new york university college of arts and science
Contents Editor’s Note
An Interview with Tao Lin
Poems by Matthew Dickman, Guest Contributor
Poetry Danielle M. Rico
Less & More
Poem for Animals
EDITORS’ AWARD WINNER IN POETRY
Prose Anzhe Zhang
Joan of Arc
Murder at the Turtle Pageant
EDITORSâ€™ AWARD WINNER IN PROSE
Art Haley Weiss
Brú na Bóinne, 2013
Eye of the Tarpon
The Bow, 2013
A Fisherman’s Hand
Editor’s Note This year’s edition of West 10th is difficult to sum up. It is not bound by any large theme. Each piece bears its own strange subject matter and has arrived here from a different place. These pieces are not only sharing a physical space with one another, they are engaged in a brief conversation. They echo each other and refute each other, disagree on some points and agree with resounding enthusiasm on others. Their conversation is like one you might overhear—on the street or between friends or in line at the drugstore— fragmentary but clear, part of some bigger scope. And often funny, too. The pieces here are the ones that generated the most conversation among us. Our own conversation about them (and their conversation) started in our meetings, spilled over into our email correspondences and filled up a few Excel spreadsheets. I remember sending a Facebook message via an iPad about a poem, which is the most technologically complicated thing I can think of. All this to say that our conversation unfolded unpredictably, and through many different modes of communication. Two of the pieces that we talked about often are the recipients of the 2014 Editors’ Awards: Jade Conlee’s poem, “Fluxx,” and Emma Wren’s prose piece, “Murder at the Turtle Pageant.” The people who have made this year’s issue possible deserve more thanks than I can fit on this page. Our managing editor, Rose Howell, approached every step of the long editing process with energy and an excellent eye. Each member of the three editorial boards provided invaluable opinions, and helped maintain the conversation I keep mentioning. I would also like to thank April Naoko Heck and Joanna Yas and for their guidance and support, and Aaron Petrovich for seeing us through the layout process. A big thank you to Darin Strauss and Matthew Rohrer for making the tough decisions of selecting the Editors’ Award recipients. We are grateful to Tao Lin for having a long conversation with us, and to Matthew
Dickman for generously giving us three of his poems. Thank you to every writer and artist who submitted this year. Thank you, of course, to you for reading. Maeve Nolan
America Danielle M. Rico Bits of brain material like a Pollock former possessions of the last man living. He wanted to know what all the fuss was about, and he was American so he lacked patience.
laypeople Jenna Snyder
take care of the people living in my head— give them a bedtime now drink me— your whine is my divine part we are falling like prayers back towards the Earth where small deaths await I’m sorry I spend our sacred time trying
Joan of Arc Anzhe Zhang Tonight is Pike Quenelle served with a side of sour cream and a bottle of red wine. Joan of Arc tells me it’s her favorite; so I pick up freshly caught Pike from Mr. Lau, the Asian man at the fish market downtown, whom I’m on first-name basis with (Tony). She picks at the food with her spoon before she places it into the processor guised as Pearlique lips. This is one of the quirks of the AK200 models that came out during the first quarter of the past fiscal year at the Nevada Electronic Convention: fully automated food processing. Would you like me to clean the dishes, Joan of Arc asks, and I say, no Joan of Arc, you’re too perfect to touch water. I’ll do it. Her head shuffles back and forth mechanically like an urgent rooster while she watches me scrub the dishes, and she comments on how the cleaner the dishes are, the closer they get to accurately reflecting my face. That’s nice Joan of Arc, I answer, but what you need is more abstraction. And with the faintest sound of hot air flowing between the sparks of dental drills, she says, washing dishes is like a metaphor for life: the harder you try, the clearer everything is. This pleases me, so I stroke Joan of Arc’s mango-colored synthetic hair, the finest of Indian manufacturing. You could be a poet, I say to her and she nods. *** Joan of Arc knows that I like to smoke a cigarette after dinner, and as soon as I snap, the tip of her index finger opens, and shoots out a still, almond flame. I’m afraid that smoking makes me look like a flustered tea kettle, but Joan of Arc is quiet, seated upright on the brown sofa, processing data like she is having a scoliosis screening. In truth, I’m too tired to head out tonight, and I think the sour cream was loaded with Tryptophan. But I try
ZHANG: JOAN OF ARC
ZHANG: JOAN OF ARC
hard to stay up. I even tell Joan of Arc to play the news on the wall through her chest projector. But I tell her to turn it off a couple of minutes later because I want her to think this is a beautiful world. No Hackitivist propaganda, no cryptoamnesiac revenge-murder cases, only the outlook of a warm Fourth of July enveloped in a romantic glow. Looking into her sleepy Monroe-esque eyes, I ask, would you like a cup of coffee (though it’s 8 p.m.), and Joan of Arc says, I would like some very much, and follows me to the kitchen, where I grind up some coffee beans imported from the burgeoning plantation on Enceladus. I’m afraid that adding sugar and milk would make the drink too thick for her system to process, so I warn Joan of Arc that the drink isn’t sweet and she nods. *** I’m reading Sylvia Plath’s “Edge” to Joan of Arc, and I tell her it’s such a beautiful poem, a poem with cryptic detachment and a sense of tomb-like finality. I ask Joan of Arc, what does this poem mean? And Joan of Arc only shakes her head like a spatially-disoriented owl and says, I cannot decipher the meaning behind the poem. She says that the combination of the intricate structure, unusual syntax, and metaphorical ambiguity makes the poem unsolvable. That’s OK, I say, deflated. Joan of Arc suddenly adds, it is likely that the poet’s tumultuous personal life, and struggles with depression led to this piece. This catches me off guard. Overjoyed, I say, you are wise beyond your years, and she nods. *** Joan of Arc is beautiful. It’s the Fourth of July, so I take her out in our gray Nissan and levitate towards Woodstock Park. We arrive as the fireworks are exploding, forming birds, flowers, and actresses in the sky. I look into Joan of Arc’s eyes and say, it’s beautiful, isn’t it? Just like you? And amidst the festivities and drunken teenagers and eruptions of blinding light, I do something I have never done before. I wrap my arms around Joan of Arc’s
ZHANG: JOAN OF ARC
waist and kiss her. I love you I say. Joan of Arc asks me for the password and I muffle “the woman is perfected” into one of her shoulders. Suddenly Joan of Arc’s limbs shoot out from her hard, motionless body, fly into the air like little torpedoes, and then one by one, explode among the fireworks, like bursts of expressionist energy on a black canvas. v
HALEY WEISS, BRÚ NA BÓINNE, 2013
Scrimshaw Madeleine Walker The whales youÂ carved into my bones and how they bellow.
Taylor Sasha Leshner In 2nd grade she told me was kissing underwater
fish tongues slipping open eyes glinting like green scales weâ€™d pretend in her pool licking the chlorinated water our love spilling out of our tiny mouths and catching in the filters with the pink noodles and dead bees their legs limp and wet after kicking
DAKOTA RICHARDSON, EYE OF THE TARPON
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDIT ORS’ AWARD IN PROSE
Murder at the Turtle Pageant Emma Wren “Everyone comes to the turtle pageant,” sounds like a thing that would be said about the turtle pageant by most of the people who come to the turtle pageant. These people are mistaken. These people come to turtle pageants. I was dragged here, kicking and screaming [only in my head, (my aunt has a shitty knee) though I did yell “no”]. My aunt and her shitty knee got into turtles a while ago. Her regular knee got into them too. Do I have to tell you that? I think it’s implied, but better safe than sorry, like my aunt always says. She’s said that maybe twice. We’re in the gym of the neighboring town’s high school. They have lots of championship titles in field hockey. They must suck at everything else. All the folding tables are arranged haphazardly, except for the row beneath the basketball hoop. The tables under the hoop function as a sort of stage. Beneath the opposite hoop is the taped-on racetrack. Here’s the way the turtle pageant works: the first round is for dressing up your turtle. Most people stick to a general theme like “doctor” or “cowboy,” but some people like to try celebrity costumes too. This never goes well. Then there’s a talent portion. You’d never guess how many turtles specialize in eating lettuce. One time, my aunt told me, someone tried to get their turtle to eat arugula instead of regular lettuce and it threw up all over its detective outfit. Turtles have such delicate palates. After that, there’s a race. This part is always the saddest. Everyone lines up their turtle on the sad gym floor and there are sad strips of masking tape to delineate each lane and they strike this mini gong that looks like a burnt silver-dollar pancake and the turtles are supposed to, I don’t know, race? They just sit there and wonder why they aren’t getting more lettuce for this bullshit. My aunt’s first turtle was named Bruce. R.I.P. Bruce, I guess. I forget how Bruce died, but it wasn’t natural. She found Bruce by a pond, stole
WREN: MURDER AT THE TURTLE PAGEANT
WREN: MURDER AT THE TURTLE PAGEANT
him from his turtle family, and claimed him for her own. Her friend Marge or some other old person name had a grandson who had a turtle who had been bought from a pet shop or other turtle sales place. My aunt visited Marge while her grandson was there with his turtle. I didn’t witness this phenomenon, but here’s how I imagine it: My aunt enters the home, greets Marge, whatever whatever, turtle scene. The turtle is sitting in its turtle home and my aunt locks eyes with it. The turtle is motionless, as turtles tend to be. My aunt freezes, not in temperature but in motion. It’s this whole moment, the kind that juts out in your memory. This turtle, or the idea of this turtle wedges itself into her psyche by way of an elbow or a knee crease. She stands paralyzed like she has just seen a ghost (or a turtle), and then continues normally about her visit. But there had to be a moment, an instant, where this turtle got into her bone marrow. This next part I know because she told me. She was driving home, past the pond, when she saw poor old Bruce. Just sitting there, the turtley fool. She stopped her car, scooped him up, and put him in the cup holder. Sometimes I imagine his turtle family wondering where he has gone. Sometimes I imagine them making a turtle noise that translates roughly into, “what the hell Bruce?” I imagine that they imagine that it was his fault. But instead of spending the rest of his cold-blooded days with his old-peopleskinned brethren he was stuck with my aunt and her shitty knee. Instead of sinking gracefully to the bottom of a lake or however turtles are supposed to leave this earthly realm, he was placed in a shoe box for a flat, brown, size seven shoe and covered with dry mulch. So now I’m here. The folding chair is beginning to take a toll on my comfort. My aunt told me what kind her turtle is but I forgot. I’ll call it a standard turtle. Does it really matter? This one is named Zachariah. Today Zachariah is wearing Oscar de la Renta. Just kidding. He’s wearing a cowboy hat, but it’s on his shell instead of his head. I don’t know a lot about fashion. I eye him more closely, looking for a personality, but he just pushes his head in and out of his shell house and I feel a pang of jealousy somewhere in my chest.
WREN: MURDER AT THE TURTLE PAGEANT
Everyone’s here, my aunt tells me. There’s Hilda with her new boyfriend who she never talks to, Josephine who really can’t pronounce “turtle,” Rich in his electric wheelchair, Craig who once tried to tape two turtles together so they’d look like a “super turtle,” Alberta who’s barely thirty and already a regular at the pageants. Everyone except Alberta is older, or they look older and are actually just withered. My aunt is older. Well, she’s older than my mom. I’ll tell people I didn’t want to come to something that would allow itself to be called a turtle pageant, that is, if anyone asks, but really I have nothing else to do. This is my second pageant. I protested both times, but my aunt is stubborn and my parents thought I should get out of the house anyway. I’m not sure why they thought I’d enjoy a turtle pageant when I don’t even enjoy fun things. It’s cold out now so there are more scarves and hats lying around for small semi-spherical reptiles to get lost in. Josephine’s turtle Boo, who seems dangerously tiny, has woven herself into Josephine’s scarf and gone to sleep, leaving her hula skirt in a heap next to the cozy wool. A few feet down, Craig’s turtle Craig Jr., a snapper I think, is inching its way over to the edge of the table. One year someone tried to bring a tortoise. I heard that it somehow made it all the way to the talent round before anyone noticed. A judge clad in a thick red sweater speaks shakily into his cupped hands. “Everyone get ready, the costume round will begin in just a few minutes.” My aunt’s mouth tells me his name is Dale. My aunt’s eyes tell me she likes Dale. My aunt has no one but Zachariah. I would count myself, but I don’t count myself. “How long has Dale been judging?” I ask her. “Oh, not that long,” she blushes. “Maybe a year or two?” She says it likes she remembers the first time he was a judge. “He started judging after his turtle died, Alberta told me. He used to live in California.” “He’s kind of cute.” “Honey, you should be looking at much younger boys.” “I wasn’t looking for me.”
WREN: MURDER AT THE TURTLE PAGEANT
She begins to smile, but scolds me instead. The turtles are being lined up on the sad excuse for a stage. Zachariah and his cowboy hat are towards the middle, right under the hoop. To his left, Craig Jr. is sporting a sailor’s hat. Farther down the row, tiny Boo’s hula skirt impedes her movement. The judges begin scribbling on their clipboards, looking much too official for a turtle pageant. I don’t bother to get up and look at the other costumes like some people are doing. Instead I remain seated, thinking about nothing. I realize I feel comfortably warm, the kind of balmy numb warm that is so perfect you almost can’t feel it. My body gets suspicious. I want to say something like “the air shifts,” but it doesn’t. The costume judging ends and everyone takes their turtles back to their respective tables. My aunt brushes too close to the judge’s table and grabs her turtle. Zachariah returns, looking triumphant, or maybe sad, or baffled, I really can’t tell; he’s a turtle. My aunt’s about to say something that probably isn’t important when we hear the clatter, the crunch, the scream. Josephine kneels in the corner of the gym where all the chairs are stacked. Were stacked. Now the chairs are sprawled across the shiny floor. She digs through them with gentle haste. From the rubble she retrieves Boo’s body. Her shell is cracked and she is not moving. Josephine is shock silent. I look away from the scene to observe all the turned heads. Some faces wear a mask of horror, others feigned curiosity. Then I look back to Josephine. I see the crescendo of grief. The beginnings of tears. Then I feel bad for looking away. No one gets up, so I do. She’s cradling Boo in her arms. Well really she’s cradling Boo in her hand because Boo is tiny, but it feels right to say arms. My footsteps reverberate uncomfortably. I put my hand on her back. “Is Boo okay?” I say. “I’m only in my first year of turtle veterinary school,” I don’t say. “I think she’s dead.” The words are choked out through sobs. What am I supposed to do with this information? I’m just as helpless as she is. “Her shell is cracked and she’s not moving. Oh god, oh god, Boo. She was
WREN: MURDER AT THE TURTLE PAGEANT
wandering away from me—she’s very curious—and the chairs, they weren’t stacked properly, and, and . . .” I let her simmer in the silence for a moment. “What do you want to do?” Craig pipes up. “I think we should hold a funeral for Boo. It would be the right thing to do.” That was nice of Craig. Also: no shit, Craig. A collective, helpless nod springs forth from our necks. We don our hats and traipse out of the gym, Josephine wrapping Boo in her scarf. We have to walk a while to find some dirt, as this school has enough money for turf fields. Our motley congregation passes a parking lot full of tents for a bake sale. The bake sale patrons eye us warily but we are dealing with tragedy and cannot be bothered. Someone shoves aside some earth with her shoe (I’m being nice; it’s a clog) and Josephine places tiny Boo in the tiny concavity. The misplaced earth is replaced and Josephine rises, sporting tears that must sting in the frigid air. “I’d like to say a few words.” She pauses to think of the words. “I’ve had Boo for almost a year now. I named her Boo because they told me she was born on Halloween. They didn’t think she was going to make it, because she’s so small. She got third in the costume part of her first pageant. She always ate her lettuce and never smelled very bad. She also liked coming to the pageants very much, because she got to see her friends.” Here her voice cracks. “I’m going to miss you Boo.” “That was lovely, Josephine.” Craig’s smile is warm enough to melt the light frost on Josephine’s scarf. Like, if it had been close enough to her scarf the scarf would have gotten all wet and unmanageable in the way that scarves do. But it doesn’t and her scarf is left to become wet and unmanageable on its own time. We return to the gym. Hats are cast aside. Everyone moves quietly. The turtles left in shoeboxes and crates look alert. Can they feel it? Is there a wound in the heart of turtles across the earth? Or do they not have time for that? The judges acknowledge Josephine’s loss, and continue to the talent round. Is this heartless? Does Josephine just sit on the sidelines now? The
WREN: MURDER AT THE TURTLE PAGEANT
bags of lettuce emerge from beneath tables. I decide that Zachariah is good at eating lettuce; of course, I could be wrong. Eating is mostly a simple process, so it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of room for error. But anything can be judged, right? The judges move on to the race, regarding the taped-on racetrack with something that looks like somber pride. Each turtle is placed in his or her lane, with one empty on the end where Boo should have been. The gong is tapped, but the turtles ignore it. One turtle starts moving around the track the wrong way. The rest do not move. Craig Jr. visits the inside of his shell. Boo would have moved. She was curious. After fifteen minutes of this, the judges give up. Dale procures a satchel of ribbons from beneath the judge’s table. Blue is first place, red is second, and white is third. No one seems to be paying much attention to the ribbons. My aunt is picking pieces of dust off Zachariah’s shell and Craig is sitting with Josephine at her now empty table. Tomorrow we will learn that Boo was just in shock due to her cracked shell, which will be mended with an adhesive and time. She will crawl out of her loose dirt prison and be picked up by a confused passerby who will call the school who will call the judges who will call Josephine who will cry with joy. My aunt will tell me this over the phone and I will smile about it. Today Zachariah comes in second place, my aunt drops me off at home, and I take a nap and think about turtle shells. v
VIRGINIA TADINI, UNTITLED
HALEY WEISS, MIDDAY, 2013
An Interview with Tao Lin Tao Lin is the author of novels, poems, essays, and short stories. The unpredictable range of his work spans from written to visual art, printed material to writing published across various avenues of the internet. His most recent novel is Taipei. The following interview took place via Gchat.
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
INTERVIEWER: Are you currently in NY? or elsewhere. TAO LIN: I’m in NY. I’m in my apartment.
Where are you? INTERVIEWER: I am also in NY, also in my apartment. LIN: Nice
Nice. (going to use full sentences to make it easier to edit) INTERVIEWER: Thank you.
Is travel disruptive or helpful to your writing process? Travel in a big sense or in a more minute sense (going to the store, etc.). LIN: Going to the store and traveling around my room and walking around
outside, and traveling between my room and the library, seem like they’ve helped my writing process. Or seem like they’re part of my writing process at this point. So in that sense it’s helpful, it’s a kind of structure added to the amorphous thing of my writing process, a structure that, instead of, for example, the 9-5 structure, fits naturally, to me, with the writing process, or at least the writing process for Taipei. Travel in the other sense, like visiting my parents in Taiwan, stops my writing process, I think. But traveling can be part of the writing process that occurs away from writing or typing, like thinking or remembering. INTERVIEWER: Is working ‘on the go’ unappealing? I think it’s strange seeing people in airports/on the train who are visibly doing some sort of work. LIN: I work ‘on the go’ often. When I’m in the last stages of a book I’ll have a print-out of it or part of it with me and be reading it and editing it while
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
on the train or walking to and from somewhere. I like it. But it’s hard to be motivated enough to be doing something like that. I haven’t done it in an airport, not regularly. It does seem strange in an airport, especially for creative work maybe. Have you ever seen a known writer in an airport? INTERVIEWER: I haven’t. I think I saw someone I vaguely recognized from
a reality TV show (?) once at LGA, but. LIN: I haven’t either. What are the books that all the NYU students in writing classes are excited about, if any, that you can remember, recently? INTERVIEWER: A girl in one of my classes was talking very enthusiastically
about a new Eileen Myles book, I remember, the other day, but I haven’t read it. Someone in my class last semester brought up Taipei as an example of, I think she said, ‘internet-related’ fiction. Does that sound accurate? LIN: It’s internet-related, in that the internet exists in it. In that sense it’s accurate. I just typed a long answer and it wasn’t making any sense. I feel like there must be such a disconnect between students and professors (in their 40s or older) right now in terms of perspective on the internet. That I didn’t experience, being born in 1983, didn’t experience nearly as much at least I feel. INTERVIEWER: Has the internet changed for you in, say, the past year? LIN: It’s changed but I don’t know how. I could probably read my emails
from a year ago and discern some changes in how I view the internet or use it. I’ve noticed that I feel like I’m watching TV commercials or reading ads when I look at my Facebook news feed, and that if I’m on Facebook I’ll inevitably start scrolling down the news feed unconsciously reading
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
strangers’ status updates that have seemed to me like extensions of what I usually try to avoid reading or viewing, like the news or newspaper. But I have 5,000 Facebook friends also. INTERVIEWER: Can I ask about a recent tweet of yours? LIN: Yes, sure. INTERVIEWER: I like your Twitter very much, also. It’s thorough.
A few days ago, you tweeted ‘My favorite books of poetry by ppl older than me: all have MFAs. ~90% (?) my favorite books of poetry by ppl younger than me: no college.’ LIN: Thanks, I’m glad you like my Twitter. INTERVIEWER: What is an example from each of these groups? LIN: Poetry books by people older than me with MFAs: A Green Light by Matthew Rohrer, Can You Relax In My House by Michael Earl Craig, Bad Bad by Chelsey Minnis. Younger than me with no college degree: i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together by Mira Gonzalez, YOU HEAR AMBULANCE SOUNDS AND THINK THEY ARE FOR YOU by Sam Pink. Younger than me with college degree (I’m ~95% sure): Brandon Scott Gorrell’s book published by Muumuu House. Realizing now you asked for an example each.
Has anything been confusing or unclear on my Twitter recently? INTERVIEWER: Let me look.
I think your ‘internet presence’ is consistent, which seems it would be difficult. Or maybe some things would be easy. All your user icons are light teal, why light teal? Okay I’m looking at your Twitter right now.
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
LIN: I’ve never thought of it as teal, I’ve always thought of it as just light blue. I think I thought it would be calming, or maybe the least non-calming color. INTERVIEWER: It’s calming but also very bright, so maybe a energizing/
calming combination. I liked this series of tweets about oranges. A lot of your tweets seem to be ‘honing in’ on a specific thing in a way that is not redundant or repetitive. LIN: That sounds good, I might’ve had something like that in mind also when choosing it. I didn’t want a light tan color, for example, which would also be calming probably. Oh yeah, I was going for neutral, I’m pretty sure, something neutral. White is too non-neutral to be neutral though. I like that analysis. I try not to be redundant, it’s a problem in life, to me, I feel. INTERVIEWER: Repetition seems important in a lot of your writing. Not as in ‘repetitive’ but more as in sequenced. I’m thinking of the index at the end of Richard Yates, which seems like a tool for identifying the first mentionings of things. LIN: Thank you for thinking of that, you’re probably the 1st or 2nd or 3rd
person who has mentioned the index like that to me. I repeat things a lot in my work actually, I like recreating the effect of what in real life is a reoccurring joke, or just a reoccurring thing that gains new meaning as its context changes, you might have with a friend over years. My main inspiration for this kind of thing is the novel Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie. Lorrie Moore does it also, sometimes in indirect ways that I find pleasing, in almost all her short stories, I think. INTERVIEWER: Repeats things?
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
LIN: Repeat images or words or ideas. I guess every writer does it, or most books do. Sequence is important also, yes, thanks for noticing that. For example the mentions of Richard Yates in Richard Yates have a sequence telling a story that I like to think of as having a relation to the main story. INTERVIEWER: I have Richard Yates in my room, I’m going to look at the index right now. LIN: Sweet, thanks, read the mentions of Richard Yates and see if it has any
effect. INTERVIEWER: Okay so six mentions, more or less distributed evenly in terms of their distance to each other. Or I guess some are closer. 32, 94, 98, 142, 150, 177. LIN: I remember feeling satisfied with that distribution.
I think I like books that are in something like a fractal form, in that examining parts of it will tell you the same information, but in smaller scale, as examining the whole. But also with a non-scrutable aspect to it. Not as predictable as a fractal. INTERVIEWER: I’m understanding it as a portion of something producing
maybe the same effect, potentially even with more saturation, as the whole. I remember liking the ‘facial expression’ part of the index, it’s very long. LIN: Like how with a drop of water you can get an idea of what a glass of
water might feel like. I’m glad you like that part. I think I was surprised how many different kinds of facial expressions I felt the need to use to describe people’s faces, I feel, simply.
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
INTERVIEWER: Where do you keep notes? LIN: In many places, it’s been a problem. In my Gmail on a ‘Tasks’ thing, in an email draft in Gmail, in multiple files in Google Drive, in like 10 different files in ‘Notes’ on my iPhone, on pieces of paper taped to my wall, in little notebooks, on pieces of paper, in text files opened on my computer in TextEdit sometimes. I still feel sometimes like I don’t know where to type or write something if I get an idea. Like I’ll frantically try to open a new file in Google Drive if I think the idea deserves its own file, then I’ll remember I already started a file for this kind of idea, and I’ll also remember that I should just put all notes in the same place, and not write down notes that don’t seem notable. INTERVIEWER: Do you delete things in any of these places if you feel they
aren’t going to ‘go anywhere’ or if you get tired of seeing them? LIN: I’ve felt like I’m in a transition period the past year maybe, during which I haven’t been rereading notes and feel like I don’t trust myself to delete anything yet, at this point. I’m envisioning some point in the future where I stop taking notes and organize everything, I’m kind of dreading it maybe. I’m also increasingly interested in studying my own experience and thought processes, so I’m interested in notes that haven’t been edited. But I’m also interested in deleting certain notes and focusing my attention more on certain other notes, and in viewing the world in that way. I go back and forth a lot. I haven’t separated those two desires into two different systems of note-keeping. INTERVIEWER: Does Twitter function as a note-taking device for you? Do you delete tweets? I’m sorry that I’m talking about Twitter this much.
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
LIN: Yes, I also take notes on Twitter actually by typing my note (on my
iPhone) in Twitter and saving it as a draft. Sometimes I’m frantically searching for the correct place to note whatever idea I’ve had, to do it before I forget it, but do it in the ideal place so that I can find it later and know its context, and the place that’s apparently easiest for me to access and use for this is Twitter. I also kind of view http://twitter.com/tao_lin3 as a place for me to take notes. By ‘notes’ I mean to-do lists and to-do items also, I’ve been meaning that also. Sometimes I think I want to make all my notes public, if only so it’s easier for me to organize them and reference them and use them, but then I’m not sure about that. I like how much you’re talking about Twitter, we could talk about it even more. INTERVIEWER: Twitter almost demands to be a note-taking place.
I think Twitter is my favorite internet thing maybe for that reason. LIN: I delete tweets also, yes. If I’m rereading my tweets I’ll read it as if I’m reading a book of poetry, or something, and edit it down by deleting certain lines. You use Twitter to take notes? Or have you seen other people use it like that? INTERVIEWER: Yeah I think the majority of things I tweet are things to mostly myself. I don’t like the notes app on the iPhone, so it seems like the most logical phone place. LIN: I want to make it so I’m tweeting mostly to myself. LIN: I make notes on Facebook also. I’ll post something as a note to myself. INTERVIEWER: Really? That surprises me.
That seems like it would get messy.
AN INTERVIEW WITH TAO LIN
LIN: That seems good, but I think I’ve noticed that it can be hard for me to discern if I’m posting something as a note for myself, or if I’m thinking about who will see it at what time and what they’ll think, etc. The two seem inseparable for me. INTERVIEWER: That is a good point. LIN: I’ll post something on Facebook to structure my life . . . like I’ll post
that I have a reading in 2 weeks and that’ll structure my life. Because I’ll see it every day. INTERVIEWER: What is the most anxiety-provoking situation you can
think of right now? LIN: I’m thinking for a long time, feel like I’m daydreaming trying to think of something. Maybe just having some kind of obligation that I’m dreading, having multiple obligations that I’m dreading, spread out evenly in the future. Or trying to sleep and not being able to sleep while also feeling dread of some future obligation. INTERVIEWER: Have you written a poem recently? LIN: I have a Gmail draft titled ‘poems’ in which I’ve been sometimes
weakly working on a poem, for like the past 4 months. v
NÉHA HIRVE, PINTORES, MADRID
HALEY WEISS, THE BOW, 2013
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDIT ORS’ AWARD IN POETRY
Fluxx Jade Conlee A winter night in dumb, dark Idaho, five or six o’clock & we are back from pizza for dinner, I am six. My mother & father & I are in a hot tub, mist rising from the surface though we are already walled in by fog. Snowflakes half melt & scatter on the black water. We have just received the news that someone has died, suddenly. I have brought outside a card game: Fluxx the game of ever-changing rules! My mother’s face through the fog is like wallpaper. They have been having a secret conversation that flickers at me through the fog, should we drive home tomorrow, should he go to Illinois. They have lost track of the game! The goal has changed from rocket to the moon to death by chocolate & no one has noticed! My father keeps dropping the plastic-coated cards in the water, blind little rafts bumping into one another. Only later did I learn the two entwined meanings of flux: there’s the unpredictable one, & there’s
the one where things flow away, the one where I ask my father how much of me do you remember? a handful of birthdays, & how you would practice scales on the piano while I snorted painkillers in the bathroom, & how you made me tell my secret over and over
JENNIFER COATES, DUALITY
Cain Neda Jebelli We brought Cat home two Thanksgivings ago, right after I got out of the hospital the first time. A childhood spent begging and whining and sneaking home worms and feeding snails and not going to parties to convince my parents to get me a pet and in the end all it took was a little mental breakdown. I could tell I got him for the same reason cancer kids get dogs and autistic kids get rabbits. I came home from the hospital and the next day my dad took me to the Humane Society. He still says “Cat picked you,” because when I walked up to that little clear box the kittens were writhing around, and one of them came over and smushed his little kitten nose against the plexiglass. It was the nicest looking one. Gray and white— stripey, kind of. A woman who hated her job got him out for me, and I tried petting him as he struggled and squealed and hissed. And then my dad held him, and he went quiet and the kitten went quiet and snuggled down so far into his arms I thought they would weld together or something. Dad maintains that “Cat picked you,” when it is clear if the kitten had been sentient enough to pick anyone, he had picked my dad who hadn’t even wanted a cat. We took it home in one of their cagey things and I realized the cat was now a metaphor for my health. Dad named him Cat but I called him Cain. Only sometimes, in my head. My mom made Cain a weird cat pillow to sleep on, but obviously Cain never did because Cain was a cat and cats don’t really see the value in cat pillows. Instead, Cain started sleeping on their bed, below my dad’s feet. Mom said she hated that, but she didn’t. Cain wouldn’t let me pet him mostly, but sometimes during the day my dad would pick him up and put him on my bed and say “go look, Cat’s on your bed!” and try to make me feel chosen. But Cain would jump up immediately and go back to my Dad’s feet. I loved Cain, anyway, as one does, but not as my dad did. The third
time I was back in the ward Dad smuggled Cain into the hospital under his big leather jacket with all the rips in it, my favorite one, and I smothered myself in soft trembly cat fur and I felt Cain’s lungs get bigger and smaller and bigger and smaller and his ribs felt so so so so thin and tiny and I cried a little. As Dad took my hands and prayed for me, even though I had narrowed my eyes and asked him not to, Cain sat still and my dad said “see, Cat is praying for you, too.” I’m pretty sure Cain was just sitting there like a cat, and not praying, because cats can’t pray, but I nodded. After that when he visited he’d always show me really blurry pictures of Cat, and give me updates of Cat, and stopped calling him “Cat” and started calling him “little boy” and I don’t think I liked that even when I said I did. When they took me in the fourth time I was unconscious. They say it was the closest one, and they kept me in the longest, and Mom had to beg them and beg them and say my graduation was in two weeks, would they let me walk at graduation, and then beg some more. She looked really gross and desperate and embarrassing groveling like that so they finally released me, the day before graduation, but I ended up sleeping until Monday. My mom had repainted my room again, scrubbed the desk, changed the comforter and rearranged everything, but she hadn’t swapped the carpet this time. It gets expensive. If you pushed my bed aside you could see my faded vomit soaked deep—twisting with my blood and melted, spit-up pills, clinging, spiraling in Rorscach stains she hadn’t been able to wipe. When I finally woke up I went down to get some food and saw the litter box was gone. I slept a bit more. Later, I sat at the kitchen table across from my dad. He was telling me how he found Cat but had stopped caring if I listened. He was just remembering it now, reciting, reciting, reciting as if when he had said it enough times Cat would slink out from under the table, healed. Cat didn’t, and Dad didn’t cry but he kept looking up at the ceiling and breathing really deep, which was worse. He had wrapped Cat up in blankets at the foot of their bed and Dad had prayed for him hard, hard, hard. Apparently Cain had come upstairs to make sure I was okay. Or apparently Cain was trying to get me to stop. Or apparently Cain loved me so
much he was comforting me, trying to lick my face. Or maybe Cain had just been a normal cat and licked up wet pills off my carpet like normal cats do, or maybe I had given him some, maybe I had put some in his water before I took the rest, I don’t know if I remember that but I didn’t bother to mention it, the same way sometimes I dream that my teeth are falling out but I don’t really tell anyone, I just use more toothpaste in the morning. Dad said Cain was buried in the back garden, under the white silky plants. I wondered who had buried him or who had dug the grave, or who had finally decided to pick him up and not let my Father sit, staring, petting forever and ever—never looking at anything again, just so he wouldn’t have to tell me this story. Did he finger Cat’s little ribs, searching for a pulse, waiting for them to expand? Did he finger them with such fury and want that he pushed and pushed and pushed until one of them accidentally snapped under his desperate fingers, and did he snap the others, popping them like tick, like crunch, like pick, like snap, crying, screaming, howling so loud, louder than anything I have ever heard? I think he did that. v
HALEY WEISS, UNTITLED, 2012
Poems by Guest Contributor Matthew Dickman Matthew Dickman is a poet from Portland, Oregon. His poems have appeared in several of the country’s most celebrated literary magazines. He is the recipient of, among other awards, the Honickman First Book Prize. His most recent book of poems is Mayakovsky’s Revolver. The following poems are for a cycle called “24 Hours.”
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MATTHEW DICKMAN
FIVE Matthew Dickman I heard the dog crying all night in the car and wanted my owner. I heard the rain. I heard about what was happening in that place. I heard the freeway and elevators and landing gears and also nothing. I heard I was dying. I heard the room when the room walked away. I heard the floor when I fainted. I heard everything that was left over and also someone calling out. I heard the brain seize up. I heard about what happened and how it sounded really bad and Iâ€™m sorry. I heard the call to prayer. I heard white linen and floss and dispatches and a single piece of paper. I heard dark all around. I heard dark all around and a seashell. I heard you would never come back and also the moon. I heard the moon knocking its teeth out. I heard the computer start up and the rice cooking and the groom smoking. I heard myself and wanted to cut it into ribbons. I heard the party start. I heard people laughing at me and why shouldnâ€™t they? I heard I hesitated. I heard the expression on your face and people speaking in a submarine. I heard the men in the stairwell. I heard the biting and pulling and curled up brother alone in the bedroom.
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MATTHEW DICKMAN
SIX I was in the shape of the cross. I was nothing and also my feet and my hands and my mouth. I was going to tell you. I was standing in the street with the cars and also the police cars. I was the violin in the envelope. I was making a kind of music everyone hates. I was really little. I was look at me when I’m talking to you or I swear to God. I was shut the fuck up. I was you’re ruining Christmas is that what you want? I was the ashtray and the umbrella and the lipstick and nothing. I was in two cities at once. I was born on this day. I was born and also Novocain. I was going to tell you. I was the thing you never should be and also pocketknives. I was ringing. I was only going to be a minute. I was the walk into the park and also what happened there. I was the grapefruit spoon and the eye. I was the migraine and the hydro-motion of very, very, tall buildings. I was the skateboard and the bat. I was the you get in here on the count of five or you’re gonna get it. I was the projectionist and the grave.
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MATTHEW DICKMAN
EIGHT I happened to myself and everything disappeared. I happened to be walking. I happened and you where there and scared. I happened to be an addict. I happened with the glass in the bathtub. I happened and there was a sound that came from heaven. I happened and it was quiet. I happened and your mouth blew open like a soda can. I happened in high school. I happened in my motherâ€™s lap and the dead starlings. I happened to be standing next to you. I happened to the room before the room hung itself. I happened to be lying. I happened to download all the things that make you insecure. I happened and it began to rain. I happened to be an orange you were eating. I happened to be a body that moves like a long dash and hamburger. I happened to be the stove door and the pretty lady, circa 1950. I happened to be nothing important. I happened like a cake full of light bulbs and a bat. I happened to be barefoot and a worm. I happened to be the worm. I happened to be there when the dog turned back into a boy. I happened to the scissors when all they wanted was to happen to me.
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MATTHEW DICKMAN
DAKOTA RICHARDSON, A FISHERMAN’S HAND
EQUALIZERS Zeba Fazli They said it was going to be the biggest storm of the year. Ordinarily you would have doubted that, but this time you didn’t have a choice but to fear the worst. Interchangeable CNN anchors said this particular storm system was supposed to sweep through the Northeast from Friday afternoon into Saturday morning, dumping snow and sleet on Southington, Connecticut for eighteen heinous hours. Which left almost a day for the roads to be plowed and parking lots salted and power lines restored before Sabrina Api’s shotgun-ish Christmas Eve wedding in Fairfield. No one at this point was sure of anything, least of all whether your cousin’s wedding had a prayer of surviving. You had a half-day of school that Friday, but your cousin Maheen wore you down with her furious Emoji-laden texts at five that morning and made you skip to help her, Sabrina Api, their mom Lubna Khala, and your mom yell at the DJ, makeup artist, imam, and whoever else to whom those countless phone numbers belonged to make sure this wedding fucking happened—Maheen’s words, not yours. At the end of the day, you all slumped over couches and coffee tables with mugs of chai teetering on armrests and pillows. Trying to be positive, your mom said, “Allah ka shukar hai you booked Sunday.” That had been due more to serendipity than to the grace of God, you thought. There hadn’t been enough notice to book a Saturday. Sabrina Api stared at her still-bare hands (the henna artist was supposed to come for the mehndi ceremony tomorrow night, but had preemptively canceled). After a moment, she took an enormous gulp out of the nearest mug (yours), wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her UConn T-shirt, and declared, “I don’t care if there’s a blizzard or a power outage or if there’s no food, I’m getting married in two days.”
To which no one had the heart to say, Maybe not. According to the succession of phone calls that interrupted dinner, the out-of-towners were getting understandably antsy as the snowfall grew heavier. You could imagine them wondering belatedly, over the drone of the Weather Channel in their hotel rooms, whether they’d made a mistake in coming to what would soon be the epicenter of some enormous blizzard just to see that adorable spoiled brat get legally married to some gora before they ran off to the middle of nowhere, but you knew (everyone knew) they would not dare miss the chance. *** Sabrina Api, Maheen, Ambar, and their parents ended up staying the night. They only lived about twenty minutes away, but for once everyone heeded the warnings on the news, cowed by the roar of the winds. They had stayed over more weekends than you could count, so the ballet of directing people into beds or onto the piles of comforters that would serve as makeshift mattresses (after one last round of chai) was better choreographed than anything you saw in Bollywood movies nowadays. Your brother Naveed put up token resistance when Faiza and Ambar took his room, more relieved that he wouldn’t have to deal with the sharp influx of girl in his space than frustrated about sleeping on the floor of your parents’ room. Your aunt and uncle took the guest room downstairs, which left Sabrina Api and Maheen with you in your and Faiza’s room. When good night was officially bid at eleven-thirty, your cousins bounded into your room like overexcited deer. Sabrina Api was the last inside, and after she kicked your door shut, she shouted, “WOOHOO! BLIZZARD PARTY AT SUNNO BABY’S HOUSE!” It couldn’t be much of a party with the rest of your cousins held hostage in hotel rooms across town. “Dude, when did she last call me that?” Maheen had the answer. “It was at that dinner with Chris’s family, remember, Api? Faiza was whining and your mom thought it was your fault
and was like, ‘Sunno baby! Be! Good!’” The brown plastic frames of her glasses shook as she giggled. In the face of this good-natured contagion, you relented and sat on a squishy mint-green beanbag chair, a decade-old relic. Maheen threw herself on the floor next to you and started pulling from her repertoire of voices, doing everyone from the grandmother you shared to Ayesha Khala to her dad to your dad to Naveed, while you provided pointed color commentary. Meanwhile, Sabrina Api spun absently in your desk chair, picking up bottles of nail polish next to the files for your now-complete college applications with every revolution. After you got to your cousin Feroz (“I don’t know what part of the greater Chicago area you have to be from to be from da streets but it’s not fucking Evanston”), she cut in, holding a garish pink bottle, “I refuse to let you wear this. Your suit’s eggplant.” Aubergine. “Wasn’t going to.” Maheen got on her knees to inspect the nail polish bounty. “They have better colors at the salon.” She sat back down, unimpressed. “Why bother?” You could have asked the same thing of Sabrina Api regarding her wedding. If it happened at all, Sunday would just be the legal-religious wedding, the nikkah, plus a moderate reception. The real, totally-outsized celebrations would come this summer. This was just to make sure Sabrina and Chris were married before they started living together, a would-be glorious formality. But because you valued your sanity, you didn’t ask. “I canceled my appointment.” The sisters blinked. “Yours are fine,” you added hastily, “I just don’t want to. Especially if the sn—” “Don’t say snow, Sania.” Sabrina Api launched herself onto the floor too. “That’s all I’ve heard for the past week. It was all my eyebrow lady talked about, and she never talks to me.” Maheen caught your eyes and you knew what she was thinking: Better they worry about the blizzard than about her marrying a white guy.
“Still,” Sabrina Api mused, “I’d totally come back all the time just to see Jyoti. She’s seen me at my literal worst and never turned me away.” “To be fair, you do pay her to not turn you away.” Maheen chimed in, “Don’t worry. It’s Cleveland, you’ll find someone.” “Did you? At school?” you asked. It was not a facetious question. She was the first one among the New England cousins to go away for college, and as a result you now found her both annoying and vaguely more fascinating. Maheen, however, judged it facetious by precedent. “If I didn’t, Mummy would make me come home every week. And seriously, Rose Hill isn’t totally shitty.” “She hasn’t left Southington, of course she thinks it’s shitty,” Sabrina Api said knowingly. “Hasn’t left yet. Also, Sania, I thought you wanted me to review all your college essays?” “I, uh, didn’t want to bug you. Everything’s done now.” “Oh?” Maheen hauled all of your applications down from your desk and began thumbing through them. “Just saying, I resent all these non-Fordham apps. Just come with me and we’ll have the time of our fucking lives. Literally nothing could be better.” Sabrina Api skimmed the materials Maheen discarded with the blasé attitude of the recent graduate. Eventually she held up the first page of your UCLA application and announced, “I like this one.” Like she expected it to matter to you. Which it did. “But girl, you gotta up your game if you’re going to convince your dad to let you go to another time zone.” “How’d you get your dad to let you move to Cleveland?” She shrugged. “I’m getting married. You could go to college anywhere.” “You could marry any guy you occasionally hooked up with junior year.” “I love Chris, smartass.” “Fucking Cleveland, though.” You tried to imagine what Chris saw in Ohio that would possess him to attend law school there and failed. “I mean, if you’re going to leave, go somewhere worth it, you know?” Maheen smiled. “You’re so narrow-minded. It’s so cute.” At your milk-
curdling look, she added, “Oh, I’m not being hypocritical! It’s just that things change when you leave for college.” “It’s been one semester. You came home every two weeks.” “You won’t get it until you experience it. Which you will, no matter where you end up. Here or LA or, you know.” Maheen paused. Deliberately. “Wherever.” You clenched a single fist. “Where do you think I’ll end up?” “I know right now you think college is the end-all-b—” “You think I’ll just be stuck in Connecticut for the rest of my life? Because you get to live in New York, no one else can?” “The fuck do you mean? Haroon just gr—” “What makes you so fucking special now?” “Did I say that? God!” Sabrina Api glared down the bridge of her nose at her sister. “Oh my God, Maheen, like you weren’t as bad last year. Chill. And you too, Sania. No one’s trying to undermine you.” With the tone she used whenever you and Maheen fought, whenever something crossed the line from affectionate ribbing to deep unpleasantness, she elaborated, “It’s not just about where you go, she means. It’s more important what you do when you get there.” She scrambled up to her feet and clambered over the mound of pillows that your bed supported. She lay down on her stomach, so her head dangled just off the edge of the mattress. You could see up her nostrils. They were disappointingly clear. “Are we good?” Maheen didn’t like being shown up. She’d always been touchy, but you’d noticed since she’d come back for winter break that she’d gotten worse. Autonomy and New York City did weird things to sheltered brown girls, you supposed. “Obviously,” she exhaled, “I want the best for you, and two seconds ago I said I really hoped you’d join me, but whatever. Whatever happens, you’ll be fine. You’ll look back on this in a year and you’ll laugh and say this exact speech to whoever’s next. Feroz or Wali, right?” She gave you a smile that signaled détente, but you couldn’t bring yourself to accept it, even when she repeated, “You’ll be fine anywhere.”
“Just like I’ll be fine anywhere,” Sabrina Api cut in, her eyes blazing underneath freshly-threaded eyebrows. “Inshallah Sania will find her destiny or whatever, Maheen’s obviously on the right path to hers, and somehow I . . . found it. And I’ll live it, even if it is in Ohio.” To your and Maheen’s expressions of mild disbelief, she continued, “I know everyone thinks it’s just a thing, but . . . this isn’t easy for Chris, either. Law school is bad enough, and being alone too . . . I mean, it sucks.” You and Maheen fell silent at the sight of her of all people being contemplative. She rarely was: not when she first told you about the econ major she was “seeing” who only wore wrinkled plaid button-downs and never washed his jeans; not when she said, a few months later, at a family friend’s birthday party your mothers forced you to attend, that “things” were “getting kinda serious.” Not even when she Skyped all the cousins at 3 a.m one September morning, or at least everyone who could be texted at twothirty and yelled at to be online by three, to tell you all that she was finally engaged. They’d been together for over two years, but you had never taken it seriously. And, as you would hasten to add to Maheen or Faiza or anyone else in the cousins group text Sabrina Api didn’t know existed, it wasn’t because Chris was some kind of Protestant you couldn’t differentiate from other kinds of Protestants. It wasn’t because he had been a pothead in high school or because he wasn’t sure where in Germany his mom’s side was from. It was not him you doubted, exactly. It was her. She was Sabrina Api ( just the suffix meant she was an older sister to you): a Kardashian-disdaining Yash-Chopra-movie-marathoning Austenadoring television-scorning Pinterest-addicted occasional-shot-downing twenty-two-year-old dumbass. You hoped you would be ready for whatever your future—or fate, or destiny, or whatever—held when you came to it, and Maheen believed she was well on her way there, but there was no way Sabrina Api was truly prepared to face it and get married. “Don’t look at me like that! We’ll survive it,” the dulhan-to-hopefully-be snapped, imperious and tender, “as long as we’re together.”
You waited a moment before you let yourself catch Maheen’s eye. And then you both pretended to barf in unison, your conflict, the umpteenth one in all your years living side by side, buried with a bout of mimed projectile vomiting. *** After Lubna Khala first broke the news that Sabrina was engaged, Papa had (sensibly) asked Chris why they couldn’t wait to marry. His answer had been, “I love Sabrina.” When Papa asked (less sensibly) whether love was enough, Chris had responded, “I see your point, Javed Uncle, but I couldn’t be away from her for three years. I’m willing to make this work with her, and with all of you.” Papa had been impressed that Chris knew his name. Which he did because he’d gone out to dinner the night before with you, Sabrina Api, and Ahmer Bhai, one of the Boston cousins who happened to be in town to bring his mother to her Hartford-based ophthalmologist and could therefore help teach a two-hour course on Pakistani family dynamics. Together, the three of you told Chris that Feroz’s delusions of gangsta glamour were not to be indulged; that he couldn’t succumb to the sevenyear-old twins Hafsa and Hassan if they ever asked for sweets since they were deadly allergic to most artificial food colorings; that Ayesha Khala, as the youngest of the aunts, was the closest he would come at first to an ally; that Faiza and Ambar had a serious love/hate/jealousy thing going on that was too complicated to explain; that Tasneem Bhabi had suffered two miscarriages so discussing children was utterly off-limits; that Daniya Mumani, Kamran Mamu’s second wife, was still frosted out by all the other adults for pretty much no reason, so he should not get too too friendly with her or risk getting his future parents-in-law to think even less of him; that Umair Mamu shouldn’t be engaged with for more than three-minute conversations for risk of him extrapolating from whatever he’d said and responding with, “In the Holy Qur’an . . .” But this week, with the constant coming and going, Chris had done
pretty well. His only misstep was getting stuck with Umair Mamu, which turned out to be a good thing, as he answered the question no one else was quite ready to ask to his face: Yeah, I’m converting. The relative ease with which he navigated everything and the fact of his imminent conversion had worked in his favor. Just yesterday, in fact, you’d heard Kamran Mamu grunt to your mom that the boy might not be all that bad after all. You had wanted to say, “That’s a wonderfully ringing endorsement of your niece’s fiancé,” but that would have caused a scene, and you were not exactly one for scenes. In public, anyway. *** Ambar did pop in, as you all knew she would, at about twelve-thirty, complaining about the noise from you and Maheen choreographing a dance for the summer wedding. In response, Sabrina Api scooped up her littlest sister and spun her round and round to the cheery Hindi song, even though she was half-asleep and cranky, which led to Faiza joining in ten minutes later, to not be upstaged by Ambar. The now-enlarged blizzard dance party went on for longer than you knew, until Sabrina Api’s phone buzzed (drunk text from a friend, she said) and at last one of you saw the time. By two, the adrenaline had worn off, and your house was finally quiet (except for the hums of the washing machine and dishwasher, and the occasional creakbang from the radiators.) Then you were awake, and the smoke detector on your ceiling was shrieking like a certain type of Pakistani grandmother when told that alcohol would be served at her granddaughter’s wedding. You and Maheen were sharing Faiza’s bed for the night, and you almost gouged each other’s eyes out crawling out of the clutches of your blankets. Ambar bolted out of the other room just as you two oriented yourselves to see in the darkness of the hallway. Your parents’ door was open, allowing the light from Mom’s bedside lamp to spill into the hall. Inside, Naveed was sitting up in his makeshift bed, his dinosaur Pillow Pet clutched firmly in his arms.
“Aaaapiiiii,” he droned to you, “make it stoooooop.” Maheen, no longer relying on bat senses now that she had smashed her glasses onto her face, said, “Dude, are Faiza and Api seriously sleeping through this?” You weren’t surprised at Faiza; last year she slept through half of Irfan Bhai’s wedding, and smoke alarms were nothing compared to desi weddings. And although Sabrina Api was not usually a heavy sleeper, the chaos of the week clearly made her cling to sleep. “Naveed, go wake up Baji and Sabrina Api and I’ll go see what’s happening.” You were not too hurried as you trod downstairs: there would have been more screaming if it was something, anyway, and the house, though it hummed with the sound of murmured, half-asleep conversations and burbled as water sloshed around in the pipes of the heating system, was pretty quiet. Sure enough, the alarm was off by the time you got downstairs, and Papa was trudging across the landing in the pajamas you and your siblings gave him on his last birthday. “What happened?” He gave you a heavy look. “Sabrina burned some chai. Go to sleep.” There were lights on in the kitchen, and shadows indicated a few silhouettes. You still couldn’t make out the muttered Urdu conversations. A moment later, a door slammed somewhere—the guest room?—and your mother bustled out of the kitchen to usher you and Papa upstairs. You did not fail to notice that there was still one ponytailed shadow in the kitchen. You wished you’d put on your slippers before you fled your room. Through the blinds lining the windows on the way to the kitchen, you glimpsed the snowfall whirling in the erratic, unforgiving wind like a dervish, the new alien snowdrift world settling on the deck, the trees, whatever else was still in your backyard. The clouds seemed larger and closer to the ground, made golden by reflected light. Sabrina Api was glowing, too, when you skidded around the corner to the kitchen. She was slumped over the table with an empty chipped floral mug sitting expectantly a few inches from her folded arms. You couldn’t
see her face, but just her outline seemed kind of shimmery, as if you were looking at her over a flame. She was feverish, fueled by adrenaline and nerves. She didn’t notice that she wasn’t alone. You shivered as you stood barefoot on the tile and wondered why her parents and yours would leave her like this. By the time she did raise her head, you were pretty sure your toes were frostbitten. You shifted your weight under her gaze and tried not to groan at the cracking of your joints. “He says we should cancel.” You didn’t want to ask, but the way the reflection of the snowdrifts bled through the blinds to stain the kitchen made you feel a little stronger. The half-light and semi-dark became an equalizer; the snow gave you permission. “Is it really that bad?” “Are you happy now?” You glanced at the clock above the sink in order to avert your eyes. “It’s . . . four twenty-two in the morning and I’m going to lose the feeling in my feet, you tell me.” “You’re a bitch. You all are.” Sabrina Api’s voice was as clear as the pealing of a bell. Transparent, but not without substance. “I’m safe now. So are you all just delighted or what?” Yes, delight was what you felt at four twenty-two in the morning with your stupid cousin lashing out at you for . . . what? “Go to sleep. We’ll figure it out later. I mean, worst case scenario, Umair Mamu could officiate or something, he’s always talking about how he did it in Lah—” “You really gotta learn when to shut up, Sania.” Stung despite yourself, you said, “You keep asking stupid questions.” She stared at you as if she was trying to tear away the voice of sweet acidity you’d developed—the one everyone had developed—to reveal what was underneath, what the truth of this was. “Then answer.” She wanted to implicate you somehow, you personally or what you represented (you weren’t sure which, or whether there was a difference) in the implosion of her upcoming wedding, and you felt almost powerless to stop her. But what was underneath? What was the truth of the thing?
“Why would we be happy if you’re not?” You would have liked to sit down, but she would hate it if you did. “All we care about is you being happy. That’s why we’re going through with this. That’s why this is happening—” You caught your mistake a beat too late and amended, “That’s why this was going to happen at all. How do you not get that?” “Fuck you.” “Stop, Sabrina Api. You’re just—you’re upset, and I get that—” “And you still don’t care.” You cared more than her parents. They’d left her to cry and brood, probably after having been subjected to this very tirade. They didn’t know you’d trail after them and slip in their mess; they didn’t know you would find anything more than a burned chai saucepan cooling in the sink. And now that you’d seen her, you were no surer of what you were still doing here. This was beyond you, and nothing in this house with these people had ever been beyond you. “Don’t say that. You can’t do this shit to people who love you and want to make you happy.” “When no one’s actually asked you what would make you happy, you have to.” Were the past three months not a referendum on how far a family would go to make one of its youngest, sweetest, brattiest children happy? “Is that why he’s leaving you?” “What?” “Is that why he’s leaving you?” you repeated, trying not to cringe. “Because everything he did for you just wasn’t enough for you or something? Is that it?” You read her simmering silence as a yes, but you couldn’t truly fathom it. How could he have fallen short? Chris who was preparing to read the Kalma and convert in thirty-six hours? Chris who had endured hours of, “No, his dad is our uncle . . . no, not our blood uncle, the uncle by marriage,” Chris who had twitched under the glares of your grandfather Skyping from Lahore when he asked why he would not come to Pakistan and get married properly?
Looking at it that way . . . your and Sabrina Api’s world must have been too much for him. He’d grown uncomfortable with himself, with the idea that whatever he could ever do to appease you people wouldn’t be enough. Sabrina Api had never been more Sabrina Api than when she was planning her rush wedding and her move to Ohio at the same time, after all. The joy and holy rage and bursts of self-aware, self-absorbed nonsense had never seemed more characteristic than in these last few months. She had never been more alive. Then the bells in Sabrina Api’s voice rang at a lower pitch, more fervent and solemn. “I never asked him to do all this.” “Huh?” “I never ever said that I wanted him to do all this. I . . .” Her voice faltered for the first time. “It’s so typical, you know? You fall for a brown girl and all of a sudden that’s all she is, right? That’s what you have to overcome together. But he didn’t—like, I can’t tell you to convert if it’ll just be a thing you do. That’s not religion. I didn’t want him to do something like that unless he wanted to for himself. And he didn’t.” The conversion part at least had been obvious to everyone: no one converted for their fiancées because they were true believers. You had tried not to think it for Chris’s sake, but now— “So . . . you’re angry?” “Yeah, smartass,” she snapped, “I’m angry that someone I love tried to make himself into something he’s not to try to please my great-aunts and random uncles and family friends he’ll never see again instead of being the someone I love, and ended up hating me for it. Shocker.” She pushed back her chair, and it skidded against the tile like nails on a chalkboard. If Chris had felt that he’d lost himself in the midst of all this flux, all these forces you could not name and weren’t sure you were party to, then what you felt now must not have been so different. Your cousin was done talking: she listlessly returned the mug to the cabinet where it belonged, and without another word, you followed her (from a respectable distance) back upstairs. The door was ajar and Sabrina Api already nestled in your bed when
you slipped inside. Maheen, meanwhile, was spread out on Faiza’s like she owned the place. And you were sure there was some part of her that regarded this house as her own, too, by nature of it being yours. You tried to nudge her over, but she just grunted and spread out more. Then, in your peripheral vision, you saw Sabrina Api sit up on the right side of your bed. You didn’t see it, but you heard the thumping of her hand patting the blankets to her left. A conciliatory measure so soon was not unprecedented, but you hadn’t dreamed to expect it. And you were in no place to reject it, certainly not at four-thirty in the morning. So you started to pad across the carpet— “Sania?” —and tripped over the beanbag chair. By the time you managed to struggled to sit up, Maheen had propped herself up on one elbow and was peering at you. “The hell were you?” She sounded groggy and hoarse, utterly innocent. “You put out the fire or what?” Oh, right, the smoke alarm. The fire you were supposed to be investigating. You waved from the site of your inglorious tumble, tangled in the growths the beanbag chair seemed to sprout like nocturnal flowers. You cracked a smile no one saw. “Clearly.” v
Less & More Amy Moore Less Than $400,000 sunken herringbone maintenance tax-deductible live-in laundry maintenance tax-deductible 100 by 120 ft .32 acre full 50 year of glass living
MOORE: LESS & MORE
$900,000 or More keyed commercialgrade Time old brick sun old brick breakfast exercise wine, pool, hall w/ 20 stalls, 3 ponds 42 acres; listed at $1.55 million Demarest million cathedral million mahogany million
MOORE: LESS & MORE
Poem for Animals Andy Sebela —I used to never get old! Some time ago I lived in a bughouse with May beetles. At evening parties they asked me to sing one hundred songs past my bedtime. I danced with a knowing smile, the revolting servility of a child! Back then my claw tooth was loose. My appreciation for Egyptian cloth was unknown and undeveloped. What does one do with that knowledge? Better to be a cat in a sunbeam. Better to be hugged in a wing. I am the kind of animal who dies flapping and braying for company. Soon I will be a rugged thing chewing its mouth and scorning spring. I am not the colt that will run next year. My last breath is pawing at a screen door asking, “What do I do?” Mark it on my grave. He reared and bucked, he loved and got blue.
SEBELA: POEM FOR ANIMALS
DAKOTA RICHARDSON, SHALLOW
Contributors’ Notes Jennifer Coates is a sophomore in Tisch studying Dramatic Writing. Throughout high school, Jennifer had experience in concert and wedding photography. When she’s done at NYU, Jennifer hopes to combine her two passions—photography and screenwriting—to make independent films. Jade Conlee is a pianist, poet, and composer living in New York City. Zeba Fazli is a senior in the College of Arts and Science studying history and politics. She has made it her life’s mission to combine modern South Asian history and politics with pop culture, with a special interest in the South Asian diaspora—and if doing so means developing an encyclopedic knowledge of Bollywood soundtracks, then so be it. Néha Hirve a film student at Tisch, grew up photographing India, Switzerland, and America, and is currently photographing a number of short films. She also really likes phonology and sticky notes. Neda Jebelli is majoring in Urban Design and Architecture Studies. She firmly believes Michael Jordan is magic. Sasha Leshner is a junior in Gallatin studying Poetics as Persona. A native Californian, she is an editor for the Gallatin online magazine Confluence, a certified professional smoothie creator, and an actress for numerous NYU productions. Find her jazzed on caffeine, reading Rimbaud in a bookstore on a rainy day (this actually happened). Amy Moore grew up outside of Philadelphia. She is a sophomore in College of Arts and Science studying English and Creative Writing. This is her first publication and she’s happy to be featured.
Dakota Richardson is a junior who studies writing in the Tisch School of the Arts. He spends his time traveling, writing, and photographing interesting perspectives from the road less traveled. Danielle M. Rico is a film nerd (Cinema Studies major) who likes to jot things down in her mini Moleskine while sippin’ on some Charles Shaw. Andy Sebela grew up in Illinois. Five of his favorite movies are Brazil, Wet Hot American Summer, The Cruise, Groundhog Day, and Barton Fink. Jenna Snyder is a sentence. Virginia Tadini is a freshman majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication at Steinhardt. She is an international student from Milan, Italy but has spent most of her younger years in Wellington, Florida, where she attended high school. Aside from photography, her hobbies include surfing and Instagramming pictures of food. Madeleine Walker is a Gallatin senior studying Comparative Literature and Community Education. She’s from Montgomery County, Maryland and Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Haley Weiss is a junior in the Tisch Department of Photography & Imaging. You can find more of her work at HaleyWeiss.com. Emma Wren is a freshman in Liberal Studies. You can follow her on Twitter @theewren. She enjoys tweeting and also tweeting. She can’t disclose what she does in her spare time because of, y’know, the government. She is just as confused as you are. Anzhe Zhang is an unmotivated journalism student. The neutrality and no interpretation thing kills it for him. In his free time, he enjoys exploring romantic yearning and tragedy with Wong Kar-wai. He writes because he’s too introverted to talk.
Masthead editor-in-chief Maeve Nolan Managing editor Naomi Rose Howell poetry editors Jarry Lee Joe Masco Eric Stiefel Assistant poetry editors Anna Beckerman Kenneth Lim Rebecca Pecaut Michael Valinsky
prose editors Michelle Ling Ben Miller Assistant Prose Editors Mina Hamedi Louis Loftus Patrick Morley Manuela Silvestre arT EDITORS Laura Hetzel Kaj Kraus Michelle Ling
COPY EDITOR Patrick Morley Becca Rae Executive editors Matthew Rohrer Darin Strauss Joanna Yas staff advisor April Naoko Heck
West 10th is a nonprofit literary journal publishing poetry, prose, and art by New York University’s undergraduate students. It is edited and produced annually by the NYU Creative Writing Program. The ideas expressed in West 10th do not necessarily reflect those of New York University or of the Creative Writing Program. The NYU Creative Writing Program faculty includes Anne Carson, E. L. Doctorow, Jonathan Safran Foer, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, Matthew Rohrer, Charles Simic, Zadie Smith, Darin Strauss, and Chuck Wachtel. The Director is Deborah Landau. The Creative Writing Program has distinguished itself for more than three decades as a leading national center for the study of literature and writing. West 10th New York University Creative Writing Program Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House 58 West 10th Street New York, Ny 10011 west10th.org twitter.com/West10thLit Copyright: All rights revert to the author upon publication. Reprints must be authorized by the author. Designed by Sam Potts inc. Layout Consultation by aaron petrovich Cover art: Dakota Richardson Copyright © 2014 West 10th The Literary Journal of New York University’s Undergraduate Creative Writing Program ISSN: 1941-4374 Printed in The United States of america