Spring 2018: Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the eighth edition of Voices & Visions, themed “Transitions.”  This theme in particular carries personal resonance for several of our staff members: Beth and Faizah are graduating, our first-year assistant editors, Aviva, Abby, Faith, and Camille, have taken on important roles in the production of this journal, and Professor Cohen, the journal’s founder, is taking on a new position as Director of the Lewis Global Studies Center at Smith. The journal itself is moving with her, and we are all excited to see what changes this transition will bring.

We are also excited to present our spring issue, comprising 15 written works and 14 visuals that express the fear and anticipation which transitions evoke, while celebrating positive aspects of change. Our contributors document physical, mental, and spiritual transitions that shape and define their lives. From the beauty of a receding tide to the complexities of gender, the writers and artists in this issue encourage us to embrace both constancy and uncertainty, heightening our awareness of the present moment while reminding us of the ways in which literature and art– themselves both enduring and evolving–buoy us in times of flux.

We hope these transformative works of art will inspire you to document your own transitions, whatever they may be.  Happy reading!

Sincerely,

Brittany Collins, Editor-In-Chief
Beth Derr, Managing Editor

on behalf of the Voices & Visions editorial staff

A Blur in the Binary

By: Alex Fallon

Agnes Scott College, GA, USA

Yawning—Stretching—standing proud for the day.
Warm sunlight trickles through the window
as condensation fogs the mirror.

Stepping out, a cloud of steam follows like a wedding dress.
They dry their feet on the rough mat,
lean forward,
run the towel to catch the drips that journey down their spine.

Walking to the mirror,
they use the towel to free their face from the glass cage.
Squared jaw, thick brows, the lips of ancient gods.

Following the mirror down with their eyes,
the body is blurred.
It is there, standing—real in every regard.
But no details shine through.

Does today bring a chest of supple mounds,
the nourishment of mankind?
Or would the day be one of endless fields,
sharp angles, and broad lines?

The fog melted down their neck.
Would their voice reach the submarine signals deep beneath the ocean blue?
Or would it fly high with the delicate birds in the clear blue sky?

Bringing their hand up to run through wet hair—
would it flow long, a twirl of braids and intricate patterns?
Or would it be twisted tight into a strong knot under their hat?

Maybe neither.

Maybe today they would exist in the blur.
The blur that permeated the image they faced.
Maybe their hair would flow long and their nails would shine bright–
their chest flat as a frozen lake, their voice a force that could make mountains tremble.

Maybe today they would be neither.
Maybe today they would be both.
And maybe that would be OK.

First appeared in an edition of MR. MA’AM Literary Journal at Emory University.

Dollar Tree

By: Meh Sod Paw

Agnes Scott College, GA, USA

During my first summer in America at the age of 11, I was preoccupied. I spent my days trying to figure out ways to return to the friends whom I had left behind in a refugee camp in Thailand. I missed the summer fun of collecting any water we could find, splashing one another during the Water Festival holidays in my new home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I sat around inside of the apartment, waiting for the monotonous summer days to pass as swiftly as possible. To avoid the emptiness in my life, I agreed to walk with my mother to Dollar Tree, a store that we had recently heard about. As we walked in the searing Georgia heat, she said, disappointed, “Yah-leh-ta-mu-ler-mu-mae-nya,” meaning that she preferred to “travel in front of the sun” to avoid the heat on her face. It bothered her that I woke up late that morning, that we were unable to beat the sunrise. I just hated the summer for arriving before I could make any new friends at school or in the neighborhood.

Walking on the road to Dollar Tree introduced us to the busy life of America. It involved so many cars. In the refugee camp, we had one small road of paved concrete. Cars did not arrive one after another. In the United States, neither my mother nor I knew how to cross the street. I saw the way that my mother navigated her life here. She ran at the traffic light intersection as soon as the walking signals came on, and all I could do was follow fanatically.

After crossing, we encountered our very first nail salon, which surprised my mother. She laughed looking at her hands–the cracks, wrinkles, and lines that mapped the contours of surviving a farmer’s life. From a young age, the life that she knew consisted of packing lunch and going to the rice farm before dawn. Nail enhancement was a weird, unnecessary concept. With those hands, she dragged me away from the wall of compelling advertisements that captivated my young eyes.

Our excursion in the heat made it feel good to walk into Dollar Tree’s two-door entrance and breathe its soothing, cool air. I liked how all of the items knew which section they belonged to. Everything had its own place. I stood in the aisle where the kitchen tools hung neatly in their own spots. Like them, I wanted to be found and placed where I would fit in.  Big bottles of soda on the shelf brought back many etched memories of the small shops in the refugee camp. Each shop in the camp had a cooler filled with ice cubes and cans of soda. I learned to never walk to the cooler, knowing that there were never enough coins in my hand. Once, my mother gave me a cup of soda after she bought a bottle to offer to an important guest. To show appreciation to the people whom we respected, we offered them something more costly, like soda. It was fun for my siblings and me to watch the bubbles rise to the top of the bottle when my mother opened it. I thought about how lucky the kids in the United States must be, since they could see and taste the fizz much more often than I could. Things that were highly priced in a refugee camp only cost a dollar at Dollar Tree.

The very next day, after the first trip to Dollar Tree, my mother asked me to go out again. This time, we invited families in the neighborhood who were also Karen, an ethnic group from Burma. There was the man whom I called Uncle (Pah Tee) and his children. They never refused to come along with us on the walk. Since we were among the earliest refugee newcomers in the area, we did not know anyone who had a car. None of us really understood the new roads and streets, but we enjoyed being able to walk miles without seeing restricted signs like the ones back in the camp. When we all gathered to plan our trip on the street, everyone wanted go to Dollar Tree. No debating was involved. It was the closest store to our neighborhood and cheap enough that everyone could afford something.

Making our way to Dollar Tree as a group served as a time of sharing between the young and old. Pah Tee would mention how much he loved chicken; he cooked it for three months straight when he first arrived in the United States. Now, chicken no longer tasted as good as before, since he had been standing and working long hours at the chicken factory. The elders showed us their painful nails, blue from competing with the machines at the chicken factory. All summer long, their stories kept me busy, so I started worrying less about how lonely I was. All of us were trying to push through the land of unfamiliarity. Despite our dimmest phase of life, we were still walking on the busy street, being overly cautious and running at the crossroads to make it to Dollar Tree. When we got inside, it was a time of satisfaction. Pah Tee admitted that “America was truly the land of plenty.” On every trip to Dollar Tree, I always made sure to get my favorite snack: spicy Cheetos. Eating them made me happy. The spicy taste was the first thing that I found in the U.S. that was not foreign to me.  

We visited Dollar Tree countless times that summer. After many trips, we noticed that the poster advertising flip flops had changed to one with falling snowflakes. By looking at the seasonal goods, we became aware of the special holidays that many Americans celebrated in the United States.

Without our realizing, years really had passed. We started going to stores that sold our cultural food and went to Dollar Tree less often. It became very easy to spot other Burmese on a street. Soon, our Karen neighbors could buy a car and move out of their apartments and into a house. We helped them carry their things out. Later came the day when my family also decided to move.

While my mom never entered the nail salon, Dollar Tree has become just another store. Walking on a street to Dollar Tree turned into staring at it through the window of my car. Each time I spot a Dollar Tree, my memories of navigating through the door of the unknown return. I feel a bit of heartache when I realize that happiness can only be found in Hot Cheetos once in a lifetime. I know now what I didn’t know then: that crossing traffic from the Dollar Tree to home was a one-way trip.

Isis and Osiris

By: Sakina Alia

Bryn Mawr College, PA, USA

all the soldier wanted was a wife

but brideprice

too high without a pot to piss

ISIL (formerly known as ISIS—defamation of a GODDESS)

ISIL knows this

promise                         $$$

                brideprice

.if the soldier will fight.

— but when it is clear he is living to die killing as he kisses suicide he is given a Yazidi “bride”

and another

and another

and another

and another

                                                                                      at what price

and Isis wept

and Isis worked

and Isis wept

and Isis worked

and Isis wept

the Yazidi fight

true brides

Isis brought the dead back to life                            

                                                                  “oh Allah she is your throne”

 

Artist Statement for Isis and Osiris

Born of earth and sky, the Egyptian goddess Isis shows us that strength does not preclude feeling: an essential reminder as women transition into selfhood. Isis is here invoked to reclaim a name that has been sullied, while also serving as a reminder that mourning is a profound part of the process of empowerment, as it is in numbness that we are truly lost. It was up to her to restore the world when everything was ripped to pieces, and this was not a process without profound pain, a pain she was not afraid to show. As for the Yazidi and Kurdish women fighting against ISIL, they are not just tasked with restoring destroyed worlds within and without; many are directly confronting violence as soldiers themselves. The poem “Isis and Osiris” expresses that when tradition is upheld over what is natural and loving, our humanity is more easily degraded and we become numb. When this happens, we must fight like the Yazidi and Kurdish women to reclaim our humanity, because in states of numbness, humans are reduced to bodies, figments, and payments. Women’s transition into selfhood requires a reflection on the violence we have suffered, strength from the past, as well as creative new visions for humanity, as the old, however inspiring, may still keep us in cycles of subservience and domination.
As an artist and scholar, sakina seeks to unite facts with truth so that women’s transition into selfhood can be both fortified and tender. sakina earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College, an M.A. in Religion and Literature from Yale Divinity School’s Institute of Sacred Music, and has been selected as a Mellon Mays, Fulbright, and Yale-China Fellow. As an artist, her work has been featured at the Camra Screening Scholarship Media Festival at the University of Pennsylvania, National Sawdust in Brooklyn, the Yale Off Broadway Theater, Yale Edgewood Gallery, and the Self-Organized Performance Biennial on Art and Politics in Athens, Greece.

Movements of Life

By: Madeleine Olson
Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

Now we are flowing

in between w a v e s of thin satin that dance in the sky,  

        soon floating

like a leaf that

    tumbles

                 in the breeze

landing to sink into the earth     

like baked clay                   

in the blazing sun                

                                        where pinwheels of rays            

        grow big enough to transform into a kaleidoscope of colors at night,

           spreading purple velvet over us thick enough to heat our bodies

so it sparks flames so scarlet

as to catch the eye of a bull

that charges with a racing heart

        that beats

to the march

of the drums

warning us about time

that slips

between

our toes,

washing back to the ocean that provides

the  w a v e s

                     to rock the boat

                that carries us through life,

                           lifted by the  w i n d s that toss

our  s o u l s  back into the sky.

Waiting

By: Callie Swaim-Fox

Smith College, MA, USA

The place where I am living tries to tell the story of my life so far. It does not hold memories.

It does not yet hold memories.

 

But that is okay. I breathe that down and trust that the memories will come.

I do not feel God here. I do not yet feel God here. I trust that she will speak through this place. But, so far, she only speaks through home. What does that mean about God? What does that mean about home?

The story of my life told by this place that barely knows my name sounds like the girls laughing in the hall upstairs while I do homework. It is told through my daily naps and the photos on the wall that spell out “CLE.”

This place does not know me yet. Still, she will tell you that I was the first person to visit her archives this year. “That was all I needed to know,” she says with a smile.

This place has only held me for forty-three days, but she has heard all of my secrets through the window of a psychologist’s office on Main Street. This place tells the story of my brokenness, but she didn’t do any of the breaking.

She did not yet do any of the breaking.

This place does not wipe away my tears, but she does absorb them. She calls to a city far away and tells her to bring tissues. When this place where I am living tells my story, she holds out her hands to show you the tears as they pool in her palms, but Cleveland has already wiped them up.

This place tells you that I don’t sing much, but she is lying. She knows that she is lying because, although she cannot hear my voice, she can feel how much I miss it.

This place where I am living cannot tell my whole story.

This place where I am living cannot yet tell my whole story.

But she waits.

 

We are both waiting.

The Battle with My Other Self

By: Mashiat Hossain

Asian University for Women, Bangladesh

I am not sure whether I am recalling a dream or reality. I don’t know whether to use the past tense or present; I don’t even know whether she has left or still remains. I just remember that, when I first saw her, she reminded me of Greek statues– the ones that my father showed me in children’s encyclopedias. Yes, her skin tone made me feel like she was molded out of bronze. Even her hair had this bronzeish tint.

 

Maybe she was a classical Greek statue given life by Phanes.

 

Yes, it seemed reasonable back then. Why not? I used to fall asleep hearing about Pinocchio, who was made out of wood and could still walk and talk, so why not her? I don’t recall her name. I doubt anyone does. I will take the blame for that; I will take it all. The only thing that I remember is that, when she left, she took away all happiness. When she came back, she was not the same. She was invisible at times, but she was there. I can tell you she was, and she still is.

 

Now, she exists in a different way. She is in me. I don’t know how she got inside, but she is there. Usually, she prefers residing somewhere in the back of my head. No, don’t imagine something like Voldemort growing out of Professor Quirell’s head. It is nothing like that. Instead, it is like the residence of two souls in one body– a tired body, tired of the burden of carrying oxymoronic souls; tired to be the venue of the battle between two powerful entities that having juxtaposing ideas. I call them Yin and Yang. Those two never rest; neither do they give the luxury of rest to my body, engaging in their continuous fight for control over that territory. My body tries its best to support its authentic soul, Yang. It works hard and harder, even when it feels like each and every cell will fall apart from exhaustion and scatter on the ground. Yet, it cannot sleep; it cannot afford to sleep. If it dares to do so, Yin takes over through dreams.

 

All I remember from those dreams is that they depicted blood, a lot of blood. Those dreams were different. I would know when they started, and I would wake up– or, maybe not. The worst part was that I wouldn’t understand whether I was awake or asleep; whether I was in a dream or reality. Later, after what seems like decades, Yang wakes up. It doesn’t take control, no. It merely begins to exist again. My body starts feeling sheer pain, and evil pleasure graces my mind. Yang tries to radiate a bit of sympathy and instantly is mocked by Yin. Whipped by Yin’s cruelty and confined in a space no bigger than a full stop, it becomes hard for Yang to even breathe properly. Hopeless, Yang thinks of giving up. Yang begins removing all of those memories that were treasured and protected, that were all Yang ever had.

That bronze body, that bronzish hair, and all of those good things about her unfold.

A spark strikes Yang; she can’t let go of the memories, and neither can she let Yin corrupt them, for these are hers to treasure.

Yang murmurs, “If I die, who will remember you? ”

Yang holds on…

 

The Sum of Her Parts

By: Charity Kerrigan

Mary Baldwin University, VA, USA

her eyes, gray pools still and smooth

for a second there is fear.

anger. pain. her memories

dance behind the glass betraying

her for a second I can almost see her scars

the shutters snap shut and she

is a steel statue that will never shatter

her voice, kind and always

laughing, a little too loud a little too

often a little too forced, with words

that get stuck in her throat she swallows

them like rough rocks and keeps her

secrets safe for another day

her skin, pale like winter with soft lines

and creases and freckles in clusters and splatters

and trails, she wears the stories that have changed

her smell is like perfume and powder and

coffee from the cup that is always in

her hands, smaller than mine with

knuckles a little too large “from cracking them,”

she said, “so stop cracking yours”

they aren’t beautiful but they don’t need to be

she’s built walls a million miles tall around

her heart, big enough to save the whole world

but too broken to save the ones who matter most

in a million moments and a million ways I am

her eyes her voice her skin her hands her heart

and that’s OK.

Annual

By: Marisca Pichette

Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

And the last step was like a prologue, bringing you out of one experience and into a premature memory– still forming, and quite delicate– balanced on the edge of comprehension. You didn’t see it at first, and maybe that means it didn’t really exist, for what better quantifier do we have for the world than our own perception?

           You’re right. It was never there. Not before you came.

           You walked the border between field and forest, the world a confusion of rock and dry leaves. They crumbled to dust under your feet, releasing muscle memory into the air– necrotic tissue that was ordinary in life, beautiful in death, mundane in decomposition. There’s nothing special about this experience; hasn’t it all happened before? The world unfolds for you, and you nod your head; you’ve seen it all once, twice, a dozen times. You would call it home if you weren’t so naïve.

           It’s almost close enough to be familiar, far enough to register some kind of boundary, some kind of other place. Another world. Facets of imagination stir in it until you come and see for yourself that it’s nothing more than another mile of woods, another messy composition of nature. Whiffs of death stir around your feet.

           Today could just have easily collapsed in rain. But the sun shines softly, playfully, through the tender branches. Buds quiver on their tips, cautious in the spring air, wary and vulnerable as your next thought, giving gently to the breeze. That is your right half. Your left is leaking onto the field, over rubble stonewall fragments and goldenrod– those spindly grasses that you always called tumbleweeds even though Texas is thousands of miles away.

           Are tumbleweeds found in Texas? You never thought to ask or check. It’s one of those things that you just take for granted because to question would be like asking which tree dropped the leaf that you just crushed underfoot.

           Nothing unfolds before you. The path is as straight as the old wall, meandering on the boundary between uninhibited and inhibited light. Half of you is dappled, the other warmed by the sun and chilled by the breeze. You kick away the leaves and bring the experience to a close.

           At the end of the road, the wall ends. You start to climb. It was always a bit of a climb, so subtle that only your eardrums could tell, but now the ground slopes so sharply you brace yourself as if the world has suddenly turned against you. Dry rivers dance in mesmerising swordplay at every other step, parrying and feinting around your toes. You stare for a moment, and then you continue.

           There is hardly ever any time to watch.

           Experience slides away, more vulnerable to gravity than you. It collects at the bottom of the hill, and you rise above it, both breeze and sun picking up to joust around you as you reach the summit. And there it is.

           Rows of pink shoot away from you, shining with a brilliance that you remember but can never imagine. Branches scratch at the sky, and a trilling mixes with the atmosphere. It could be a bird, or an insect whose name you don’t know.

           The peaches have yet to come. They wait, buried somewhere in the depths of the flowers that you now pass between, dragging their soft fragrance into your lungs, the long grass sweeping the leaf dust from your feet. For a moment you are just another blot of colour, a smattering of strokes on the Impressionist’s canvas as you stroll, wondering how you could have ever forgotten the dimensions of this place.

           Once, you heard them call it Turtle Hill. You wonder who gave it the name. It could be a thousand years old.

           Peach blossoms rule over the hill, and below them a court of apple trees tends to their every need, brilliant white against the weak grass, still recovering from winter’s touch. Some are older than you. Many are just beginning, striking out against the air, dealing in possibility. You sink down onto the cold ground.

Dew seeps into your clothes.

           Maybe this is all there is. But we know that isn’t the case.

Maybe this is all there should be. Of course, no. But maybe.

           Maybe this is all you ever wanted to find.

Turtle Women

By: Lydia Solodiuk

Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

All of you have shells scarred
with the ravages of patriarchy
detailing old fights,
some of which you lost.
It was a world full of predators and struggle, so you learned
to live in your shells
Permanently.

Turtle women, you tell me to vomit my words onto the page
while you purse your closed lips.
Turtle women, you ask me to undress so you can fix me my broken body
while you stand there in your buttoned-up white coat and cashmere turtleneck.
Turtle women, you request my whole life story told in numbers and factoids
while you robotically type at your workstation.

You hide your true selves in the name of doing your duty.

In my parent’s living room, hidden in the pages of a dusty scrapbook,
there’s a picture of a bright-faced little girl staring
eye-to-eye with a turtle at the zoo,
separated by a piece of glass.

They teach us young feminists to smash glass ceilings,
but not how to speak through the glass walls that separate
us from you beautiful turtle women

Someday I’d like to walk with you,
to truly know you and understand the scars that roughen your shells and toughen your hearts.
But now I’ll just observe from the other side of the glass,

in admiration of beauty
and fierceness.

Little Raindrop

By: Alice Mawi

Agnes Scott College, GA, USA

“Pang…Pang…Pang…”

The sound of raindrops banging on my metal roof startles me. It seems like they are trying to get inside of my house for shelter like someone looking for a safe place to hide from a mad dog. I simply ignore them, and soon the pitter-patter sounds fade from my consciousness. The rainy season in Myanmar has always been like this. Some kids may sing, “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…,” but I sing, “Rain, rain, come! As long as you don’t get inside my house…”

When it rains, I like to press my face against the cold window and look at the pond behind my house. The raindrops that fall into the pond look joyous, unlike the angry raindrops on my roof. From the frame of my window, I can see those playful little raindrops descending from a vast sky, mirthfully playing a ‘run and catch’ game with the lotus leaves.

In the pond, there is a particular leaf with a heart shape that is trying to catch those raindrops. It has a soft curve resembling a motherly smile. As each raindrop lands on its surface, it bounces back off, and the lotus leaf patiently bends her stem while touching the ripples as if giving a friendly kiss. The leaf rises. Those mischievous raindrops could not have imagined what a happy day it was for the lotus leaf.

“Drummmm…DUMM!!!”

The loud thunder shatters my serene moment.

I bend my head towards the sound, but the only thing I see is the white light tearing the sky apart with sudden speed. Are thunder and the lighting bullying the raindrops that tried to get inside my house? Poor raindrops!

***

In the evening, the rain starts drizzling, now sounding like, “plop, plop, plop…,” as it falls into the pond. “Croak…Croak…Croak…” I hear a frog adding to the chaos.

When the rain comes to a stop, I go over to the pond. There is a crystal rain drop lying on a leaf, cozy like a baby held by its mother’s hands. The weight of the raindrop makes the fragile lotus leaf bend; she is trying her best to protect the raindrop from falling into the pond. The raindrop does not know how much trouble it has given her. The leaf never voices a single word. Rather, she watches over the raindrop with her caring smile. The raindrop has no worries. It trusts this place on which it landed, even though the leaf’s edge marks uncertainty.

When the breeze flicks the leaf, the raindrop starts wobbling. The leaf jiggles to keep the raindrop from falling, gently dancing like a mother does when singing a crying baby to sleep.

Oh Raindrop! Oh Raindrop!

        As the leaf offers protection to the raindrop, my roof and windows protect me. From the rain, thunder, lightning, and cold, I am safe. I turn and look around my house, relieved to see that there are no punctured holes in my roof or windows. I turn my body back to the raindrop, saying, “What a lucky raindrop you are to fall onto this lotus leaf.” If the raindrop had fallen onto different leaves, or on the soil, it would have dissolved into them and become invisible. Unlike the soil and leaves, which absorb water, the lotus leaf resists water and allows the raindrop to hold its original shape: a mother’s blind love for her child’s imperfections.

Oh Raindrop! Oh Raindrop!

“Why did you drop from the sky, and gently lay yourself on the leaf? You sleep like you will be here forever.”

But, it doesn’t know. In a few seconds, the raindrop will have to be separated from the lotus leaf, like a mother has to leave her child one day. It is time for the little raindrop to experience how life can bring terrible things. I bend down and put my face to it, taking one last look before I tap the lotus leaf with my forefinger.

Oh Raindrop! Oh Raindrop!

As the little raindrop rolls off the palm of the leaf, I expect it to fall into the water immediately. Instead, the raindrop holds onto the edge– tenderly, as if begging the leaf not to let go. The lotus leaf holds on too. But what can they do? The force of life is stronger than their bond.

The leaf is a bit shaky from the weight of the hanging raindrop, like a sobbing mom cupping her face with both of her hands. Looking at them, I feel that holding onto each other is like walking on a slippery road, while letting go is like sliding on a slippery road. The lotus leaf tilts its stem towards the water and drops the raindrop into the pond with a ‘plop.’ A mother closing her eyes to let her teardrops roll away. The raindrop becomes a ripple. The raindrop is on its own, now.

The raindrop must flow with the current, become a lake, become a river, become an ocean, and go back to the sky.

Oh Raindrop… Oh Raindrop…

I miss my mom’s palms stroking my hair.    

Of the E’s in Life

By: Nanjiba Zahin

Asian University for Women, Bangladesh

Within a world of your own making, you cannot stop growing. It should be unthinkable to be negligent towards any Experience and any Emotions that you go through, for all of them make you who you really are and will help you in the path of discovering yourself. Downplaying your emotions and experiences cannot lead to an understanding of self or, beyond that, an understanding of life. Owning them, instead, translates into a kind of proprietorship and can define how much you know yourself, as well as how you want the world to view you. These emotions that you have, and every memory you created of, from, and for them, tell your story– which you author. So own them. They are you. They speak of you as you speak of them.

Every wracking cry, with the loss of someone from life and earth, accompanied by grief and pain and clouds of sadness is you.

Your earthy smile, with pressed lips or not, the styling of which is yours only, is you.

Your raw laughter, loud and weird, oozing happiness and moments of joy, is you.

Your blazing anger when it doesn’t feel right, when you witness a wrong-doing, when you cannot fathom how something like that could possibly happen– that feeling of heat and anger is you.

And feelings of simple nothingness, when, simply put, you feel emotionless and numb– you feel nothing… that is also you.

The hundreds of other feelings that you encounter are valid in their own way. They are results of our experiences and our ways of life. How you ensure your emotional wellbeing and approach what you want to express depends solely on your interpretations of what life has to offer you. Connecting yourself to the warmth, tenderness, energy, and vibe of each emotion can make you realize what you are, who you are, and how you are you. Stop and consider that. It’s a cycle, really; your experiences turn to emotions, and your emotions turn to experiences. That’s natural, but it requires work to feel as though these emotions and experiences are yours.

So, as you make memories because of and for your emotions, jump into your experiences. Fully realizing the depth and length of your experience is hard work, but it can also be extremely easy. It takes inquisitiveness and interest; approachability; courage. It takes the feeling of being a free soul with an open mind, ready to learn and grow through experience.

 

Embrace your mind and memories; embellish your soul, and see how it all fits.

 

You and I? We define our lives and the experiences and emotions that come out of it.

Spirare

By: Tatiana de Villeneuve

Smith College, MA, USA

When things are illuminated, life is beautiful. Luminosity is, indeed, a wonderful thing. You are anchored in your body, and that body is easy to please. You only have to honor the integrity of your senses. The bad smells bad, and the good is to be luxuriated in. You feel your senses acutely and realize that you were blessed with them because they make you into a deep participant in life. Others have their senses, too, and you share yours with them. Social intercourse is your way into earthly heaven. This is a difficult endeavor for some, and it makes peace of mind seem far from your grasp. So here’s to still fighting for that light. Some harder than others, it’s all part of what makes us different.

I often wonder if other people sit around thinking about what other people do. I often do. That sentence is as complicated as the thought process itself. I wonder if other people feel inexplicably distanced from everyone else, or even from themselves. It’s weird to think that you are a stranger to yourself, and yet that describes me. My feelings are mostly “fake news,” as Anna Akana has said on Youtube. It makes me unsure of what instinct to trust. Furthermore every human interaction is mediated by what the “norm” is and let’s be honest, most of us don’t fit the norm. So how do we know when we have actually connected, reached in and messed up someone else’s insides? Some philosopher, that I can’t remember the name of, said that the scariest discovery one makes is the discovery of the other, another just as complicated and capable. It is the most humbling discovery and yet it’s scary as shit. Basically… hell is other people.

So let’s get poetic for a minute, shall we?

Let me spew some feels…

Another breath taken is another chapter written in your book. You’ve been slapped in the face by rejection; tickled by success; whirled through the washing machine by indecision.

You have taken leaps of faith, only to fall a tad bit short and plummet into the soft, waiting darkness. People tell you: “You’re one year closer to your happy ending, buddy!”

Look around. Let all the destruction, all the grief, the sheer hopelessness in the world shatter your heart into a million crimson shards. Let that little beggar girl on the street make you want to crawl into bed and never go out again. You sit there with a cigarette in hand, trying to smoke this pain out. You look deep into her eyes, wondering how different they are from yours.

Let your tears soak your soul until you’re nothing but a tangled mess of nerves and veins and trembling sobs. Somehow sorrow and despair is so inviting; let sadness pull you into its warm, welcoming embrace and whisper sweet nothings in your ear.

Then glance up, and look at the sky. Instead of giving up on this dreadful race, the sun struggles to break through the horizon every damn day, just so we don’t cease to exist. That little beggar girl has a smile even more radiant than the sun. Feel the faint stirrings of hope yet?

Right about this time, pick up your phone and give happiness a quick missed call. Go hug anyone who makes you want to keep breathing. Drink a glass of reasonably strong alcohol, and try to taste the weightlessness. Feel it trickling through your throat and sprinkling your insides with life. Smile so hard that your lips go numb. Kiss another so much that you become one.

Just get off your bed and breathe in your beautifully flawed existence. If it’s a new day, you might as well make it happy.

 At the end of the day, we are all just clumps of flesh filled with an endless pit of complicated feelings.  I’m learning to not keep it all bottled up and just speak my damn mind. Experience all the bad and the good there is to feel. Never be afraid of being vulnerable.

Peaches & Mangoes

By: Dorrit Corwin

Marlborough School, CA, USA

 

Where Charlie Stevens came from, it was always fall or summer. In autumn, he would rake leaves from the rigid Southern roots of the oak out front. In summer, he would watch them wallow in heavy wind until dusk swept them out of sight. Sometimes he’d walk the dog or ride his bike into town, the music of foreign places and better times filling a void they entered the small holes in the sides of his ovular skull and replaced the church bells that he could never hear.

He never quite belonged there, but it never occurred to him to leave. He’d marry a Southern Belle who might be his high school sweetheart or Homecoming Queen— some bullshit of the sort that was written on cheap picture frames and scrawled across Hallmark cards. They’d have three children, though he didn’t like to plan— two boys, who would learn chivalry and sports from Charlie, and one girl, who would learn cooking and courtship from Cassie. They’d all be named with matching initials so the monogrammed bath towels could never be out of place (like he always was), and they’d walk to the same bus stop that Charlie walked to with his same vacant stare and his same piercing blue eyes that told you there was much more to his story than he wanted to share.

        This wasn’t what he wanted, but it would have to do. His paintbrush was his ammunition to shoot his canvas full of fluid. They’d vacation by the seaside that would portray the same palette as his paint, and his Eckelburg irises of aquamarine would get swept up in sea glass and leave with the riptide. His mundane Daisy, eyes green with envy, would crave his papers of the same stain. He’d take his dad’s old job accounting, and his watercolor passion would fade out of sight like the waning summer sun.

        One day he met a stranger unfamiliar with the smoothly paved roads that always looked and smelled of tangerines. Her comfort food was sushi. Instead of Dalmatians, she praised donkeys. She wore everything on her sleeve and had never dressed in Sunday best, never driven through fields of green where state lines bled into places where the people didn’t know who they were any more than he or she did.

        He wasn’t quite sure who he was, though he did put on a compelling show of who he was not. He was blind to his imperfections, and when his classmates asked what was in his ears, he’d say a podcast from his pastor about painting pillars, burning bridges, and coloring inside of the lines.

        He never cared for the pillars of his house. They were too white, too rigid, too expected, and not reliable enough to support the weight of the sorrows contained inside of their brick walls. Cobblestones were far too bumpy for his troubled, broken soul, so he’d take the rural path to school before anyone woke. He’d sit down by the banks of the swampy river thinking about that strange girl he met one day at the corner store.  

        She wasn’t quiet and was hardly polite, unlike his other suitors. When he eyed her by the produce, she was picking up peaches by the dozen and clutching Bertha Mason’s twisted fate to her mountainous chest. She was much more like Jane in terms of intuition and beliefs, but certainly not as plain or proper. Charlie stared as though she was an alien, his jaw agape. She wasn’t beautiful— or at least not according to the standards etched into his frontal lobe. Her eyes looked like the smell of the paved roads that led to nowhere, except that her tangerines were speckled with tints of brown and green. She brushed his cheek gingerly to close his mouth in fear that flies would swarm inside and infest his already rotting heart.

        He never saw her again. But that didn’t stop him from pondering alternate realities in which he cooked her dinner and she held doors open for the children whom he never wanted. They would share politically charged badinage over dinner and wine, and never agree but never hold grudges. He would get the hell out of the maze of flags, where stars formed crosses instead of spangled rectangles, and go to Paris or Los Angeles or even Zanzibar. There would be nothing he wouldn’t do for a girl he’d never met, and he’d wander all over as long as no one knew his name.

        None of it made sense, but not much did those days— like the saying “respect your elders.” His dad was gone with a flask in a flash of lightning when he was five and figuring out how to grow up. His mom’s new companion brought home big bucks but kept Charlie up at night with his mother’s whimpers shed the coming dawn into his morning cup of tea. And his mother just stood there, not saying a word because, where he came from, tongues stayed tied; it was “better that way.”

        Conflict is to be avoided. No boy is to be raised without a father. Always hold the door. Always wear a collar. Etcetera, exhaustion, exhaling deeply, Charlie had broken each and every promise, and each and every rule–or so he thought. It was all his fault, he thought. He’d never be satisfactory to anyone broken enough to heal his open wounds, like the girl from the corner store.

        He knew exactly where it rested and began tightening his tie, and as its chilled and wicked barrel breathed softly down his neck, he began thinking of other barrels. Of peaches and mangoes and leaves caked in dust, tangerine highways and roads radiating rust. So he picked up his paintbrush and reached for the green like the oak in summertime where the blue jays found light. Green fields, once indigo, turned congested and alive into a cityscape skyline peppered with posters of eyes.