Fall 2017: A Letter from the Editors


Dear Readers,

Welcome to the seventh edition of the Voices & Visions Literary Journal, themed “Environments.” It is an exciting time for our journal; in the last year, we expanded our submission pool to include alumnae who attended women’s educational institutions worldwide.  In addition, we reached readers in 111 countries– over half of the world– with the help of publicity from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem (Smith College ‘56), and Ms. magazine, the first mainstream feminist magazine produced in the United States.

As our readership grows, so does our editorial staff.  We are thrilled to welcome three Smith College first-years to our team: Aviva Green, Abby Westgate, and STRIDE student Faith de Castro.  Past Voices & Visions contributor Faizah Aziz Aditya, a senior at the Asian University for Women, located in Bangladesh, also joins our staff as an international assistant editor.

It is a privilege to not only share the works of women around the world, but to work with a growing team of women who make this publication possible.  This fall, our staff found “Environments” a uniquely interdisciplinary theme, connecting politics, landscape studies, and stewardship with issues of home, change, and travel.  Contributors’ works inspired us to think of the ways in which our surroundings, familiar or new, are ever-evolving– constructed by us, the people who comprise them. They are fluid rather than static; vulnerable more than dependable. It is our responsibility to honor their strength and their fragility– to use our voices and execute our visions for the environments in which we live.

But what is an environment? Is it physical? Emotional? What of our communities exist apart from us? And what of them are projections of our own internality?

This issue offers twenty-one written and visual works that interpret, observe, and critique that which surrounds. Our spring issue, which you can submit work for here, will concern transitions.

Happy reading!


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

on behalf of the Voices & Visions editorial staff


By: Sophia Giattina

Smith College, Massachusetts USA

*Salmon fast during the entirety of the annual salmon run, never questioning their Darwinian instincts, nor their own mortality, as they rush to spawn on the graveled river beaches.

Steam coats my pebbled floor.
streaming river water,
your scent ripples off me,
aa                            down my creamy linens.

Slowly                 I run my hands along the dip you left in bed last night
and I remember what you taste like,
up your back spilling kisses, those
rosy tinges scaling down your upturned belly
like riptide. You are gorgeous. I

was gorging
before slow nursing, silver sips,
suckling your finger tips –

I will be
aa           the one to die

Kept                      upstream, a piece of the churning,
a ritual burning
through flesh, teething
into curdled fat, unstrung muscle

Watch over
my milky skin, hung damply across bloated sand, those loose
baby sacs

A Vision of Venus

By: Natalia Perkins

Smith College, Massachusetts USA


eyes with the twinkling

of a kindling-kind-of-evening– her palm

churning your embers–She

is the stem you rub

between your thumb

and finger to squeeze

that sweet serum from. She

will bloom and bloom again

weaving around stones, up

through the spaces between

your toes

in the barefooted months. She

is crushed clove

buds in the alcove

of a neck, and dried fruit:

so plump and ripe she slumped

to the earth, sipping sunbeams

like champagne. moonlight beckons

celestial shifts, the waves round

her ragged edges and roll away to reveal

The Woman, as natural and glowing

as a pearl, a miniature moon

for our dim world.

The Chaibandi

By: Harika Bommana

Hollins University, Virginia USA

The sun projects its powerful rays; the proud God can never conceal his strength. Drops of sweat flow down the necks of brown men, hitting the ignoble road made for loathing, taunting the struggle and hardship of their small but honorable Dukhan.

The aroma of potato and onion-stuffed irani samosas fills the air, sizzling its way from a rusty old pan of boiling oil. When the samosas reach a golden brown, the men crunch into their skins, satisfying their taste buds as they mourn to the richness of a cheap taste that echoes their desi souls.

Piquant spices and herbs fill the air like a mystical spell, enhancing the dancing cinnamon, dominating black leaves in a mud pot like the dramatic shows once performed for ancient rulers. The old chaiwala showcases one of his many talents by pouring the masala tea from one glass to another as he sings ‘chai’ like the karnatic raghas.

The rusty metal box, clinging to every century-old wire within, plays romantic Hindi songs as giggling girls play and sing along in their school dresses, hair neatly combed and oiled, tied in two braids with red ribbons. The chaiwala’s wrinkled wife feels nostalgic as she watches them through her wooden window, smiling and humming to herself as she chops vegetables in a steel plate.

At this moment–this very moment–my heart is overwhelmed with pride. Looking at the sky and everything around me, my foot lands on this sacred ground, and I have never felt richer.

I am home.

Dear Beautiful Strong Women

By Rakhshinda Shakir

Asian University for Women, Bangladesh

Dear beautiful strong women!
Just in case
No one has reminded you
In a short while
Of how beautiful you are,
Let me please
Describe you
Your beauty!

Did anyone ever
Tell you that
For beautiful things to happen
On this zigzag path of hindrances
In the so-called MEN’S world
You have to go through some
Unexpected behavior?
By now,
If you have decided
To stay strong,
I am deadly sure
You are well aware of
How, where, when and whom
You must fiercely face!

Humiliation, of course,
Is never gonna leave
Your beautiful mental sky
The agony is fathomable
You gotta adapt to that
So-called hurt and heartbreak
And give no damn to
Those causing it.

Does not come with ease
But if you have come this far
I want to remind you:
Without your decisions,
We are never gonna be
Out of this men’s world.

Let me tell you
The word woman is
Not any different than
That of civilized!
You have to help me
Teach the men
How to be civilized.

You have to help me
Teach the men
That your honor does not lie
in some of your body parts
You have to help me teach the men
You are more than just what you wear
We have to keep being strong
And tell the men what is
strong is beautiful
as we women are.

So tell the men
This is no time
To remain quiet
But to transform the world
Into a better place to live
By teaching the men


By: Emily Powers Ender

Smith College, Massachusetts, USA (alum)

Imagine that you are driving down a road in rural Tennessee. The baby sleeps feverishly in the back seat, but that’s no matter – you’ll be home before she wakes. You wind down the mountain and emerge in farm country, the slim fingers of the Cumberlands hedged around you. You know that you must have passed into northern Alabama at some point, but no sign welcomed you; this winding country road did not merit the effort. The late-afternoon September sun peeks through heavy trees, and the ever-present mountains follow alongside you at a distance.

You’d think that it would be beautiful, but it isn’t. It’s just road. Mile after mile with nowhere to turn around, no driveway, no intersection, just road. And it goes on. From nowhere to nowhere, with nothing in between. The dust clings to the windshield, and through it you notice that the fields look tired—beaten down, perhaps, by the heat. The mountains rise like pimples out of the earth. You cross the bridge over a small river named after some venomous snake. It smells. You pick up a railroad track running parallel to the highway and believe that you would give your eye teeth for a gravel driveway to turn around in.

You find the town that you were hoping for – a settlement large enough to have merited a place on the signpost thirty miles back in Tennessee. Or so you thought. It consists of one main street and no lights; its only noticeable intersection is at the railroad, where cars are lined up four deep; the train has caught up to you. Where did those cars come from, and where might they be going? Not here. The obligatory “antique” (that is, junk) shop and beauty salon are closed for the day. Only the bar is open, Confederate battle flags adorning its windows, its walls weathered in a way that resembles, you imagine, the faces of its clientele.

Can this be America?

Can this be the same country that is home to one of the world’s largest cities, where, in any given neighborhood, you might hear two dozen languages spoken—including the native tongue of your grandfather, whose immigrant parents knew no English but saw that their son went to law school? Where a beneficent deity presides over a sprawling metropolis and begs to be sent your poor, your tired, your huddled masses?

Would she welcome the poor and tired masses who dwell in defiant ruin here? This place could not be farther from that other, with its immigrant dreams, its museums and theaters, its reams of educated people. Even the harshest realities seem worlds apart from where you sit. In your progressive little soul (bless your heart), you will believe that you have died and gone to Hell.

Your heart sinks as you realize that neither Google nor Siri can quickly recognize where you are, but can you blame them? You scarcely know yourself. At last, your iPhone informs you that the quickest way home is back the way you came, back across the stagnant river, back past the tired farms and pustule-shaped hills, over the endless road.

The only way out is back.

What America did you have, Walt Whitman? There is no resolution to the cognitive dissonance; this place cannot be the same country that you know. You never left your car; crossed one small, stinking river by way of a natural landmark; met no one; traversed no border that you could perceive, yet you entered a foreign land. You are now a stranger in hostile territory, which is still, somehow, your native country.

Your palms sweat as you grip the wheel and realize that your head has hurt for the entirety of this drive; the baby stirs, fusses, goes back to sleep. You cross over the Tennessee border – Tennessee is more generous with its signage – and at the quarry are met with a confusion of white dust and shifting mounds, rusty elevators and railroad tracks. From this side, you can see how the road continues back up into the mountains. From the other side, coming at it level and amid the farms, you had slammed on your brakes in a panic, believing that you had reached the end of the road.

Time did not change the land in your absence. You’d thought that it would be beautiful, but it isn’t. Your sojourn into the wilderness has left you puzzled and drained – drained like this land, with its tired fields and blemishes for hills, its huddled masses who want nothing to do with you or that other America.

Yet you can’t quite bring yourself to see the strangers who inhabit this place as beasts of a breed far different from your own; you have nothing in common—you scarcely speak the same language, and it seems that there is more that divides than unites you—but the divorce is not yet final and there is peace in the thought. Your heart and vehicle begin to ascend; you have reached the mountain road shaded by a wealth of trees blocking out everything around you but the rising pavement—the beautiful, winding road that leads to civilization, to home, to somewhere.

Then it comes to you. The source of the peace. Perhaps it was the bend in the road but, in any case, you know now how the contradiction is to be resolved. You smile at its simplicity, its sheer impossibility. The baby stirs, opening her wide, refreshed eyes to meet yours in the rear-view mirror. All shall be well:

You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart.

Far Away Summer

By: Zoe Howard

Agnes Scott College, Georgia USA

When we were growing up, we dug and filled a pond in the woods behind our house. In the summertime, after lunch on those hot Southern days, we pulled on our bathing suits and ran barefoot through clumps of poison ivy, moss, ferns, touch-me-nots, before throwing ourselves from the dry bank into the brown water. If we were quiet and still, we could watch shiny black water beetles scuttling across the water, stitching it together with their bodies. We moved again, splashing water up towards the sky to see how its droplets snatched fragments of afternoon sunlight. When our fingers and toes were soft, pruney from hours of play, we climbed out of the water and up to the house, letting the breeze dry our wet bodies. Changing out of our bathing suits and into our play clothes, we leapt off the back porch into a cargo net that our grandparents suspended between the house and two trees. We pretended that we were jumping out of airplanes until it got dark outside—when the lightning bugs came out, and the frogs started to hum, and Mama gave us glass jars so we could catch lightning bugs until our sweaty palms smelled sweet like their secretion. Then we went inside to eat dinner, and after that we sat on the back porch rocking back and forth in our chairs with a lamp shining from a nearby table. It was there that we breathed in the sweet scent of pine trees and flowers and grass, all mixed up with the smell of a crisp Appalachian chill. Mama and Daddy played bluegrass and folk songs on their guitar and mandolin, and we sang songs about Darcy Farrow, and picking apples, and coats of many colors. I miss those days. I miss the pond and the house and the music. Sometimes I forget that I’m grown up, that the pond dried up years ago, that my family sold the house. I think that I can go back there, to those long summer days when we were growing up. But then I remember. I have nothing but memories to take me home.

Silence is Beautiful

By: Neha Gauchan

Asian University for Women, Bangladesh


I quest for a known face amidst all of the unknown stares and looks. My eyes search through the crowd expecting you to see me, but for you I was only a sheet of paper that you randomly flipped over. We have pinned our memories into these chapters, moving from a beautiful rainbow to shades of grey. Black and white as our days are, I seek refuge in your heart.

You move me gently without saying a word. We stare at each other and do not talk. Words don’t come easily. Silence cuts the only string that once connected our hearts. In that silence, I feel your presence and understand how beautiful you are– and were– to me.

Your face, which was once so close, is now a distant object. An object at which I can only look and admire. You came like a spark and destroyed my universe.

I struggle to speak in the way that I struggle to write this piece of writing– trying out words that fit with my emotions, trying hard not to let this miracle disappear. I agree that, most of the time, these feelings are all or nothing. At times, I feel everything. I understand that the emotional attachment that was once so profound was with you. Other times, I feel nothing. Feeling “nothing” is so different. No bubbling of happiness, anger, hatred, or anxiousness. Nothing at all.

The little curve that I try to bring upon my face is fake, I say. Maybe one day I will realize that you were never meant for me. Maybe this day is too near, or too far. For now I am just happy with the absence of words


which always gives me company,


forever beautiful.

Silently Selected or Endings

By: Marisca Pichette

Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts USA



           I walked through shadow after shadow, counting the trees by the neat lines that they dropped in my path: alternating beams of grey and gold, steadily lengthening as the sun plunged low into their ranks. There was hardly any sound that evening, save for my own breathing and the tireless murmur of the waves. I found myself alone on a cool beach, walking on ocean-worn stones spotted with ageing salt and kelp. In turns they appeared like shining jewels or dull rocks, depending on whether the sun or tree-shadow caught them first.

It was a beautiful night, after a successful day. But I wasn’t happy. Looking out along the beach, catching the slight movement of other people meandering in the distance, I felt only tired. I’d been congratulated by a hundred voices, caroused with a dozen friends, consumed a few too many beers…  I’d done everything I’d planned to do, but I was not happy.

The morning came, and the moon hid his face in the pale clouds. Undressing in the crisp morning air, I played scenes from the future through my mind, imagining a day to remember.  In my mind, I told a joke and imagined his response.

I wrote all day, pouring out the thoughts that huddled in the corners of my distracted mind. I could not stop as he drew near; I could not focus on anything else. Closeted in my small beach house with only a bedroom and kitchen, I waited for time to take the hours away.

He came to me from the West like the rising moon overcomes the sun. I saw him walking up the beach, carrying the old suitcase that he always held onto, no matter how many times I told him to trash it. I met him outside of my little two-room house, and he smiled. His teeth were pale in the light of the rising dusk.

Down to the gentle waves he washed me. I remember rolling up the cuffs of our jeans and wading in the chilly water. We were both covered in goosebumps that night; I felt them on his forearms when we touched.

As the tide seeped out, we found a wide, flat rock and lay down on it. He told me about the moon. It was a waxing gibbous, gently rising over our heads, pale face showing in the settling night. I remember the way his voice mixed with the whispers of the water, ebbing and flowing with the waves. I closed my eyes and listened as hard as I could, imagining this moment lasting forever.

“Are you happy?” he asked.

I looked up at the moon’s shy face, lightly veiled by a wisp of cloud. His arm lay across my chest, his hand over my heart. He always loved to feel the beating of my heart. He said that it made him feel safe.

The clouds were gone from the moon when I finally thought to respond, but it was too late. His face was slack and peaceful, his breathing as measured as the waves. Gently, I stroked his cheek.

“Yes,” I said to the silent air. “I’m happy.”


        “What are you looking at?” I asked him in the morning.

He stared out across the cold waves, stubble blurring the cut of his jaw. Grey eyes reflected the hazy light; his sandy hair was damp from the fog. He didn’t spare me a glance when he replied, voice low and measured like the waves.

“The world.”

I laughed. “The world?”

He didn’t smile back like I thought he would. Instead he just looked at me with those stormy eyes.

“It’s out there, Walt. It’s not here.” He turned back to face the waves, eyes narrowing. I heard the bitterness in his voice, usually so soft. “Nothing’s here.”

Taken aback, I swallowed, working through my confusion. I saw the precipice ahead, yawning wide with possibility.

“You want to go?” Those were the hardest words to say.

Somehow sensing my fear, he blinked, truly looking at me for the first time. “Go? Well, I mean—yeah. But not without you. I want you to come with me.”

My heart quickened. The air was suddenly filled with a subtle electric charge, seeping out of the morning fog. “Where?”

He reached out and took my hand; his palm was rough and calloused, while mine was soft and smooth. We were like the rocky beach and the soft waves, meeting along the surf, blending together before parting.

I should have known then that the tide would recede.

When I searched for his gaze, it was turned back out to sea, grey eyes reflecting the shrouded sunlight. “Europe,” he murmured.

He spoke as if he could see the continent already, just standing there on that rocky beach, watching the sun rise over the waves. And when I looked into his eyes, I believed it was true. I saw Europe too. I saw the times that we would have. I saw us together, and I smiled.

“Sing me something,” he said abruptly, not turning his gaze from the horizon.

Obediently, I took up my guitar from the salt-stained Adirondack chair by the front door. He sat down on the ground, eyes narrowed against the sun’s ever-brightening light.

“One of the originals,” he said.

I sat down beside him and began to play. When I sang, he hummed along in a deep baritone. That day we watched the sun rise over the Atlantic for the last time.


        Last, I put on my socks. Closing the suitcase, locking the door, I said goodbye to that little beach house. I handed the deed to a friend of mine. In two years, that house—and all of the trees around it—would be bulldozed to make way for multimillion-dollar vacation homes.

I never went back to that beach.

We decided to go by plane. I had some savings, and he had a plan. We met at the airport just as the sun was setting; our flight was a late one. Sitting together outside of a Dunkin Donuts, sipping blueberry coffee, I started to wonder if this was the right thing to do. I looked at him. We’d only been together for three months.

“Are you sure about this?” I asked impulsively, setting down my cup.

He was watching the people walking past with a lively, anticipatory expression on his face. At my question, he frowned and turned to me, the excitement fading.

“Sure about what?”

“Going away. Just dropping everything.”

Casually, he checked his watch. “Walt, our plane’s in twenty minutes. It’s a little late to be second-guessing.”

“I know—it’s just…” I trailed off, staring at him. He raised his eyebrows, and I couldn’t help but smile.

“So?” he asked, lips quirked into a lopsided grin. “Where do you want to go first?”

“First?” I shook my head. “You’re insane.”

He turned back to watch the people passing by, the stupid grin subdued into a smile. “I know I am. I want to see Amsterdam, or Berlin.”

“Our flight is to Heathrow.”

He bobbed his head distractedly. “Yeah. That’s just a place to start. Then we can go to Paris and Milan. Beijing. Don’t you want to see Dubai? Oh, and we’re definitely going to Moscow later in the season.”

“Season?” I blurted. “Whoa, there. I don’t have that much saved. How long were you planning this vacation to last?”

“Vacation?” He blinked, turning back to look at me. “This isn’t a vacation, Walt. This is living.”

We saw London first. Straight off of the plane into the driving rain, we called a cab that took us into the city. I remember a wild weekend of pubs, walking, taking pictures, eating chips out of newspaper and getting lost on the way back each night. Then we drove into the country. We collected fossils at Lyme Regis, took the Oldenburg to Lundy. Hiking across the island in a single day, I gathered bones and feathers, and played my guitar at the tavern that night. Then it was back to Bridport, and up to Scotland.

It was hard to keep up at times. He moved with single-minded vigour, sweeping into an area, seeing all there was to see, then leaving before we’d had time to fully adjust to our surroundings. I had hardly registered that we were in the UK before we were flying to Paris, and suddenly everything was in French. I played guitar on the bank of the Seine, and he took pictures. His camera captured more than my eyes could take in, at the speed we were moving. Always, he was taking pictures. A few times I asked stranger to take one of the both of us, but he was never satisfied with the result. He wanted the sights—only the sights—while I longed for the memories. In this way, we sped through France.

Spain came next—nights full of wine and sweat and stars. Though we didn’t stay long, I saw many couples like us. He wanted to keep going, so we found ourselves in Germany. We walked the streets filled with pensive men, pensive writers, pensive onlookers. Their thoughtfulness rubbed off on me, and I carried it to Moscow, and Beijing, and Shanghai. We never went to Dubai, but instead to Chennai, Mumbai, and Singapore.

I ceased to watch the sights. Instead, I beheld my friend. I watched him smile at the sky; I watched him laugh at the clouds; I watched him talk about the hills. I watched him watch other men, other places, other sights. I watched him look at everything—everything but me.

It began to dawn on me that I was not travelling with a man who loved me as I loved him. The reality was so cold, so pure and clear— it was like a measured incision. I watched the cut be made, and I felt the pain, but then the anaesthetic took effect, and I was numb. I still saw the blood spreading from the wound, but my brain replaced real pain with a phantom. I knew that I still loved him just as much as when we’d begun. I couldn’t stop loving him just because I saw the truth.

My savings ran out in Mumbai, and I barely followed him to Singapore. The night we arrived in our hotel room, eating greasy takeout out of Styrofoam, I told him I couldn’t go on. In eight weeks we’d visited eight countries. I had no money left.

“Let’s go home,” I pleaded.

He stared out the window. It was dark, and the only view we had was an alley. I realized then that he never looked at me when there was somewhere else to imagine, somewhere else to be.

“I can’t. I can’t stop, Walt. You know that.”

It was the answer I’d expected, but I couldn’t take it, even then. Even after everything. I forced myself to confront the blood, and bear the incision he’d made.

“I love you,” I said, though it came out in a mumble. I didn’t have the energy to add volume or power to my words. “But this is too fast. I can’t live like you do. I need to go back.”

He nodded, still looking out the window, at the shadowy form of a concrete wall.


In the morning, I called a cab. I left my guitar in the hotel room.


        At the airport, I watched people passing. I sat for hours, my muscles aching, my head aching, my heart aching. Night came, and they made me leave. I barely caught a cab; when I got in, I didn’t know where to go, or what to tell the driver. When she asked for the third time, I gave her my friend’s address. She grunted and took me there.

I climbed the steps to the apartment with heavy feet, wondering what I was doing here. He was in Singapore—or, in all likelihood, on to a new place, taking pictures of lands that would never feel his presence, never remember him like I did. When I reached his door I sat down against it, burying my head in my hands. I stayed there for the rest of the night.

In the morning I left, and just walked. I didn’t know where to go, but I stopped at a gas station and picked up travel brochures. The Rockies, Niagara Falls, Lake Huron—I sat with them at a bus stop and thought of travelling. When the bus came, the brochures stayed on the bench.

I was done travelling.

The weeks and months began to slip away, and summer was ending. One night, I slept in an old tobacco barn. I fancied I heard the ocean. That night there was no moon.


        My life was on hiatus. I remember that it began again sometime in late September, in Louisiana. I was sitting outside of a dingy crab shack, watching people as they walked past me along the pier. A scene caught my eye:

It was like an Elizabethan dumb show or a health insurance commercial, depending on your life view. A pristine white sail dominated the background, fully illuminated in the southern sun—but that was not what struck me. Two young men stood facing one another. Friends, or more, I couldn’t tell. They were bidding each other goodbye.

The scene was not large, and it hardly attracted the attention of those who passed, but to me it was everything. They hugged, and the nature of their relationship unfolded before me with their delicate kiss. I thought it a bold thing, out in the open in this southern state. Those men didn’t care. They embraced, and I looked away rather than watch them depart.

Staring at my can of Corona, I wondered how many partings were happening like this one, all across the country, the world. I pictured San Francisco– men in bars, on the streets, holding hands and talking. Sharing. Loving each other. Not one of them was alone.

I hadn’t written a word since going to Europe. That night, I picked up my pen.

I wrote about endings.


        On my last day in Louisiana, I walked along a suburban street, meditating in the sweltering heat, relaxing my body and mind. I found some shade under a large, sprawling oak tree covered in moss. It reminded me of those trees in New England that no longer exist—a relic of the life that I’d left behind.

Casting my gaze up through the branches, I counted the spaces between light and shadow, between sun and shade. I remembered.

It might have been a hope for the future—for another friend, another companion like the one that I had lost. Or unlike, perhaps. I had dealt enough with wild spirits, with athletes. Maybe what I needed was a scholar like myself, an academic.

Or maybe it was a thought of that past, of those times walking the cold beach in early spring, pale moon overhead and the gentle murmur of the Atlantic in my ears, which always let me know my bearings.

Whatever it was, I knew that I couldn’t leave the tree without taking something along with me. I reached to the lowest branch and snapped off a twig, bending it idly between my fingers. Almost satisfied, I made to go—but then my eyes returned to the truncated branch, and I saw shreds of pale moss hanging, neglected and unsupported by their absent perch. They hardly moved in the sluggish, humid air.

I made up my mind that day. Gently, I peeled the moss away as well, wrapping it carefully around my twig, so they might not be parted again.

This small token came with me to San Francisco, joining me in a new life. A new city, full of men like me.


I left the oak alone, as I could never be.