Literary Journal 2016
Literary Journal 2016 Cover photography by Joyce Li
Welcome to the WPGA Senior School 2016 Literary Journal In keeping with our school’s emphasis on reflection and mindfulness, we invite you to slow down, to observe, to focus. This year, our magazine treads the line between irony and pathos. Some pieces question the very act of writing for a literary journal, while others dig deep into the psychology of obsession or the cruelty of nature. Whether arguing that it is better to cry than laugh or casting a mournful glance at fleeting free time, these pieces provoke thought. The accompanying paintings and photographs are no less varied and evocative. I want to thank the Literary Journal Editorial Committee: Pierce Aquilini, Rohet Bains, Matthew Campbell, Winston Damveld, Leily Farman-Farmaiian, Mackenzie Gunther, Anna Ho, Bradley Huygens, Herman Li, Joyce Li, Katherine Lucas, Amy Pan, Logan Poseley, Ben Rassekh, Ari Sky, Max Trottier-Chi and Kelly Ye. It isn’t easy to choose from the diverse and creative submissions we receive each year especially when a selection committee is large and eclectic. But these folks approached the task with authenticity and humanity. As well, we would like to thank all the students who submitted pieces - written or visual - to this year’s literary journal. It was great privilege to read and view your work. We encourage you to continue to write, create and put yourself out there - for us and for the world. Welcome to focus; we wish you good reading. Ms. Meneilly
17 The Dice
03 The Desert
20 The Island in You
04 First Snow
28 “Missing half” 28 “Suffocation” 30 Meet Poet 36 Acquaintances
13 Sorrow Woman Saves the Day!
40 86 Years
29 This is not a poem
05 Journeys 26 Serenity 32 The Piano
41 A Bug’s Eye View
30 Take Off
34 Free Time
09 Musical Details
39 Down by two
11 Glass Box
24 In the Shadows
03 Technicolour Desert
23 Coins and Dominos
03 The Shade of the Winter Sea
26 The Unsophisticated Truth
35 As the sun and moon lay down
16 Ode to a Halcyon Past
35 Glass dew on white silver string
31 Mixed Feelings 37 One Way 39 Deforestation?
38 Awkward Situations
35 Light Dance
33 SPEAK? CAN’T.
06 The Suffocation of Someone Else’s Truth
19 Santa Monica 27 Paper chains burning
32 Rising Falling
35 My headphones
18 Bones i 18 Bones ii 31 Who would want to practice piano? 34 Chromatic
12 Fall 15 Light 29 Waves
28 Last Block of the Day
Coalesce / Joyce Li
Focus | 02
Eyeland Your eye is an island.
But when I arrive there are lights.
A black sand beach,
There are buildings,
With a blue ocean.
And there are people.
No one lives on the island,
There are songs,
At least that’s what I tell myself,
Screamed not sung.
As I pack my bag to sail.
There are dances,
Your eyes are not stormy.
Stumbling and ungraceful.
The sea is calm,
There are no birds,
Only crashing on the shore,
It’s too loud.
When the sun gets too bright.
There are no trees,
I don’t choose a stable boat.
There’s no room.
Maybe I’m too hopeful,
There’s only people.
Too trusting of the wind And the smooth water.
Your eye is not an island, But a city,
As I travel,
And I never liked the city.
I imagine the tide
So I turn my boat,
Going out into the dark night,
But it’s not sturdy enough,
Leaving a never-ending beach to walk along.
And it tips.
03 | Literary Journal
The Shade of the Winter Sea
A wail in the sweltering heat
Wet wool clinging to damp skin, like a doubt
from between cracks of sandy dunes,
that holds tight onto your brain whispering:
a blemish on golden grains
“Give it up child, you will never get out”,
shifting in the blistering breeze.
and tastes bitter - like a sunken, drowned thing.
A corpse with whispering breaths,
Salty cold spray that threatens to claw through
face hidden beneath beige fabric,
your tissues and muscles, holding them fast:
the sun melting his strewn body
Clamped in irons, dragging you into blue-
his skin oozes like candle wax.
green froth, made stone by battering winds and blast.
Mouth open, gasping like a fish
Deep murk, sharp with vengeful execution
as the dry air sucks all moisture
Freezing and unkind; a cruel god long lost
with creeping tendrils, and reaches
in times ruthless without absolution.
deep into his throat to his core.
Worshipped by the old scions of harsh frost.
They branch into slinking veins,
The sea doesn’t care for your soul and life.
slithering into damp corners,
The sea only knows of dark, sinking strife.
feeding on the misty darkness. His insides shrivel and wither. He stares, defeated by nature, down the swerving path he longs to take, a pool of crystal water taunts as a tendril laces his heart.
Technicolour Desert / Maddy Chang
Focus | 04
First Snow A sequin veil of iridescent light shimmered through
crumpling of plastic candy wrappers. Brisk air pricked
the parting in the curtains. Her eyelids fluttered open.
her skin like needles, the iced points conjuring a surge
This morning was different. She abandoned the snug
of shivers. Frost perched on the tip of her nose numb-
warmth of the sheets and with hesitantly excited
ing it with red dye. Wind sliced at her skin in a flurry of
steps, wandered over to the delicate layer of pixie dust
twirling blades and threw her back onto the soft white
sprinkled over the window sill. She reached out in
cushion. She panted with delight. Winding her arms
anticipation and flung open the drapes only to gasp
and legs back and forth she imprinted an angel into the
with twinkling eyes at the world outside. With cupped
compactly powdered sheet. A faint touch of cold on her
palms, the barren trees that had reached for the sky
lips forced her upright. She stared at the sky and gazed
with gnarled fingers now held opal orbs of snow. The
in awe as glass-like pixies danced to the earth. She held
dank pavements that smiled through cracked lips were
out her gloved palm in wonder and watched the ornate
buried under a silken carpet of sparkling ivory. In one
crystals rest for a second then fade into the fabric.
motion she was out the door and charging down the
Thrilled, she pulled out her tongue and caught a gentle
steps. She grabbed her coat and pants, shoving on thick
flake, shivering at the icy nip. A faint holler broke the
boots and gloves, only to have her mother stop her at
magical tranquility and summoned her back to the
the door and pull a hat over her head before unleashing
warmth of home. With a sigh, she stepped through the
her into the winter wonderland. In one stride her boots
doorway. She wistfully glanced back for an instant and
sank deep into the cold. She barreled through with her
saw the snow wink in a twinkle of light. She smiled as
legs swinging from side to side as if she were jumping
the door closed behind her and the scent of rich cocoa
invisible hurdles. Snow flew in all directions like the
and her motherâ€™s pumpkin pie promised a crackling
crest of a breaking wave. Each step crunched like the
fireplace and peaceful dreams.
05 | Literary Journal
Journeys We go so far in life without realizing it We make loud footsteps in the sand, a trail leading across the world, But they are whirled away by jagged tides, these Opportunities which bleed out and are Laid to rest by the cracks and crevices We are left morose and screaming, in sync with Our creaking joints and rattling breaths Wishing we have never embarked at all On such a journey with nothing to show We go so far in life without enjoying it We walk across meadows of dew and wander seas of stars But do not stop to swim because We are living in a vision we saw reflected in rose glasses We are ready to seize and work and create And we put off happiness In order to chase Happiness â€œI think it will be worth it. I hope it will be worth it.â€? We go so far in life without cherishing it When will we began to measure progress By the metamorphosis we undergo? When will we begin to measure happiness By the wide-eyed Grins of a daughter, a friend, ourselves? And understand What the starlit seas which spirited away our footprints Were trying to show us all along?
Focus | 06
The Suffocation of Someone Else’s Truth To our body and mind, The sky has no definite existence. For all our eyes know, It is the great blue mass that surrounds a clear, glass dome: A superior observer that watches the busy lives Of the tiny anxiety-ridden beings. How we envy its carefree existence And what we would do to join it, To escape the heartbreak and predetermined patterns. But the higher you go, The more you feel you don’t belong. Your chest will cave And your lungs will fail to support you. You learn this when you are very young: If you go into space, you suffocate. We are schooled on why the sky is blue, But what good is that? I didn’t see it, you simply told me what to think. And I believed you. Why did I believe you? Perhaps I should stop listening. No, I can’t do that. All of these facts and definitions. You tell us to dream, to discover, But very few get to discover their own truths. Tell me, what is our point, if we can’t journey into the sky And write our own definitions?
07 | Literary Journal
Cold The room was silent, save for the soft, breathy hum
Now came the ultimate question: to get up, or not to
of the heater. Sunlight filtered through the old, plas-
tic blinds, casting a gold silhouette on the dust motes that floated through the stagnant air. The golden glow heated the carpet where the sun kissed it, but the warmth was unfelt by the figure lying on the bed, cocooned within the blankets and curled like a shrimp. Not even the heater – no, not even the heater, the downy blankets, and the sunlight combined – could warm his cold, cold hands, tucked beneath the comparatively hot skin of the back of his neck, where they left a strange scalding sensation. His entire body was unmoving except for the slight rise and fall of his chest, which indicated that he was still externally alive and well. He was not severely unattractive – really, his features just combined to create a plain, forgettable face. A light smattering of freckles across his pale cheekbones gave him a slight resemblance to a sun-dusted farm boy; his tousled hair lay matted to his scalp, dry and brittle from months of neglect. His eyes, once wide with hope and curiosity, were of a dull brown color – not unlike a bar of low-quality chocolate, crumbling away with a bit-
7:30, the clock blinked. Get up, get up, – you’ll be late for school. He turned onto his side, then to his front, then proceeded to roll to the edge of the mattress before letting gravity take the wheel of his fate. The blankets snagged at his limbs, as if begging him to stay, ensnaring him within their warm grasp. Reluctantly, he shrugged them off, then flinched as the cold seeped through the thin layer of his shirt and into his bones. With movements born from experience, he let his limbs carry him through the mundane routine of his morning. His mind drifted; he was neither thinking about the task at hand, nor the day ahead; in fact, he was thinking of nothing at all. His limbs carried him forward listlessly: they walked him up to the sock drawer, then plunked him down onto the worn carpet. Cold fingers shuffled to pull the sock onto his foot as he stared with disinterest.
terness which underlay an artificial taste of sweetness.
He grimaced, then renewed his efforts. The sock
Once, they had the function of exploring the beautiful
caught on his toe; then, to his dismay, it ripped when
world around him; now, they had been demoted to the
he gave the fabric a senseless tug. Resigned to his fate,
futile task of staring vacantly at the ceiling.
he pulled the sock off his foot, then began picking at
The shrill cry of the alarm clock broke him out of his lethargic absorption with the ceiling, and with more effort than was strictly necessary, he conjured the
it with a sort of morbid curiosity. His clumsy fingers plucked at the frayed ends while he sat in a chilled daze, the cloth unravelling at his fingertips.
strength to glance at the clock. 7:30, the little red digits
He stopped. It was futile – all of it. His sock was ridden
blinked anxiously, as if calling him to wake up. Oh, he
with holes, his motivation as dead as his great-grand-
was awake. He had been awake for an hour now. It was
father’s corpse. There really was no point in anything.
hard to sleep when one was so cold.
Life was boring and futile, like a depressingly boring television show interlaced with short bouts of happiness
Focus | 08
and excitement. And him? What could a person like
The thought of an inanimate object leading a more
him ever achieve in life? He was walking backwards,
meaningful existence irritated him. He wanted to
he was regression personified. He had been raised
defenestrate the clock, but eventually settled for flip-
with dreams of greatness, wholly unprepared for how
ping it facedown.
disappointing everything was. He was a disappointment. If he had his way, he would have stayed in bed all day, stayed in the comfort of the cocoon of blankets and meagre body heat, where nothing could come and threaten his pathetic, cowardly tendencies. As he flopped back onto the bed, his body instantly sank into the mattress – where an indent had formed from long periods of hibernation – and he noted with a dry, humorless twitch of his lips that he could understand why drug addicts existed. For years he had looked upon the issue with disbelief, with questions of ‘Why would they willingly poison themselves?’ and simple, childish conclusions that mainly consisted of condemnations of stupidity. But now he understood. Why bother? Why make the effort to scrape through a meaningless existence, only to miss all of the big answers and die a meaningless death? Careers, relationships, – they all served to delude one about the bleak reality of a pointless life. And colder than his hands was the realization that if it wasn’t all so expensive, so damaging, he’d do it, too. But as he lay there, unmoving, staring emptily at the ceiling, he couldn’t help but feel the guilt coursing through his veins. Sometimes, when he thought too much, he felt guilty for simply existing. He felt guilty for the food that he had consumed and the air that he had breathed. He felt guilty for wanting to stay in bed all day, for wasting a life meant to be wasted. 7:40, the clock blinked. It seemed to be mocking him. At least the clock had nothing to be guilty about. Well, except wasting batteries. But at least the clock was useful.
He stood up. There must have been something inherently wrong with his mind, for it to be so difficult to leave to warm nest of his bed every morning. Perhaps he was still clinging to the childish dream of being special, and couldn’t bring himself to realize how terribly disappointing it all was. Ah, well. It was time to wake up anyways. If he was masochistically condemning himself to a futile life of mediocrity, then so be it.
Musical Details / Sally Huang
Glass / Crystal Lin
11 | Literary Journal
Glass Box She feels trapped Trapped in a glass box where nobody can hear her People can look in She can look out But nobody realizes her pain Every single day she loses hope Her mind tells her that Everybody hates her Nobody cares She’s worthless Selfish Stupid Replaceable Not pretty enough Skinny enough She’s just not good enough These thoughts overpower her mind Every waking moment she is drowning in her thoughts But she stays silent Her silence causes her to build a whole other reality in her mind One where people would rather see her dead One where others are constantly judging and mocking her Eventually she wishes for everything to stop All she wants is a single moment where her own mind is not destroying her As she lies in bed staring at the ceiling she wonders She wonders what will it take for her to shatter the glass Shatter the glass so people will finally hear her Finally see how she’s breaking inside How she’s slowly slipping away Slipping away from this world forever
Focus | 12
Ode To the girl with hunched shoulders and shining depths, in whose eyes everything was obvious. The surety of her voice, the fire burning within her that sheâ€™d shyly flourish for us all to hear. Her mind focused, like the clear point of a falling star pulled by gravity down towards and exact point. No matter what might change come tomorrow, today she knows who she is.
Fall / Joey Zhong
13 | Literary Journal
Sorrow Woman Saves the Day! I stare at my reflection in the mirror. Straight-faced,
Your house was robbed?
grim, bleak. I must say, it’s quite perfect. Not a trace
At least you have an endless supply of smiles!
of a smile. Sometimes, people can have a straight-face but still manage to have a faint smile in their eyes. Thankfully, I am not one of those people. It’s a particularly disgusting quality. I’m proud of how I look. In my opinion, a smile ruins a beautiful complexion. If you smile too much, you’ll get crow’s feet. What a horrid look! I have beautiful, wrinkle-free eyes. A smile also emphasizes an empty mind. Quite a pity. My eyes are stone-cold, sharp and deadly. When people look at me, their smiles slide off their faces. I’m just that serious. It’s like my own little superpower. Sorrow Woman! SuperSad! Isn’t it great?
Your identity was stolen? Think of all the funny pranks you and your new doppelganger can play! What a riot! Your cat died? Guess it used up all it’s nine lives! *Cue Cheshire-Cat-Smile* Regardless of the situation, in this twisted society, you must laugh. This societal expectation is so strongly supported that soon Laughing Legislation will be instated. We sit down at the table for breakfast and read the newspaper. We casually flip through the stories of racism, sexism, murder, poverty and injustice. Each new section merits a hearty guffaw. For many, the typically
Now, I’m not liked by many and this has never both-
‘serious’ articles concerning economic recessions, inter-
ered me. The general public seems to be too hyped up
national conflicts and the like are more funny than the
on endorphins and serotonin as far as I’m concerned.
They go about their lives with happy-go-lucky smiles and bland brains. They mindlessly laugh along at banal banter. They claim that “laughter is the best medicine”. Boy, isn’t that the biggest cliché you’ve ever heard? “Laughter is the best medicine,” they chant as they suppress all negative emotion. If you’re having a bad day, don’t worry, just laugh. When you can laugh at yourself, life gets easier. You got fired from your job?
We laugh at the state of our world because we can’t process what it’s come to. Maybe at first, we were only laughing to sublimate our feelings of injustice. We were only laughing at our inability to cause change. It was a nervous, uncomfortable laughter. The kind of laughter that follows a sexist joke. As you already know, uncomfortable things can very quickly become comfortable. The nervous laughter suddenly seemed genuine. The probing problems suddenly
Well, that’s a funny story. Tell that at your next
seemed like mediocre mishaps. Chaos suddenly became
commonplace. Now, that is something to laugh at.
Focus | 14
You may be averse to the idea of a world without smiles
We try to paint a prettier picture. We embellish the
and laughter. “How bleak! How boring!” you may say.
news with a positive twist.
But, please, hear me out.
We need hate so that we recognize the wrong-doings
I want a world where there are more expressions than a
and stand up to the wrong-doers! Without hate, we
smile. We have such a wide range of emotions and yet
can’t disgrace the bad, the morally wrong and the evil.
we settle for the simplest. I want a world filled to the brim with emotion. Sorrow, melancholy, resentment, hate, surprise, love. These are more complex, more interesting emotions. Intrigue, curiosity, passion. These are even better! They can advance a society. Some may argue that these emotions are “bad emotions”. “Why would I want to teach my child how to hate? Why pass on that negative quality when I can teach them to be happy?” It’s simple. If the only emotion a child knows how to identify is happiness, then when she experiences anything else outside of this yellow spectrum of joy, she will feel completely lost. Or perhaps just “un-happy”. We need a vocabulary rich with emotions, expressions and attitudes not just a bank full of smiles. “But there is enough hate in the world already! You proved that by mentioning the newspaper.” Wrong. There isn’t enough hate in the world. (Crazy, I know). We need more hatred because of all the awful things that are happening. Right now, the world is suffering enormous tragedies but rather than solving them, we are trying to embrace them.
Laughter is a cliché and people are way too happy. We are a generation drowning in optimism oblivious to our world’s problems. Let’s tackle the issues with something more disarming than a charismatic smile. Let’s speak up and address the world’s issues with something more heartfelt. Maybe I’m a little twisted, but I think it’s better to cry than to laugh.
Light / Joey Zhong
Focus | 16
Ode to a Halcyon Past Summer of 2001. Peaceful golden time. Love and peace floating and drifting A street packed Our sweat and bodies intermingling Harmonious balance replaced chaos. Sound of thumps Drums calling to the girls and guys Adorned with a halo of flowers, optimism, youth Our bare feet tapping the lush earth, Each footstep Etching a permanent mark on Earth. Just a phase? Liberated spirits soon ceased. Innocence gave way to fear. Buildings crumbled; hopes rebuilt. Back to their cubicles and suits they went, The world monotonous once again. Colors faded Shades of morbid grey A glimmer of dawn Shadows of yesterday remained. But I still remember The summer of 2001.
17 | Literary Journal
The Dice In my first life I was a daredevil, reckless and wild Adrenaline was my oxygen, my reason and life Until that skydiving incident, when my parachute malfunctioned I jumped without thinking and leaped to my death I rolled the dice In my second life I was lonesome, neglected and blue Solitude was my best friend, I didn’t like him that much Each day was somber, with no one by my side My death was an accident, a collision with a truck But all I’ll be is a fragment, an existence soon forgotten I rolled the dice
In my third life I was prosperous, brilliant and esteemed My lifestyle was lavish My world was corrupt Surrounded by envy and those who conspired against me Eventually I was betrayed and took a bullet to the chest But good luck, my dear friends, in your savage battle to inherit my fortune I rolled the dice In my fourth life I was content, charming and loved I had friends, family and a remarkable career My life was fulfilling with no regrets left behind …...except meeting my abrupt end when I slipped on soap in the shower I rolled the dice This game of life binds us Controlling us with its invisible threads Determined by the throw of dice When one life ends, I move to the next Will it be good? Will it be bad? Now, who will I become today?
Focus | 18
I wonder if this hollow gap
It’s a ridiculous way to sing a song
is just a trick of light; or is it true
but it’s there all the same.
that there’s a hole right where my lungs should be?
A gust of concrete and gravel winds tumble through the open window,
Mayhap ’tis all a glamour,
shedding smoky glass
an illusion, if you will.
all across the dark wood floor—
But what if it’s all quite real—
bones, bones, bones.
like the face inside my mirror?
A phone rings—a door slams—
A day will come—I think it’s soon—
somebody walks past the door—
when flesh is not enough
a seagull takes flight—a crow caws—
to hide the deep’ning grooves along
a ship in the harbour sighs—
the insides of my blood.
bones, bones, bones.
N’er a scar nor blemish did mar
Salt on the chicken, on the salad,
the smoothness of her skin.
on the road—a snowstorm, a blizzard
Yet a day will come—and I think it’s soon—
roars in—fingers flying across black and white
when I will say, good-bye.
How can a tree hold itself up
bones, bones, bones.
if there is no soil for it to root?
Bones trembling—metal cracking—
No clear water to feed its thirst,
lips chapped and dry—lipstick on the mirror,
no sun to give it life?
on the napkin—on the walls—on his skin—
And so the same with the brittle bones that make the skeleton beneath our heart: how easy ’twould be to lightly snap how easy for it to crack? I wonder when the day will come when my bones will finally realize that there is aught beneath this skin to hold them strong—gloriously alive— that there is aught beneath this skin except a void of blank nothing; and mayhap then I shall finally collapse unto myself.
skin on skin—it was an accident— bones, bones, bones.
Santa Monica / Rachel Yen
Focus | 20
The Island in You You wanted to spend your post-college, gap-year doing
with determination that’s ardent on never succumbing
something that sounded important.
to your captors. After the first few days you spent here,
“Wildlife conservation on tropical islands” was the name of the program; it cost you four grand and you ended up in a group with other gap years also looking for something easy and important-sounding to put on a resume, all twentysomethings with money to burn and nothing better to do. They took you out by boat from the nearest populated island to a shore, and promptly sold you off to insane drug lords and traffickers. Knowing none of your families were quite wealthy enough to play the exorbitant ransom, you cried and begged and screamed right along with the rest of your group. One by one, they began to disappear - some became ill and died, others were sold off. By the time only a handful of you were left, you made a desperate bid to be the hero. The first time you met him, you lost an eye. -“Do you know,” a figure begins, strolling out of sight behind you - you don’t bother to crane your neck around. “Why you’re still alive?” “...Because of you.” It’s the answer he expected, you can tell. He chokes on a little laugh, and you answer by twisting your hands against the rope nervously. You’re tied to a chair in what looks a lot like a basement, its floor splotched with what you’re reasonably sure are old bloodstains and vomit. You’re half-dead from dehydration in the sweltering tropical heat, drifting in and out of consciousness when it suits you, listening to the guards’ chatter when you were awake enough to parse it. But it’s something fiery that keeps you going. Something spiteful and angry that keeps you from going over the edge like the other hostages did, something blazing
the guards took an interest in you. You were the uppity haole who won’t shut up, who still fights for the gun when they check to make sure you haven’t hung yourself from the showerhead. It didn’t take long for word to spread to the higher-ups, and soon enough, you were told that Boss himself was going to make a visit just to see you. Like you were supposed to feel special. Today, finally, Boss turns out to be a hulking man with darkly bronzed skin and evened stubble. His gait’s grand and swaying as he stops just behind you. This is where you die. This is when he opens your throat or chainsaws your face and as tired as you are, you’re still terrified. If you die now, after all of that suffering - all the work you put into making it out alive, what’s it worth? No one will know. No one will remember how hard you fought. Except for him. His hands wrap around the back of your chair, knuckles brushing against your nape. “I don’t like that answer, amigo.” His voice is a casual hum, hands playing an uneven drumbeat on the back of your chair. “You’re alive because of you. Because you’re too stubborn to die. Huh? Huh?” “Y...yeah?” You try and limit how much you speak to him - but he’s got you by the hair, craning your neck back until his upside-down sneer is all you can see. “Aa-Agh, yes, just - are you going to kill me?” “You wanna live. You,” he says, ignoring your question entirely, “are a survivor.” He lets you go, steps around in front so you can see him shrug loosely. “Stuck in a basement waiting to die, but you have all the time in the world to memorize patrol patterns, huh? Still got the guts to beat up my boys when they check on you? You’re smart, kid. You--” He taps his temple, his smile small and knowing and so unbelievably threatening,
21 | Literary Journal
coming from a man like this. “--are a thinker. You
right in your face when you come crashing down, your
watch. You learn.”
skull rattling as it bounces off the floor, oh my god. Oh
You do. He’s been watching you, too, it seems like, and
the promise of escape seems further away than ever. He
“I said shut up! Okay? You get that? You understand
sees something in your eyes that makes his smile edge a
what I’m saying, opala?” You don’t answer. This is
“Makoa.” He meets your uncomprehending stare by dragging a chair close and sitting in it backwards. “That’s my name. You know why I’m telling you? Like I care if you know who I am?” “Why?” “Because you’re like me.” He laughs before you can say anything, a weird hyena giggle. “All your stupid American buddies couldn’t do half the shit you did. Too scared or too weak.” Your lips part to reply as if I’m anything else, but he raises his palm to stop you before you can. “You man up. You just deal. I like that, I really like that about you. I admire that. That’s kept you alive.” “That’s why you haven’t let me die?” Makoa fixes you with a look when you speak without being prompted, frigid eyes piercing inside you. After a moment, he only taps his finger to his lips, shhhh. Be quiet. Don’t talk yet, he’s not done. “So I thought about it. About how you’re faring,” He thumbs over his bottom lip, watching the way your eyes track it. “And I thought - what the hell? Let’s give this rat a test. Let’s see if he’s as sturdy as we think or just really, really lucky. This island is special, amigo. It’s a one-way trip. You get in, you don’t get out. It doesn’t get out of you.” He jabs at your chest. “What do you--” is about all you get out, and damn, the guy is fast, kicking your chair over and kneeling to snarl
“Answer me!” an echo that cracks off the walls tenfold. “Yes! Jesus!” There’s spittle in your face, even more when you turn your head to the side and he forces it back with a vise grip on your jaw, laughing. Lord. He’s crazy. “I get it, I’ll shut up. I’ll shut up!” “Unless?” “Uh--” You scramble for a suitable answer, clenching your eyes shut, trembling. “--unless you ask me something?” “Good enough.” But he isn’t getting off you, keeps you held by the jaw, and you’re afraid to open your eyes. The pounding in your chest isn’t entirely yours, you realize; he’s crushed right down on top of you. Jesus Christ. Maybe he’s just waiting for you to mess up and talk again. “Open your eyes. Look at me.” You freeze for a moment, and it’s all the time he needs to decide you’re being uncooperative - you hear movement, feel something rough dig into the space just under your eyebrow. Both eyes try to clench tighter as Makoa carves into your right eye with a ragged nail. Your screaming is annoying, so he claps his free hand over your mouth and continues slicing, dragging a white hot line from your annihilated cornea to your temple. Your chest is heaving so hard it practically shakes his weight pressed above you. It doesn’t do any favours towards his already jagged cutting. “Shut. Up. Listen, I like you? But when I tell you do something, you do it. I’m the king of this castle, okay, you get that? I say jump, you say--?”
Focus | 22
He lifts off your mouth, and you stumble out how high,
Your jaw clenches at the thought. This isn’t a test. It’s
earning a laugh and a quick, deep claw over your face.
a game for him. You’re disposable, a toy that happened
“Good boy!” He coos mockingly. “Look, I’m trying to
to last longer than the rest. You recall Makoa’s threat-
do something fun for us, so can you - bloody - cooper-
ening poke at your chest — a possessed taunt that
ate? Please? Hey, hey, stop moving so much.”
brought him close enough for you to smell on him the
You could faint. The tough act you had been praised for mere minutes ago dissolves under primal screeches and choked wails. You’re being maimed. Everything looks too bright, too dark, too blurry and clear all at once. And it hurts, it hurts. Hurts more than falling off your bike by the creek. Hurts more than breaking your arm on the varsity team, more than leaving your
island’s seawater, gasoline and... blood. He knows it’s in you. You bring a hand to press over your mangled eye, wondering which part of you would be robbed of next. The fact that the idea doesn’t scare you anymore, scares you. You’re lulled into another one of the sleepless nights. The hallucinations. Killing him. Killing yourself. Maybe you belong here.
first girlfriend and waving to your parents at the airport
So much for being the hero. So this time, you make a
combined. Hurts more than the dizzying punch of
different vow. You promise that your slow, depraved
realizing no one will save you. It was a bad, bad claw too,
death will be one that takes him with you. The thought
so the gashes sting when more tears get in. You’re not
keeps you sane, kindles a familiar fire that carries what
gurgling anything coherent, as bile and mucus clog up
you conclude is your short, short life. Because even if
into your speech.
by some miracle you make it out — you’d be return-
You don’t know when he gets off you, but it feels like an eternity before you’re finally left alone, bleeding out and still bound. Makoa’s footsteps don’t seem far off, you crane your head with your remaining strength to get a sideways glance at him approaching the guard by
ing home a changeling, overgrown. You can’t really go back - home won’t ask you what you cry about at night or why you jump at their touch because they think they know. But they don’t know that they were the lucky ones. Home, with their bruises and shallow cuts and made it out alive yet you — you, with hollowed eyes
and too many scars, have already died here.
Something about “too fun to kill” and “keeping him
around” is all you can gather before you embrace the sweet release of blacking out. -You wake up with tight gauze on your vision, lying on dry concrete. It’s still the same room you’ve been trapped in for weeks (...months?). The stained walls greet you as they always had, cold and grey. Throughout the day you find that the meals shoved under your door are halved, and the guards — the guards stare behind you… at some spot above your head when checking. They won’t even look at you.
Coins and Dominos / Spencer Kwok
In the Shadows / Andrea Kuntjoro
2:37am / Amy Pan
25 | Literary Journal
Her porcelain skin, as white as the snow
Bent double, hunched over a computer,
An innocent beauty, one of a kind
Cross-eyed, hacking, we typed through the day,
Not one imperfection from her head to her toe
Worried about the next.
One day she disappeared, where did she go? Her screams filled my ears, but I didn’t mind Her porcelain skin, as white as the snow I took her to a place no one would know An unlit attic, no one could find Not one imperfection from her head to her toe
The break was ending, we had procrastinated, We were running out of time, We were running, and our time’s up No. Lin-Manuel said that first. Time to start over. A war poem! That’s what I’ll write. We trudged through the trenches, Looked up, as the cry rang out,
She squirmed and she fought but with one final blow
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – No. That’s been done,
Blood seeped through the floor as I stood right behind
How to write a poem without it sounding like Owen?
Her porcelain skin, as while as the snow
Time to start again.
A mahogany box, where I shall stow Her lifeless corpse; to be eternally confined Not one imperfection from her head to her toe The cries were drawn out, satisfyingly slow As the years passed, her vigorous beauty never declined Her porcelain skin, as white as the snow Not one imperfection from her head to her toe
Time to write again: no plagiarism. Music: yes! More can always be written about music Softly sweeping through the walls, Listing gently in the halls; I have it! I’ll have something for tomorrow! My English mark will endure through the day! I know that music writing will bring me through! Softly, deftly, music shall surround you! No. That’s been done. I didn’t write Phantom. There’s nothing left to write. As I tiredly stare at the blank screen before me I think only of what we’ve been told so much. The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro Literary Journal scribi.
Focus | 26
The Unsophisticated Truth I’m not like most poets, in fact, I’m not a poet at all. I don’t pay attention to form or rhyme, I’m just trying to have a good time. See what I did there? That’s irony. You probably thought this next line Would rhyme with irony. You think too much. But that’s what I love about this, I don’t think I just write. It expresses better than anything I know and I can swear and not get In trouble for it because it’s art. Of course, that’s not the only Reason I’m doing this. I really need a better English mark.
Serenity / Anna Ho
27 | Literary Journal
Paper chains burning we are a chain of cookie-cutter beings cut from those whose roots are strangling us, their remarks restricting, their desires unjust. you and I must be the same; they’re guaranteeing that we’ll burn together; there’s no point in fleeing. you were made to be a carbon copy, you must be like us because our makers just can’t adjust to what’s before them; they don’t like what they’re seeing. When the time comes, when the match is in sight, don’t think about saving yourself; eventually, you’ll burn, too. disintegrating into blackened ashes, no time for goodbyes, one after another we’ll burn, burn, burn bright holding hands, we’ll stand together ‘til the end, too, for we are only paper-thin, one tear, we die.
Whisp / Rachel Yen
Focus | 28
Last Block of the Day A classroom I sat, a battle I fought. Against a monster we feared to face. She stood behind bars; she struggled with naught. She shattered her cage and vanished in space. Her claws were dull but they knocked us away. Her breath gave forth a paralyzing smell. No one was safe as she picked on her prey. She clutched them tight and devoured them well. As the chimes of defeat rang through my head, “Curses!” I lost this battle once again. My visions all blurred and my thoughts all shed, But at least that way there would be no pain. “Wake up, you fools! Sit up straight in your seats!” Said the monster; now, the battle repeats.
“Missing half” It took me far too long to realize that I do not need my other half in order to be whole.
“Suffocation” Somehow, you made flowers grow in my lungs. Vines creep up my throat. Wildflowers wove their way around my ribcage. They slowly suffocate me. You suffocate me. But, at least now I finally feel beautiful.
Waves / Joey Zhong
29 | Literary Journal
This is not a poem. Poems are for people who think that they can outsmart other people, By throwing some words together that have two meanings. Poems rhyme to sound better. Or they don’t if the writer believes that it’s too mainstream. Poems are supposed to make people cry, laugh, Or get them in touch with their “inner emotions.” Poems either leave people wanting more or wishing for less. Poems are unconventional stories for people who are too lazy to write a book, Written for people who are too lazy to read a book. Poems use big words like “perfidiousness,” that no one understands. Poems end the line whenever they fe El like it, “for effect.” Poems leave people questioning the deeper meaning of their existence, And who they truly are. That is why, This is definitely, Most certainly, One hundred percent, Not a poem.
Focus | 30
Take Off / Matthew Campbell
Meet Poet Hi, Iâ€™m Poet. I like to lull readers in with relatable emotions and big words. I like to sit alone a lot And I often stare at inanimate objects or out the window For inspiration, you know? I create new lines in the middle of Sentences. And, my, punctuation; is Free. Like? A Bird! I have a cat who likes to step aoll ovwer tje keuboard, And an editor who fourgets to proofred everything sometims. I write stories, some as long as the Nile and some as short as This , With a lavish ballpoint whose ink occasionally blots. I use rhetorical questions, have you heard? Hi, Iâ€™m Poet, and my pen is mightier than my sword.
31 | Literary Journal
Mixed Feelings / Joyce Li Who would want to practice piano? There’s too many notes and italiano! rhymes— I’d much rather be tanning on some beach in Mexico. I could’ve been that girl—the pretty one—you know, dressed to Parisian nines and chasing dollar signs— Oh! if only I didn’t have to practice piano, then I wouldn’t be stuck for hours in some studio; I’d be wrangling instead with tangents and cosines, or having adventures like Tintin In the Congo! How did they even come up with portato? Staccato is “short” and legato means “line”— Who cares what’s between? (Only idiots who play piano.) Calando, scherzando, animato, col legno? Why bother with the sons or ways of old Stein? Who’d choose Messiaen over the policemen from Tokyo? Now, if there had been a kinder Princess Turandot, and Giacomo hadn’t created with Pinkerton-Lower-Than-Slime, then, yes, perhaps I would’ve wanted to practice piano. (Just kidding. Still rather be tanning in Mexico.)
Rising Falling / Rachel Yen
Focus | 32
The Piano So symphonic how A collection of wood and strings resounds To strike a common chord Between us all.
!!! !! !!! !! !!! !! !!! !! !!! Anna Ho
Smoke / Joey Zhong
33 | Literary Journal
SPEAK? CAN’T. Though I have so much to say And dream of spending hours with you, Time just tick-tick-ticks away. With each and every passing day I try to forget you and make do, Though I have so much to say. I just can’t seem to find a way To set my sights on someone new; Time just tick-tick-ticks away. The skies are turning despairingly grey So I’ll hide until my time is due Though I have so much to say. All I can do is hope and pray To not slip up and miss my cue; Time just tick-tick-ticks away. I long to send a fanciful bouquet Replete with words to prove your doubts untrue…. Though I have so much to say, Time just tick-tick-ticks away.
Focus | 34
You’re black and white and red and black and gold
I’m sorry I dumped you.
and scraped with grey and peeling wooden chips.
Took advantage of you,
But still you keep your many faces: bold
Pushed you too hard,
(shy) low (high) everything my fingertips
Demanded too much,
could ask of you.
And finally lost you.
And I’m all out of tune
but I can’t hide the truth. I’ve watched the doubt
I hope you’ll accept this elegy As my apology.
so slowly creep my way; and all too soon,
I’ll admit, I don’t have much experience with this.
What do I say?
Oh can’t they all just leave me be? I think
We drifted apart,
(see, you’re a mast and I’m the sail all furled so tightly ‘round you for I’m scared I’d sink if—
We’re still friends – I’m lying, And you know it. I miss you, and how happy we were.
My parents hated you from the beginning,
We taking a break,
You’ve always been my world.
And though you only sing in black and white for me, you’d still steal colours from the night.
Even teachers disapproved. (My friends were jealous, they wanted you, too.) But I never cared. I loved our Friday nights, our lazy Sunday mornings, our daydreams. Together, lying on the grass, soaking up the sun.
From the Greek word chroma, meaning colour.
You welcomed me with open arms, Never abandoned me when I called, And didn’t mind if I fell asleep while We watched TV at midnight. Truth is, I cheated on you. You came to invite me to A walk, A picnic, A movie, And I said ‘no’. I was with someone else, you see. Even as I write this, He’s with me. Homework.
35 | Literary Journal
As the sun and moon lay down Tired, pockets full of dust
Shadows over the earth fall gently
You’re my longed-for grad lounge to my senior year.
And the craters of each fit to one another
You’re the small loan of a million dollars to my toupée.
Thank you for being the Wikipedia to my research article, the Yeezies to my baller fantasies. My life without you, the charger to my 2 percent,
Glass dew on white silver string
would fail to make sense.
Woven with grace and nimbleness
You’re music to my ears,
Welcomes dust, balancing on floating lines
drum to my soul,
Silk that is lenient to the touch
rhythm to my footsteps.
Witness with your eyes
I tried to make my ode to you rhyme,
but couldn’t find the right poetic chime.
Glad you’re always by my side,
The natural essence of creation
my friend— you are bona fide.
Thank the workers small and knowing With eyes that see more than we do but take in less A single purpose to weave a web to create something complex With motions that reveal mastery in the art of threading something as simple as matter
Focus | 36
Acquaintances Halfway through kindergarten, I made an acquaintance.
His hands were clutched around my neck, preventing
He may or may not have been in my class all along.
any speech. I slowly turned my head around, my gaze
I wouldn’t have noticed. I was too busy playing with
meeting a devilish glint in his eyes.
blocks and cars and plastic dinosaurs.
For the next few years, he would show up unan-
One Wednesday morning, I stood by the reading
nounced. At school, at home, anywhere and every-
area, next to the rack of colourful books. Today, I was
where. On Saturdays, he would be on the sidelines,
finally going to talk to Susie. Needless to say, she was
hidden amongst the parents. Yet, every time I missed
the object of my affection. She wasn’t like other girls.
the net, he would be leaning against the goalpost, a
She liked examining rocks instead of playing ‘House’.
wide smirk on his face and his body bent over with
She wore green and blue instead of pink and purple.
laughter. Oh, how my tear ducts never ceased to amaze.
I turned my back on the watchful eyes of The Rainbow Fish and The Berenstain Bears.
Now that I’m older, our relationship has grown more intimate. I’ve long since given up trying to talk to girls
She was sitting at the table reading a book about volca-
and playing soccer. I’ve come to accept his presence, as
noes. I took two big swallows and a few deep breaths.
I accept the presence of the sun and the moon; that he
Before I knew it, I was standing next to her. My mouth
will be there, day in and day out. Each time we meet, he
was definitely open. I swear. My lips, tongue, and teeth
carves a deeper crack into my heart, patiently awaiting
were moving as if to form words…but no sound came.
the day when it crumbles like a tower of Jenga blocks. His name is Regret.
Light Dance / Anthony Mak
One Way / Joyce Li
Focus | 38
Awkward Situations Have you ever been on a casual stroll, just minding your business and not bothering a soul? But suddenly a funny noise comes from your…. butt and then you ask yourself “Oh, why did I eat that last donut?” As the rumbling gas in your stomach starts to grow, you wonder, “Does anyone know?” Just as you think that moment has passed, you look over to your friend, Joe. Yup, he knows. Awkward. Have you ever walked down the hall, smiling about and just thinking about football? Then you look up and see someone who looks like your friend so you scream, wave, jump, and run up to him and give him a playful bump. Then you realize that it wasn’t who you thought it was, so you look at this stranger during this uncomfortable pause. Awkward. Have you ever been so bored, that instead of doing your work you stared blankly at the chalkboard? Then your eyes start to aimlessly wander up and down and you notice that Ryan’s pant zipper is down. You quickly construct a plan to deal with this weird affair, but then you’re not sure how to tell him why you were even looking down there. So you decide to just let it be and watch, but now Ryan has caught you looking at his crotch. Awkward.
39 | Literary Journal
Down by two You’ve been daydreaming for months in advance Goals set so high small-minded people laugh But if you’re on the court, you have a chance Time has flown by; it’s now the second half Down by two but there are miles in between You take a deep breath but nothing changes Why this sport? What does passion even mean? Just like that your grey mind rearranges I play because I love the drills and skills I play because pain is temporary I play in spite of dreaded pre-game chills I play even though loss makes me wary Always let faith be bigger than your fear Never forget you deserve to be here
Deforestation? / Joyce Li
Focus | 40
86 Years Let’s say, we live for about 86 years. That is an elegant
endlessly push up the hillside, only to watch it tumble
sufficiency of time on Earth. Enough time to travel the
its way back down again. As much as we wish to trade
world, create a network of friends and acquaintances
places with that fly on the wall, it’s not going to happen.
who acknowledge and can vouch for our existence, and live to a respectable age – an age where one should be considered wise not elderly. Yet, compared to the age of the earth (let’s be honest, it’s not getting any younger), one’s lifetime is but a grain of sand in an hourglass. 86 years doesn’t seem so long anymore, does it?
What we feel inside – whether it be the heft of anxiety, the smoldering heat of jealousy, or the utter weightlessness of jubilation – manifests itself in thousands of ways. Boiled down to the bare bones of sentiments – a so-called ‘Emotions 101’ – there are two extremes: to laugh and to cry. In our value-driven 21 st Century
Only 86 years to experience the warmth of the sun on
society, laughter and its accompanying happiness is
our face. Only 86 years to enjoy the company of good
praised as the ideal, while all negative emotions such
friends. Only 86 years to make the most of everything
as anger, depression, jealousy, and confusion are sys-
life has to offer – good and bad. A rollercoaster wouldn’t
tematically thrown in a dilapidated warehouse on the
be a rollercoaster if it only went up; at some point it has
outskirts of a city hidden from view. Our laughter is the
to come down. As human beings, we have the distinct
waves that lap against the shore; it stems from super-
pleasure – most, if not all of the time – of having emo-
ficiality, moment-to-moment bright spots in our life.
tions. Elation fills our chest like a bright yellow balloon.
But our tears are the depths of the ocean, where all the
Then the pins and needles of sadness and anger come
weird and wonderful creatures live. To cry is to explore
along to burst it into a thousand pieces. In a melancholic
the roots of human nature, in all its weird and wonder-
or antagonistic state of mind, we often feel burdened
ful forms. To cry is to truly live, even if it is only for
with emotions and feelings. They are the boulder we
A Bugâ€™s Eye View / Anna Ho
Call for Submissions to the 2017 Literary Journal You can submit · Poems, and works of fictions and non-fiction · Photographs and artwork (paintings, sketches, drawings,
How to submit 1. Send us an email at email@example.com or drop by
room 108 with a hard copy.
2. Your email subject line should contain the title(s) of your
piece(s) and your name.
3. If you wish to remain anonymous or to publish under a
pen name, please let us know in the body of your email.
4. Written submissions must be attached as word files (.doc)
and images must be attached as JPEGs.
Rules and Restrictions · Written submissions - 1,500 words maximum · Artwork must be scanned. · Be mindful of appropriate themes and language. · You may submit more than one piece. Submission deadline: Monday, April 3. 2017 We look forward to hearing from you! Check out previous literary journals on the WPGA website under school publications.
Featuring literary and visual work by members of the Senior School Community.