Letter from the Editor: Spring 2019

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our tenth issue of Voices & Visions centered around the theme of “Power.” The journal is excited to explore this topic through the pieces presented, which span from poem to prose, drawing to photography. This issue in particular has a range of pieces from both domestic and international women’s colleges and girl’s high schools, which we hope provide our audience with unique perspectives on this topic. The issue includes work from both students and their teachers, from Rwanda and Australia, as well as from women’s institutions throughout the United States.  We hope that these international perspectives on power will be interesting and illuminating to our audience.

We exist today in a world that is fraught with issues around power: Who has it? How can we give others access to it when it has been denied to them before? What does it feel like  to be under the power of others?These questions take on more resonance when they are answered by writers and artists from women’s colleges and high schools throughout the world. . Through these submissions, we hope to present a range of intersectional perspectives on power, ones that not only illuminate the negative aspects  of power, but also the ways in in which power exists outside of human structures and norms, a reminder that solutions can still be found in our art.

Camille Butera
Editor-in-Chief

Factory on Grove Street

By: Gabriella Tucciarone
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

A red, bumpy, peeling-paint kind of factory.
The windows at night peek on the empty streets.
The light from the furnace in the factory flows into the road
Reaching the end by the bridge, where the light eagerly tries to climb.
On cold nights, the light shivers in the wind and hops within itself for a little warmth.

One particularly cold night, the old and stern furnace was mad with craving, and it began to eat itself.
As I was en route for home, I saw this old and nervous building begin to taste itself.
The flames licked the inside walls.
The windows clouded with smoke; they no longer peeked for empty night-time walkers.
Slowly, the flames ate the ivy that clung like veins.
The leaves on the ivy exploded like capillaries,
Into small bombs of ember that left small stains of ash on the sidewalk.
The furnace belched a giant puff of smoke as the roof was catapulted into the sky.

I noticed that the entire building was winking as it collapsed onto itself.
The wooden frames were shaking as its knee started to give.
The building had started bowing, and dipped down to bid me farewell.
As I put my hat on and walked away, I looked back at the trembling turmoil of a once great building and dear friend.

 

A Lack Thereof

By: Sarah Grissom
Mt. St. Michael’s College, Ashgrove, Queensland, Australia

For the 23 mediocre years in her life she had flown under the radar. Wandering eyes skimmed over the fifth and youngest child; her average grades were nothing to cheer for and her friends were merely companions with whom she could chat. School had passed and no one’s gaze ever lingered long.

The leaves were falling crisp and dry upon the dusty summer front lawns, where a lack of water meant lengthy days, leering and lamentable. Making her way slowly along the towns centre in her bland south-of-the city suburb, filled with unruly characters, she fit right in. Her clothes just like the rest, almost threadbare from talented and tainted generations alike, passed down through the years which barely scratched the surface of satisfactory.

For the 76 mediocre years in her life she had flown under the radar. Amounting to nothing more than predicted, amounting to nothing like what she had hoped. Resting weightlessly on her bed she passed, just as unnoticeably as she was born.

A Seat at the Table

By: Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda  
English Instructor at Akilah Institute, Kigali, Rwanda

This table…
Where is the table?
In a bar with men at 10 pm,
Sipping beers or wines or spirits.
Which she can’t.

My spirit sinks.
Tall, round, no arm rest or padding:
Her seat at the table.
Her rear doesn’t fit on the chair.
Her face oval like an egg.
Her skin spotless.
Shifty eyes, tight lipped.
Her lean figure is stooped so far,
She might be tying her laces.

My soul nosedives,

Scans around; their faces…
Vultures ready to feast
Ever hungry beast,
Each one of them.
She, the misplaced prey.
They are about to play
Introductions game: Name, Position, achievements.
Her, Lame Mrs So, Marital status, number of kids.

Our inspiration plunges into the sea bed.

Squeezing or shoving to get a place at the table?

The Praise of Power

By: Sophie Kamariza
Akilah Institute, Kigali, Rwanda

My mother is knowledge
Not only fetched from college
When around, no barrier can stop me
Even carrier won’t promote me
I don’t care for levels or positions
And I won’t be scared with oppositions.

For me, no need for sense of protocol
My presence brings all control
I influence the whole world
Because difference is all I need.

Though walking silently in the yards
Following my fans everywhere
My crown is not hard to wear
For all those pursuing me for years
My footprints last forever
Whoever accepts me can’t lose favor.

I am called Power
Not roaring, but blowing even to the poor
All traces of towns are mine
When I hide I am not gone
When back I am multiplied by nine

In front of difficulties I find possibility
Never caught in doubts during confusion
All because belief is my infusion
Catch me, own me and get dominion
Save me, protect me as a good companion
Make me a priority: authority will come toward you

for glory

By: Kerry LeCure
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

i. the lust

consider: a girl with a smile like starshine, who straightens her hair with shinbones, has teeth like ivory. she drags her fingers across her clavicles leaving pale red streaks, her voice is whisper-soft, wonderful, even—or is it full of wonder? i don’t know, anymore—but it leaves tiny earthquakes in its wake. she is quicksilver in the marrow of my bones, but it’s difficult to breathe when she’s murmuring words into my thighs. i think that she paints her lips with blood, that her organs are made of pure surgical-grade steel, but it becomes so hard to tell when she’s got one hand in my hair and the other under his shirt. she ate my heart on a wednesday. i never got it back.

ii. the sloth

he traced words along your spine when he thought i wasn’t looking, languidly, wanted to eat you whole when your clothes were paint-splattered. i never told him that i’d noticed, that i didn’t care, because the way he reached for you was nauseating. instead i breathed lazy smirks and half-hearted sighs, hummed along with the bark in your voice, leaned into the callouses on his fingertips. i loved him, too, but it was the way that his heartstrings tangled around themselves for you that kept me quiet.

iii. the greed

we let ourselves be consumed, or maybe—we consumed you, endosymbiosis. you love the blood and grit of the bandages between your fingers, because it reminds you of a time when you were so powerless, he loves the way sweat slides down his chin, i love the sound of change hitting cement, and we’re the mob, now, knocking down doors. or rather—you’re the mob and you’re knocking down your own doors, forget about who you were, who you are, who you will become. you try so hard that i forget, too, even when his hands are on your hips, even when i’m reminding you to breathe, breathe, breathe.

iv. the gluttony

you wrapped your fingers around his shoulder blades. i’ve heard they were knobby and cold and i would know them in death. you were all teeth and shit-eating grins, bite anyone who got too close (kiss anyone who got too close). his tongue was wicked, sharp, paper cuts against bruised knuckles, globs of blood rolling down fits and chins and you savored every moment of that, soaked it up, because it reminded you of yourself, like how you licked your hands clean when they got too dirty when you ate his heart for breakfast. ate my heart for breakfast, but that’s the part they forget. that’s the part everyone forgets. it’s easy to forget because you’re always wanting more: breathe in, breathe out, remember that to take a step forward, you’re supposed to take five back. or something like that. it’s been so long.

v. the envy

i missed you like a limb, he missed you like he’d miss his own heart. it’s quiet these days with only the rain to keep us company, sometimes when the moon is halfway across the sky i catch him with your paintbrushes, his eyes running mad. sometimes i wish i was as selfish as you, a pack-up-runaway girl made of stardust, sometimes i wish he’d cling to my hand the way he clung to yours.

vi. the wrath

he wakes up sometimes and won’t talk for hours, only paces and tries to work through the white-knuckled frustration, and when i say he needs to get over it, he’ll tell me that we’re the same, he and i. we’re the same, we share the tension in our fists, our jaws, our shoulders. we’re bruising touches, clashing teeth, blinding smiles, keep it all bottled up until it’s too late. i haven’t seen him like this since he first saw his mother’s reaction to his girlfriends, plural, because we’re all a little selfish, we all wanted until we couldn’t take anymore, except now you’re gone and he pulsates red-hot rage and i’m only made of quiet fury. i don’t miss you anymore, but i’ve heard he does. you forgot to call.

 

vii. the pride

i do not forgive you for filling up all the spaces of my heart, but sometimes i forget that you didn’t asked me to—forgive you, that is. and when i kiss you, you taste of the stars and the sun and the moon, but you murmur into my skin that i am bruised knees and crinkled paper shoved into pockets. you remind me that it takes two to tango. that my toes are just as bloody as yours. my bones creak in the evenings, sharp pops and blurry cracks. they feel so old these days, but i let you pretend they sing songs for you.

Open House

By: Jas Ganev
Castilleja School, Palo Alto CA, USA

Sunday.
The slamming of car doors,
The trudging of feet through mud,
The screeching of rainboots against a “Welcome” mat.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time.
The shaking of realtors’ hands followed by
Fake smiles, false stories, and made-up names.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions.
The whispers behind half-open doors,
The click of the camera,
The delighted laugh echoing through the halls.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions. Creating her temporary fantasy.
A beacon of light shining through billowing white curtains
Onto the glistening marble floors,The flights of spiraling staircases,
The hundreds of hand-carved doors.
Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions.

The widened eyes that become slits, shifting from awe to anger and greed,
Knowing that this house will be someone else’s,
Yet we will still drive by again and again.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time.
Are we bonding, or am I bound to you?

Sunday.
I want to go home, Mommy. I want to go home.

Breaking Through

By: Hannah White
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

Breaking Through_HannahWhite.jpg

Artist Statement: My photographs are autobiographical in nature, influenced by personal memories, emotions, and current experiences.  They revolve around issues of identity, change, and being out of time. Breaking Through is a self-portrait that signals the possibility of removing self-barriers and scars of the past and moving forward.  

Remembering and Forgetting

By: Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda
English Instructor at Akilah Institute, Kigali Rwanda

For a long time, I could only think of what I had been told to think. And this is what I had been told: To remember my past as that is how I could know how to plan for my future. Growing up next to a dumpsite ensured that I had the sites putrid stench almost woven in to my DNA.

First there was the fetid smell of rotten banana peels; the ones that could break your kneecaps if you slipped. Then there was the rancid smell of rotten avocado which had been crushed my scavengers in this rainy season to ensure the perfect mix of green black and the brown of mud. Next there was the smell of decaying pads…which sometimes had big clots hidden within them, some thick yellow pus or even little feces. It appeared as if human being buried not only their wastes in the dump but also their souls.

There were also babies’ diapers. They came with all sorts of cargo. From liters of pungent Urine, to runny green diarrhea, to the firm yellowish type that you could easily confuse with pawpaw. Some rodents usually did…eating gleefully.

One day, a street child visited the landfill on a different mission, Instead of scavenging for food, he had a sack; ready to harvest. I remember wondering why the air stung my nostrils. My nose ached. Why could he not just put me down? Through a hole in the sack, I looked longingly back at my home, my filthy stinking comfortable home.

 

The neck gets sore from looking in one direction.

 

As the site of my home grew dim, I ached. From the shoving and pushing of everything the urchin had picked, I was almost squashed. The weight of the other stuff was almost overpowering. …I must have slept for a long time or lost consciousness because the next time I came to…there was an excruciating pain in my chest. This was completely alien to me. For a fleeting moment, I wondered why all those men of the cloth had lied to us about heaven, the afterlife, paradise. Did I really go to hell? Where was the fire? Could there be pain in heaven.

My eyes slowly gained focus on the familiar objects that had been uprooted from the garbage dump. Instead of enjoying the air, I ached for what I had always had. How I miss my stinking hole. Tears well in my eyes, nostalgia is almost killing me; then I remember:

 

The neck gets sore from looking in one direction.

 

My very existence depends on whether I remember or I forget. What should I do seeing that I do not even know how to choose?

A Bird in Hand

By: Emma O’Neill-Dietel
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

I tugged at the braids coiled around the back of my head. They were thick and itchy and the bobby pins made my head ache. The church was sweltering hot and my black dress draped heavily across my knees. I had asked Maeve if I could wear shorts, and she said no, because it would be disrespectful. Maeve also braided my hair, since Mom was too busy getting ready. She was probably also too busy being sad, since it was her sister who died.

My aunt Eileen always wore her hair down. Maeve liked to braid it when she was my age, but Aunt Eileen always let me undo the braids when Maeve was finished. “Freedom!” she used to say when I finished. It made us both laugh. Aunt Eileen had long, smooth hair that was brown with little stripes of grey at the top. My own hair was frizzy and the color of the dirty linoleum tiles in my elementary school hallways.

Maeve saw me fidgeting with my hair and swatted my hand away. I glared at her. She took my hand in hers and squeezed, a little too hard to be friendly.

“Can I please undo it?” I whispered. Maeve pinched the skin on the back of my hand. I almost cried out, but I stopped myself just in time. Music swelled—well, it was too dreary to swell. It really just got louder and sadder, if that was possible. The men sitting in the row in front of me stood up and gathered around the casket. Maeve loosened her grip on my hand. I inched my other hand towards the back of my head as the men lifted the casket and began to carry it down the aisle. People around me shifted in their pews to watch them leave so I did too. I saw Uncle Frank, cousin Theo, and a few other men I only slightly recognized lifting on either side of the enormous wooden box. It didn’t really seem like Aunt Eileen was in there. If she was, she would pop out like a jack-in-the-box and make us all laugh at how dramatic we were being.

While Maeve’s head was turned towards the men, I used my hand that wasn’t pinned under hers to yank the bobby pins from my braid. They came out with little clumps of hair still attached. The men carrying the casket that was somehow holding Aunt Eileen reached the doors at the back of the church and my hair finally fell out of its coil. It was still braided, but I could almost feel the strands of hair unbraiding themselves. They were reaching out like plants growing towards light. I extracted my other hand from underneath Maeve’s and began to use both hands to unweave my hair. Maeve suddenly snapped back towards me.

“Fallon!” she hissed. I heard a soft thud as an attendant closed the doors behind the men and the casket. The pastor began speaking again but I couldn’t pay attention. Maeve was furiously pulling my hair back into place. I could feel the stare of a church lady behind me hot on my neck.

Maeve finished fixing my hair just as the pastor instructed us to make our way out to the cemetery behind the church. Maeve shoved one last pin into my hair where it jabbed at my scalp like a sharp-beaked bird. She grabbed my hand and I tried to wriggle away to no avail. I was much too old to hold someone’s hand, even if that someone was my sister and even though we were at a funeral where it seemed like everyone was holding hands and hugging. We filed out of the pews and joined our parents, who had been sitting in the front row. My mom was holding a tissue up to her eyes and my dad was holding her hand in both of his like a small and wounded bird. He was holding it tightly but in a way that meant she was protected, not captive. When he saw us he let go of her hand with one of his and put his arm around both of our shoulders.

“Come on, girls,” he said. “Let’s see Auntie Eileen off.” We walked outside in an awkward family clump, too close together to step normally. Maeve finally let go of my hand when we got to the hole for the casket. I saw her wind her fingers together and pick at her cuticles. If Mom had been watching she would have said something, but she was too busy staring blankly at the hole in the dirt.

“Remember when we used to play here?” I asked Maeve.

Maeve shushed me. “This is still a funeral, Fallon.”

“I know,” I said, “I’m not stupid. I’m just saying, remember how we used to play hide-and-seek behind the gravestones? That was really fun. Maybe someday kids will play around Aunt Eileen’s gravestone.”

“Don’t be morbid, Fallon,” said Maeve.

“What does ‘morbid’ mean?” I asked. My dad looked down at me as if he had just begun listening to our conversation.

“‘Morbid’ means something that is related to death,” he said. “What do you think is morbid, Maeve?”

“Fallon was saying that she hopes kids will play around Aunt Eileen’s grave someday.” Maeve looked at me and then back at my dad like I was a baby and she and my dad were both grown-ups.

“I think that’s a wonderful thing to hope, Fallon,” he said. “I think Aunt Eileen would like that very much.” My mom nodded, looking up from the hole in the dirt.

“Aunt Eileen and I played in this cemetery when we were your age,” she said.

“I didn’t know that,” I said. I tried to imagine my mom and Aunt Eileen when they were my age. They were only two years apart. From pictures I knew that my mom looked a lot like me and Aunt Eileen looked a lot like Maeve. If I concentrated really hard, I could pretend that I saw Aunt Eileen as a little girl poking her head over a gravestone and smiling at me. Her smile went up to her eyes the way that Maeve’s did when we were younger. The more I thought about it, the more the imaginary girl smiling at me looked like Maeve, not Aunt Eileen, and then when I looked at the casket my first thought was that Maeve was inside it. For the first time since Aunt Eileen had died, I started to cry.

My dad noticed and he knelt down and lifted me up into a hug. I wrapped my legs around his waist like I had when I was much smaller. My mom reached past me to hold Maeve’s hand. When I had finally stopped crying and my dad set me back on the ground, I saw Maeve squirming her fingers out of my mom’s grasp.

Burnt

By: Srinidhi Panchapakesan
Agnes Scott College, Decatur GA, USA

I don’t get sunburnt, no matter how long I’m outside.
Maybe some people just can’t burn,
but I think my ancestors must have
befriended the sun thousands of years ago
and she gave us the gift of brown skin
so that she could shine as bright as she wanted
and we would only get darker,
while the people who invaded our land
would burn.