present thoughts. Woolf uses Big Ben to show how societal constructions of time hinder one’s immediate progression of thought. One particular instance of Big Ben’s intrusion transpires when Clarissa plans to buy flowers for her party. As she walks through the London streets on a June day, she reflects, There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air…for heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling R OX ANNE

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it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps…can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes… in the bellow and the uproar…motor cars…organs; in the…strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June. (4)

As Clarissa reflects, she repeats the word “it” in many different ways. The myriad examples contribute to the creation of her present experience; the moment in June where she walks through London’s streets. Time (which is the “it”) is depicted as having “dissolved in the air,” thus suggesting a circular, hypnotic motion where a circle spins around one axis, but never closes. Hence, the same “point” or, in Clarissa’s context, "thought" is never revisited. Moreover, Clarissa discusses the “warning,” which is the sound of Big Ben that is ordered to ring every hour by the “Acts of Parliament.” She explicates how the “Acts of Parliament” cannot legislate the joy of one’s experiences in present moments of life by enforcing a bell to be rung. A transformation takes place as Clarissa separates the “Acts of Parliament,” which are the sounds of Big Ben, from her own experience in the present. She harkens to the subtle sounds of the “motor cars, omnibuses,” thereby showing how her thoughts are in cohesion with her surroundings; thus, she is embodying the present. Woolf describes Clarissa’s jubilation when she writes, “life; London; this moment of June.” “Life” is a noun, “London” is a specification of a place in “life,” and “this moment of June,” is a precise description of a moment in London. Woolf utilizes semicolons to fuse the noun, the place, and the moment together. In essence, she further elucidates an accrued sense of the present. Although Clarissa is aware of Big Ben’s interruptions, she sees how others are unaware. Particularly, she observes how her neighbor ceases to continue in her present experience. Clarissa reveals, Big Ben struck the half-hour. How extraordinary it was, strange…to see the old lady (they had been neighbors ever so many years) move away from the window, as if she were attached to that sound, that string. Gigantic as it was, it had something to do with her. Down, down, into the midst of

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ordinary things the finger fell making the moment solemn. She was forced, so Clarissa imagined, by that sound, to move, to go—but where? (127)

Clarissa sees how her neighbor hastily moves at the initial sound of Big Ben, thus revealing her constraint to the “sound.” Hence, Big Ben ingrains a mental clock in the individual’s consciousness. This becomes apparent when Woolf repeats the word “it” which represents time. By continually interrupting every hour, “it” controls one’s freedom of thought. Woolf repeats the word “down” to show how the sound possesses a downward or “solemn” effect towards “ordinary things,” thus desensitizing the present. Therefore, Big Ben dictates a robotic lifestyle where one is not living in the present ebb and flow of their thoughts. Through Clarissa’s reflections, Woolf repetitively uses the infinitive when writing “to move,” or “to go.” In grammar, the infinitive is characterized as having a limited range of aspects, moods, and voices. Lacking dynamic, the infinitive explains how the old lady is bound “to” do something that Big Ben is reminding her “to” do. Clarissa observes a cessation of her neighbor’s ability to live in the present. Alternately, she is dividing and sequencing her life by the sound of each new hour. Contrary to Clarissa, but analogous to their neighbor, Mr. Dalloway is unaware of Big Ben’s interruptions, thus impeding the growth of his thoughts. This becomes apparent as he plans to buy Clarissa a bouquet of roses and tell her that he loves her. Mr. Dalloway declares, …he liked continuity; and the sense of handing on the traditions of the past…walking to his house in Westminster to tell Clarissa that he loved her. Happiness is this, he thought. It is this, he said, as he entered Dean’s Yard. Big Ben was beginning to strike, first the warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable…the sound of the bell flooded the room with its melancholy wave; which receded, and gathered itself together to fall once more…For with overpowering directness and dignity the clock struck three…He was holding out flowers…(But he could not bring himself to say he loved her; not in so many words.) (118)

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Subconsciously, Mr. Dalloway is controlled by that “continuity” that he admires. Woolf repetitively describes Big Ben as “first the warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable,” thus elucidating the “continuity” of its ringing. Mr. Dalloway begins to have a glimpse of what “happiness” is but he does not have the opportunity to complete his thought. Instead, he reflects, “happiness is this,” but “this” is vague. As he enters the room, Big Ben strikes and he loses the development of his thought. By using the terms “flooded,” “melancholy wave,” and “fall once more,” Woolf explains breaks in time. “Overpowering directness…the clock struck three,” thereby representing a break in time, which reminds Mr. Dalloway of social propriety, where one does not reveal what they are feeling in the present. Consequently, he represses what he is feeling and simply hands Clarissa a simulacrum of his affection for her, the bouquet of roses. Big Ben permeates throughout the entire novel, but its presence is absent at Clarissa’s party until Lady Bradshaw reveals Septimus’s suicide. However, it is depicted in a different manner, as Clarissa remarks, She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble. (186)

Big Ben is not described in its usual manner: “first the warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable” (118), where it is actively interrupting one’s thoughts. Instead, Big Ben is described in the present participle, “striking,” thus freezing all notion of time. Hence, Big Ben does not interrupt Clarissa’s thoughts, thereby allowing her to finally meet with Septimus. Clarissa separates the wall of the public sphere of her party from her own private sphere, where her soul feels united with Septimus’s soul. She reveals how she “felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away.” The “it” is the clock that is relentlessly striking. She appreciates how Septimus killed himself in order to preserve his soul from repressive powers, like the insistent chiming of Big Ben, where thoughts can potentially be interrupted from developing. Woolf repeats the effect of the bell sound when she writes, “The leaden circles dissolved in

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the air.” However, one does not return to the usual “solemn moment,” but a more euphoric moment, where beauty becomes the adjective that describes the experience. Clarissa feels “beauty” instead of Big Ben because Septimus remains alive in her thoughts, and his trace continues to resonate within her soul. In other words, Septimus is embodying Clarissa’s moment of being, because he allows her to feel “the beauty.” Hence, the feeling of “beauty” transpires in death, because societal interruptions, such as Big Ben, are no longer controlling one’s psyche. Yet, like Clarissa, one can still live in the present if one does not permit the clock to pervade their being. However, Clarissa remains bound to Big Ben’s warning because she repeats the word “must” twice when she reflects, “But she must go back. She must assemble.” Even though Clarissa returns to the public sphere of her party, she is not engrossed in it. She realizes that individuals like Septimus, who do not have “a sense of proportion,” (96) are actually the ones that are balanced; they live in the present flow of their thoughts instead of a consciousness tainted by Big Ben’s intrusions. Although Clarissa listens to Big Ben’s warning, she also embodies the other side of time; her soul’s time, where she is the moment and her thoughts define that moment. Through the consciousnesses of Clarissa, the old lady, and Mr. Dalloway, Woolf shows how Big Ben hinders one’s thoughts in the present. Big Ben’s insistent “warning” (118) permeates through the characters’ psyches, thus reminding them of what they “must” (186) do, instead of living in the flow of their thoughts. At the end of the novel, Clarissa escapes the public sphere of her party, thus allowing her to realize how Septimus’s death allowed him to embody a consciousness that was not tainted by Big Ben’s intrusions. Woolf shows how Clarissa’s awareness of Big Ben, allows her to still embody both sides of time; society’s time, which is Big Ben, and, more importantly, the time in which her thoughts are the brevity of the present, and define the moment; her consciousness’s time.

WORKS CITED

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt, 1981.

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Polyphonic Journey DOMINIKA BIALEK

Bialek explores bias and the use of a gender-based binary structure in Elmaz Abinader's memoir, Children of the Roojme. She argues that Abinader's postmodern narration from multiple perspectives—the polyphonic form— dramatically contrasts the differences between the experiences of men and women, especially during emotional crises. Roojme refers to a cairn of stones in Abinader's ancestral village in Lebanon that traditionally served as a rendezvous for lovers and family members.

Elmaz Abinader was born in 1954 in Pennsylvania as a child of Lebanese immigrants. According to her own words, her life has always felt as if she lived in two worlds: one in her home dominated by Lebanese tradition, and the other revolving outside the doors—the American reality (Manganaro 422). When she was growing up, Abinader experienced ethnically driven intolerance, which later made her question her identity and encouraged her to embrace her heritage in writing. In the memoir Children of the Roojme, Elmaz Abinader goes back to her roots and traces the story of her family: their life in Lebanon and later, immigration imposed by war, famine, plagues, epidemics, and family rivalries. The fact that the characters described in the memoir are facing adversity lets the author delve into hidden corners of human nature and create a round and vivid picture of the past, with a deep impression of interconnectedness of past and present, and continuity of tradition. To achieve these goals, Abinader’s novel uses fragmentation and discontinuity in narrative structures that may be disturbing for some readers, but at the end of the day they fulfill their role. The fact of having a trans-cultural standpoint makes the author eager to encompass various perspectives on the same subject. The effect is that the reader

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of the memoir can see the same places through the eyes of different people, hear the same stories told from the male and female point of view, and witness the same events through the eyes of different generations. The diversity of (sometimes ambivalent) accounts reveals the inability of any author to depict an objective reality. To overcome this obstacle and be as credible as possible, Abinader takes a variety of voices into account. Except for the multitude of perspectives on the same events, the author provides the reader with a delightful literary experience, differentiating and distinctly individualizing the styles of storytelling by men and women. All these factors make Children of the Roojme not only a polyphonic manifest of the postmodernist idea of the subjectivity of human experience, but also a manifest of how an author can overcome the inability of a biased individual to capture reality into credible (which does not mean objective) words. Drawing from her obvious talent, Elmaz Abinader must have put a lot of effort into organizing her memoir, which as a result has a dual structure. The first part covers testimony given by “Fathers and Sons”: Elmaz’s father (Rachid’s son) Jean, and her paternal grandfather, Rachid. The second part includes voices of “Mothers and Daughters”: mainly Elmaz’s mother, Camille (with one chapter told by Camille’s sister and Elmaz’s aunt, Zina) and maternal grandmother, Mayme. The gender-based categorization enables the reader to capture differences between male and female perceptions of reality: it exhibits how men and women focus on different aspects of life and deal with problems in dissimilar ways. And there is a lot to deal with—between 1916 and 1918 the Abinader family, along with their village, Abdelli, is faced with a civil war accompanied by famine, the Spanish flu, and plague of locusts. The fact that the characters are forced to face a truly extreme (as opposed to standard) set of circumstances enables the reader to see distinctions between different people’s reactions more clearly. In fact, two parts of the book represent two different (male and female) ways of facing adversity. The first part of the novel pictures Rachid as a truly majestic persona: a prominent member of the village community and the indubitable head of the family. His main duty is that of a stereotypical male: to provide for his wife and children. Therefore he and his son set out in search for a source of income. They sell meat in other villages, getting figs, olives, and wheat in return. Being males, they focus on action; they cannot stay in the village and watch their children die. As Rachid recalls: “Every day we lived another story and forgot about the hours that passed quickly or in prayer or accompanied by the ticking of an old clock in

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the hall” (Abinader 90). When telling his story, Rachid mostly refers to what he did as opposed to what he thought or felt; the world of feelings being the women’s domain. He does not contemplate emotions (the way, as we can later read, his sister-in-law Elmaz does), but gives details of his achievements, describes how he overcame obstacles and completed challenging tasks. One essential part of Rachid’s story is the record of the conflict with his uncle, Boutros Bike, and its consequences. Rachid used to be a sheikh of his village but his uncle tried to do anything he could to discredit Rachid’s authority, making false accusations of his blasphemy against the Turks. As the reader will realize, Rachid’s story talks a lot about justice, which is another important attribute in the male world. Also, the fact that he becomes falsely accused and has to run away makes him a hero, especially since he claims to have always been just, even in situations when he knew that his deeds could have saved one man and killed the whole village. The fact that Rachid has the power to make such crucial decisions makes him a prominent figure in the eyes of the reader. On the other hand, consider the story told by Mayme, Rachid’s sister-inlaw. She also describes the same time of misery but from a perspective of mother and wife. Her husband, Shebl (Rachid’s brother) is away in the United States. He left to search for better opportunities of life, but does not give any signs of life. Mayme is concerned with her family’s (her and her daughters') situation and often describes how certain judgments made by her relatives and neighbors about her used to bother her. At first it was considered disgraceful that she gave birth to two daughters and not even one son; later it was considered shameful that Shebl did not usually send her money. Finally, Mayme was overwhelmed by the struggle of getting to the United States. The same as Rachid’s role was a masculine one: a head and breadwinner of the family, Mayme, as a woman of that time (1916-18) has to take care of her two daughters, Zina and Camille. Her world revolves around them; she nurtures them when they are sick and tries to do her best to help them survive. Mayme’s story evokes drama much more than Rachid’s descriptions. For Mayme, her daughters are the subject of the majority of emotional crises. Rachid has his older son Boutros with him, but his actions are never dictated by emotions. He does have the safety of his son to regard but is able to keep hold of his actions; when he is not sure whether the man who wants to give sell him wheat is honest, he coolly orders his son to go ahead without him in case anything happens. Mayme contemplates problems and is, as women are naturally, sensitive to human 78

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tragedy. One day she drives herself insane and she stabs her daughter Camille with a knife. Later she can never forget about her misdeed and she obsessively takes care of her younger child. How concerned she is with human tragedy is reflected in the situation when, on the way to France, Elmaz Abinader describes her grandmother’s thoughts: “All together in one room, each family has its own little world as if they were on different islands in the same sea. Mayme worries about all of them. She would make a good nurse…” (Abinader 187). As already mentioned, it is essential to point out that the binary structure of the book does not only refer to a theoretical gender-based division. Elmaz Abinader was able to capture something more than two versions of the same story. There are two different spirits of events, with at least two styles of storytelling. Reading the first part of the book, the reader has a sense of reading a fairy tale. In spite of knowing that the book describes events that happened in space and time, one has a feeling of timelessness, almost the same that accompanies reading Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The strongly idealized picture of Rachid makes him almost incredible as a real person. Another factor that builds up the magical atmosphere is the interconnectedness between Rachid and Jean: Jean finds his father’s diary, Rachid reads Jean’s essay. The son keeps comparing himself to his father, feeling that he can’t be a good man if he does not live up to his father’s standards. Rachid is described as a supreme father whose wisdom inspires his children and whose actions save the family. For his son Jean, he is a role model to follow. Holding Rachid’s journal in his hands, Jean states, with pathos: “Remember, who you are, you told me, Father” (Abinader 26). A few pages further, Jean recalls another wise quote spoken by his father: “You can’t shoot people because they are hungry” (Abinader 34). Talking about Rachid, Jean creates a legend, mythologizing his father’s life. He makes plenty of references to tradition and continuity of family heritage. He wants to tell his children the same stories that his father told him. It is a powerful effect to have a few frequently recurring motifs, especially the story about the sky and the fact that everyone has their own star. One important thing that needs to be pointed out is Abinader’s use of the stereotype. It is not often discussed, but contemporary western writing has been in many ways suffering because of the intense pressure of political correctness. The historical and cultural context of Children of the Roojme enables Elmaz Abinader to use the powerful tool of gender stereotyping without being accused of sexism. The effect is astonishing; the male and female part of the novel, taken DOMINIK A

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together, not only sum up a comprehensive picture of the events, but also exhibit the gender-based complexity of human experience. As the male part of the novel provides an enchanting reading experience, the second part, I dare to say, is brutally deprived of this pleasantly pathetical atmosphere and magic. Nonetheless, it has other advantages that actually make the women’s testimony more credible. There might have been many factors we do not know about, but it seems like Elmaz, being a woman herself, is able to refer to other women easier than to men and as a result, she expresses the women’s voices better: Mayme and Camille sound more authentic than Rachid and Jean. Cynthia R. Judieh makes it a point in her article: Abinader’s reclamation of female family memory is above all a necessity that stems from her search for her own female subjectivity. Exploring the memory of her mother and grandmother connects her to her female ancestry. But whether it reduces the ambivalence remains to be investigated. (5)

Also, structuring her book, Abinader makes men speak first, letting them introduce the reader to the setting. After one becomes familiar with the outline of the story, she makes women speak and express their more emotional and poignant perceptions of reality. A good example is a highly vivid picture sketched by the author’s mother, Camille. The chapters where she gets to speak out are probably the most accessible ones, especially comparing to the chaotic and therefore confusing parts when Rachid gives outlines of the story. Nevertheless, having the whole book in perspective, I personally find the part of the novel that covers the men’s testimony more interesting and valuable in terms of literary value. Women may be more convincing, but they are very prosaic and once Camille starts talking, the book becomes similar to many other stories written by female authors for female readers. The first part of the memoir represents remarkable literary circumstances: a woman writer trying to express the voice of her father and grandfather. Not only is there a barrier of gender, but also there must have been a lot of ambivalent emotions haunting Abinader; should she detach from her female perspective and let the male subjectivity express itself fully or should she try to find a common ground between men and women? A few years back, I remember my astonishment with Ernest Hemingway’s

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ability to subtly capture differences between male and female psyche (in “Hills Like White Elephants”). I have to admit my amazement was a result of my belief (or bias) that it’s women who have the inherent skill of psychological analysis. I would take it for granted in female writers and not even expect it in pieces written by male authors. Now, having Abinader’s memoir in front of me, I find it fascinating to think about different approaches she could have taken while presenting the male version of the story. She chose a way that was hard for her as a woman but good for the credibility of her postmodernist account: she let the men speak their own voice. My first impression after having read the whole novel was that there are a variety of inconsistencies between the testimony given by Rachid and the one given by Mayme. The clearest example is when Rachid’s parents die and, according to Rachid, Mayme comes to their home only to steal their belongings. In Mayme’s version, it is she who takes care of her husband’s parents when they are sick. There are discrepancies in the reports given by Rachid, Jean, and Mayme. As mentioned before, when Jean talks about his father, he mythologizes him. On the other hand, in Mayme’s eyes Rachid is a brutal man who behaves disrespectfully and cruelly towards her. It is obvious that Mayme simply does not like him; neither does she like his wife Elmaz, who is respected in the village for her education and beauty. Nevertheless, “Abinader does not question the constructive function of memory even if it leads to recognition of ambivalence” (Manganaro 422). What’s more, all the disparities contribute to the postmodern character of Abinader’s writing. One characteristic of postmodernist writers is that they do not attempt to express their opinion about what is right or wrong because there is no right or wrong. Elmaz Abinader provides the reader with different testimonies, proving that there is no objective truth. The reader is given a choice as well as the ability to make personal judgments. There are two versions of the story: the male one being more charming, the other one (told by women) having the advantage of being the ultimate one. How different these judgments can be is reflected by a variety of descriptions of roojme by different characters in the memoir. In the prologue, when the author gets to speak for herself, Elmaz Abinader describes the impression that the roojme behind her family’s house in Abdelli made on her. For her, nothing had changed and the place she sees makes her think about the past as if it were happening

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at the time: she was happy to feel a connection with her roots. When Elmaz’s father, Jean, is standing in the same place looking at the village, he sees changes that he seems to not be able to fully understand. His brother tells him how their country and its inhabitants have made progress but Jean cannot conceive of how it happened. Abinader presents how the same place is portrayed in two radically different, individual ways, causing contradictory reactions and provoking independent streams of thought. Another polyphonic aspect of the novel is how tradition is being described, referred to and evaluated by different characters. First we have Jean and his nostalgic attitude for the past. Tradition in his eyes means glory that needs to be remembered and talked about. He feels a compulsion to take on his father’s heritage and pass it on to further generations. On the other hand there is Jean’s niece, Camille, who expresses her frustration with certain customs that she has to (even though she does not want to) follow. She does not wish the whole village to see her wedding night sheets even though she knows that if she does not reveal them, she will become an object of rumors. In the end her mother convinces her to conform to the custom. In Camille’s eyes the villagers are conservative and narrow-minded, as often happens in small, closed communities. Camille was able to live in the United States and even though she loved her home country and later decided to go back to live there, her perspective has broadened; she is not the same person anymore. She made progress while the village stayed the same, at least in her eyes. A realization similar but in its essence opposite to that of Camille’s must have been experienced by the author. Abinader, being bicultural but predominantly American, tries to rediscover the culture and tradition of Abdelli (that Camille at some points considers narrow-minded) because it shaped her roots. Abinader’s novel can be considered as a study of various approaches to multi-perspective writing. The author presents different ways of finding balance between ambivalent facts. The male and female versions are not the only way to achieve the equilibrium. For instance, when Camille gets to talk, the author is unable to provide a same-generation male perspective on the events. Therefore Elmaz interviews Camille’s sister, Zina, who gets to tell her story. By comparing these two testimonies, one interesting point comes out. The two sisters, in spite of being close to each other, misinterpret their own actions. In Zina’s eyes Camille appears helpful and loving towards her sister’s (Zina’s) children. However, as we

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find out from Camille’s testimony, her motivation is driven by her own lack of fulfillment as a mother and wife. By constructing the novel in the way she did—letting men and women, as well as parents and children, talk—Abinader presents a variety of perspectives. One problem with most novels is that they are biased for or against certain characters. It is even more visible in movies. Let’s take In the Shadow of the City, which describes war-stricken Beirut, concentrating on the life of one of its inhabitants, Rami, whom we see grow up and develop his character. Whether we want to or not we have to like him and sympathize with him because he is the lead character intended to be depicted as a hero. There are many other characters in the movie; all of them end up on either of two sides of the conflict. But then there are women who feel all the men on both sides, including Rami, are at fault. If the story was told from a perspective of one of them, Rami could have been nobody more than just one out of many murderers. The biased perspective of an observer of events gives the story character, tone and implies a certain moral judgment. Also, when generalizing, it is easy to fail to notice an individual, to overlook someone’s suffering. Elmaz Abinader focuses on a small group of individuals and lets a few of them speak out. She does not claim to be expressing any timeless truths. The history of the Abinader family is defined not by events but individuals; individuals cause events and the turning points in their lives determine action. There are historical events that have a strong influence on the turn of events but the novel, especially its first part, seems to be flowing regardless of history. The author focuses strictly on a particular village and the particular aspects of life in one particular family. As Elise Salem Manganaro says, “Abinader’s contribution, however, is an artistic rendition, not a historical document, of that period and the lives that shaped a new generation of ethnic Americans” (Manganaro 430). Children of the Roojme is an artistic journey through a collection of tightly linked, though independent and subjective experiences. Elmaz was driven by a desire to fulfill her father’s call for passing down the family history. For the author and her family, the novel has a personal meaning because it answers the eternal question, “Who will tell our story?” For readers and critics, there are other aspects that matter more. The novel can be interpreted as a manifestation of the postmodern idea that no one, even the most skilled author, is able to capture reality in words. It is the complexity of human nature (consisting of factors such as gender, age, cultural background, and many others) that makes

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human beings unable to separate experience from the process of perception and processing of information. Our superiority deprives us of objectivity, one may say. Oftentimes it is difficult to draw a line between a fact and a biased judgment in literature. Through the polyphonic form of her memoir, Abinader avoids the confrontation with this problem. Her novel is not a chronicle: it does not claim to be objective. Men speak with boastfulness and pathos; women get carried away by emotions, and the stories of Mayme and Rachid often contradict each other. All the individual testimonies do not make up for a consistent picture but they form a complete multi-perspective whole. One question that remains is whether the outstanding composition of the book is a result of individual (or gender) differences of the people interviewed by the author, or of Abinader’s own writing genius. Intentionally or not, Elmaz Abinader managed to create a complex piece of literature, which, due to its elaborate form, can be approached in various ways and discussed on multiple levels.

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WORKS CITED Abinader, Elmaz. Children of the Roojme: A Family’s Journey from Lebanon. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1997. Cherif, Salwa Essayah. “Arab American Literature: Gendered Memory in Abinader and Abu-Jaber.” MELUS 28.4 (2003): 207-228. Research Library Core. ProQuest. West Valley College Library, Saratoga, CA. 4 May 2008 <http://www.proquest.com/>. In the Shadows of the City. Dir. Jean Khalil Chamoun. Perf. Rami Baram, Majdi Machmouchi, Christine Choueiri. Arab Film. 2000. Joudieh, Cynthia R. “Children of the Roojme: A Family’s Journey from Lebanon.” Domes 7.3 (1998): 76. Ethnic NewsWatch. ProQuest. West Valley College Library, Saratoga, CA. 4 May 2008 <http://www.proquest.com/>. Manganaro, Elise Salem. “Elmaz Abinader. Children of the Roojme: A Family’s Journey.” Literary Review (1992): Vol. 35 Issue 3, 431-432. Literary Reference Center. West Valley College Library, Saratoga, CA. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://web.ebscohost.com/>. Rana’s Wedding. Dir. Hany Abu-Assad. Perf. Clara Khoury, Khalifa Natour, Ismael Dabbag. Augustus Film. 2002.

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C ONTRIBUTO R

N OT E S

MIRANDA ALLEY has been writing poetry and short stories since the age of seven and intends to never stop creating and writing. She plans to persevere until her works are in print and film. Her favorite authors include Mary Oliver, Francesca Lia Block and Lemony Snicket. DOMINIKA BIALEK is originally from Poland where she was a political science student at the University of Kraków. Her passion for travel, experiencing cultures and learning new languages brought her studies to America where she has been studying English Literature at West Valley College and San Jose State University. Dominika is interested in people, appreciates truth in its ugliness and art for art's sake. She hopes to seize every moment of life and use her experiences as an inspiration to write and teach in college one day. She adores 20th century fiction, poetry, Picasso, and movies from the 1960s. HEIDI BRUECKNER, a native Californian, received a BA in Fine Art and a BA in Art History from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1991. She received an MFA in Painting from the University of Kansas in 1997. In 1988-89 she attended the University of Heidelberg and The Goethe Institute in Germany. She has also traveled to China to study Photography and Art History. Heidi’s work has been shown at museums, galleries, colleges, art institutions, and in publications around the country. She has received several awards and scholarships for her work. Heidi is a full-time Instructor of Art at West Valley College where she teaches painting, drawing, and design. 86

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DAWN FADEM is an English and Creative Writing major at West Valley College. She loves to travel, listen to live music and is a huge fan of opera. Her favorite authors include Nicholas Sparks, Norah Roberts, Jane Austin and Diablo Cody. Dawn says "Writing has helped me heal in so many ways—I hope it can help someone else or at least make them think." ASHLEY FLORIMONTE, author of two poems in this magazine, is currently a student at West Valley College. CARLEEN GEHUE has always had high ambitions of world domination and is still looking for that perfect chair from which to rule! A fun loving instigator from day one, she would leave the bathtub to run naked in the backyard, but only in the Canadian summers. Moving to California at the age of seven brought warmer winters, beach fun and the favorite pastime of boogieboarding and playing in the waves. She is currently a student at West Valley College, but no one can say what the future holds for this passionate, fun-loving, and occasionally spastic young woman. JOANNA GODINHO-KHAN received her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Mankato State University in Minnesota. Her family is from Goa, India though she was born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Joanna is interested in pursuing a career in commercial design using sustainable design principles. Photography gives her the opportunity to express her love of color, texture and movement. Her favorite author is Carl Sagan and her favorite artist is Salvador Dali.

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LENORE HARRIS earned her B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, and M.A. at the University of San Francisco, and currently teaches English at West Valley. She was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, but has had the opportunity to travel to Nairobi, Kenya. Her work has been published in the Prism Review and the San Francisco Writer's Conference Anthology. She is inspired by blues singers and writers such as Langston Hughes, Kevin Young, and Judith Jameson. MELISANDE HILEMAN is a student at West Valley and has been writing creatively since her freshman year of high school. Her favorite authors include R.A. Salvatore and J.K. Rowling. TRICIA HILL started studying art after a career in technology. She was first inspired by Abstract Expressionist and Bay Area Figurative artists but wanted to combine her love of art with her digital background. Currently a student at West Valley College she says, "I like working with computers and exploring how they can be used to contribute to the work." SARAH KATZ plans to major in foreign language and minor in anthropology. She intends to pursue a career as a textual and verbal interpreter in the field of international studies. She is conversant in Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, and Farsi, and she is also learning Russian and Dutch. Sarah's favorite authors include J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Libby Bray, and her favorite artists are Van Gogh and Da Vinci. Her message to aspiring youth: be yourself, trust yourselfâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;openness should be encouraged, not ridiculed. After all, life is but a barren wasteland in the absence of imagination.

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AMELIA LARA is graduating from West Valley College with an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts and will be transferring to SJSU. A journalism major with a minor in French, she would love to write for travel magazines. A San Jose native, Amelia has traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest, Baja California as well as Germany. An avid reader, she finds reading diverse writers motivates and inspires her to improve her writing. Her favorite authors and poets include Milan Kundera, W. B. Yeats, Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde, Julia Alvarez, and Pablo Neruda. LEANNE LINDELOF has been writing fiction since she earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from San Jose State University in 2005. She is an instructor of English at SJSU and French at West Valley. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her short stories and working on a novel. JOSHUA MARKS is a proud father, husband, and teacher with a passion for ancient history and writing stories. He teaches sixth grade Core just across the street from West Valley College at Redwood Middle School. Since writing Delivering Daddy, Joshua has been fortunate to again experience the wonder of birth. His second daughter, Riley, was born last February. NICK MAKSIM is an animation major at West Valley and he plans to transfer to SJSU. He plays in two bands that tour California, downndurdy and Audible Smoke Signal. He finds his music and animation careers are intertwined on multiple levels. He hopes to start a video game/production company with his brothers or just be part of a cool one that's already established. Nick thanks Jason Challas, Chris Cryer and all the teachers at WVC who have made his college experience a great one. VOICES

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KIRSTEN MCKAY is an English major who has been writing since she was twelve. She plans to transfer to San Jose State University in fall 2009 to earn her bachelorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degree in English. She wants to become a high school English teacher and share her love of the written word with everyone she meets. RICKY JAMES NICHOLES is a student at West Valley College. His poem was inspired by a true story which is described in Shane Claiborne's 2006 novel, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.   FOREST OATES grew up in South San Jose and is currently enrolled at West Valley College. Forest has always enjoyed expressing himself through any creative outlet available. His favorite artists include Twist, Ron English, H.R. Giger, and Michelangelo. A fine art major, he hopes to earn a master's degree and work in the art industry as well as teach. MEGHAN PIPER graduated from San Francisco State University receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in painting. Her passion for fine arts was inspired by many of her family members who infused her life with different art styles, techniques, lessons and appreciation. Meghan is currently enrolled at West Valley College to broaden her art studies in the area of computer graphics. ROXANNE RASHEDI received a B.A. in English Honors from the University of California, Berkeley, where she specialized in post-colonial and gender/sexuality studies. While at CAL she was the features editor of Perspective Magazine, in which she has published three articles. Her favorite authors include Gwendolyn

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Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Elizabeth Bishop, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Hafez, Rumi, Don Miguel Ruiz, Terry Castle and Susan Schweik. Roxanne enjoys practicing the Eight Limbs of the Yoga, spending time with her loved ones and is a chocolate connoisseur. MARKUS ROBINSON is a liberal arts/English major and is the film critic for The Norseman, West Valley's campus newspaper. His primary aspirations are to critique films professionally and to write screenplays; writer Rob Sterling of The Twilight Zone series, as well as Markus's own mother and father, serve as his strongest influences and sources of inspiration. KAREN WALLACE has loved teaching Englishâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;composition, literature, and creative writingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;at West Valley College for 35 years and is retiring at the end of this semester. She recently wrote the poem about her beloved Abyssinian cat to a class prompt in class along with her creative writing students. A few months later, Omar broke out a screen in the night, escaped, and was eaten by a coyote. She continues the struggle to set him free in her heart. TARA WYATT has been writing stories, creating people and worlds in her head for as long as she can remember. Her budding interest in poetry began at age twelve, and since then she has grown ever more passionate about English. Her inspirations include East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Tara believes the most significant thing to learn from language is that it is in every way an inborn human art.

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The body text in VOICES is Palatino Linotype, named for the 16th century calligrapher Giambattista Palatino and derived from the humanist fonts of the Italian Renaissance. The strokes suggest a broad pen nib. The title and headers are set in a mid-century font, Optima, which is a flared sans serif. Both Palatino Linotype and Optima were designed by Hermann Zapf.

Cover art by MEGHAN PIPER Lauren acrylic on canvas 22â&#x20AC;? x 26â&#x20AC;?


VOICES