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  • Summer Morning

    Summer morning comes like Rabbit leaping out of his burrowed den, whiskers twitching, feet kicking back silt and sand as he bounds toward a fresh earth. The trees wear their new green clothes, leaves waving softly as though beckoning the cicadas out of their dens, calling on them to sing their cacophonous chorus in what is a sure sign of the season. The south of China promises only grace and humidity this time of year, and everywhere there are rice fields so massive the hills look like they are melting, layers of crop and alleyways of water sweating off the terraced grass. Nestled in between the towering striations are villages with thatched roofs where the farmers live, going barefoot out the door and sloshing knee-deep in the water, threshing by hand or sickle once the grains turn yellow, morning and afternoon until the crane resting one-legged in the field retires and a sunset bleeds over the horizon, soft beige and blazing orange mixing like custard and egg yolk. The evening gallops by, and a rice paddy snake slithers in search of fish and frogs. The newly released cicadas, perched a few miles over on a tall tree, will start their chorus anew. Villagers meander their way around town as the last stitch of light disappears from the sky’s edges. Doors creak shut and incense is lighted, the fumes blanketing the remaining starchy scents of bao and pork dumplings. Here, it is impossible to tell the time if not for the cycles of moon and mud, the constant of dust and dew that keeps Rabbit in time with his steps. The stars twinkle on, and the rice stalks stretch to the moon, the grass colored fortune-emerald with hope. Editors: Quill L. & Sydney O. Image Source: Sam Balye, Unsplash

  • The Recipe for Connection

    Growing up with a Newar father and a white, American-born mother meant my father was solely responsible for imparting his Newar heritage. He made attempts to pass on traditions and language, though I imagine those attempts were inconsistent given the absence of any nearby Newar family or a local Newar community. By and large, my father shared his culture with me through Newar food and the accompanying values; To serve food to the elders before anyone else is to show respect. To make use of an entire ingredient and leave no waste is to honor the labor and land that went toward producing the ingredient. To eat a traditional meal prepared by your father each night is to receive a form of unconditional love. As I’ve grown older, cooking has become not only my most tangible connection to my heritage, but it is one of few instances when for a brief moment, I can access a window into my father’s past; we stand side-by-side, time suspended as the task at hand anchors our feet to the kitchen floor while our hearts and minds are set free to wander out of the kitchen to a more vulnerable space: He chops garlic, onions, daikon, and cabbage to prepare the momo filling, simultaneously instructing me on the best technique for shredding ginger. I shred the ginger, listening and waiting for an intermission. When he pauses his instructions, his focus scattered by the sputtering pot of browning garlic and onions to which he adds a blend of peppery spices, I have the perfect opportunity to pose a question. I begin with a simple question. Something to ease us into this conversational journey: “Who taught you to make momos?” As he adds the ginger, cabbage, and daikon into the pot, he gives a vague answer; nothing too detailed, but enough that as the vegetables cook down, I can sense that his mind is traveling somewhere into the past. “Oh, you know, I just watched people here and there.” He adds the ground pork to the softened vegetable mix. “Ba’aa liked to play cards with other older males from the community. They would ask me to make snacks and food for them, and I would get some money from them here and there. That’s a lot of how I got my practice cooking,” he reminisces. I acknowledge his words with a thoughtful, “Mmm,” every now and again, taking care not to disrupt this time-traveling journey. He speaks, and I listen intently. Eventually the pork turns from pink to a light brown, and my father pauses his storytelling to announce, “Okay, let’s allow the mixture to cool before we begin wrapping the momos.” While we wait for the pot to cool, I find myself imagining a young version of my father hastily taking orders from the card players, eager to pocket some coin and please his father and the guests. Bringing my attention back to the present, I take a dough wrapper in my hands. I dip my index finger in a small dish of water, swirl it around the edge of the dough wrapper, then use my other hand to scoop some meat and vegetable mixture into the center. I struggle to wrap the first couple momos with even pleats, but slowly I find my rhythm. Wet the wrapper’s edges, scoop mixture, pinch shut, pleat. I repeat the sequence over and over again in my head until the process feels second-nature. Once my hands outpace the sequence in my head, my mind drifts to a similar scene in which I had envisioned my father cooking for guests as a kid. This time, I am the one cooking: I gather in my phoophoo’s (aunt’s) kitchen with my didis (sisters/cousins) and our mothers; we laugh and joke, swiftly wrapping momos without even paying attention to the movement of our hands. This version of me could probably neatly pleat momos in her sleep. “You’ll remember how to make this recipe for the next time you want momos, right?” my father asks. My attention shifts back to the present reality and I smile softly and nod my head in agreement. As my father removes the lid from the steamer pot and gently sets down the freshly wrapped momos to cook, I watch the steam frantically escaping and it dawns on me that our journey is almost complete– until our next recipe for connection. Editors: Sam Luthiya, Uzayer M., Joyce P. Image Source: Unsplash

  • not good friends, not good enemies

    Dear you, I don’t think I need to say your name. You know it’s you. You know it’s always been you. I’ve fallen for you again, isn’t it terrible? I remember the ‘us’ from last year, and I remember knowing, when I looked at you, that we’d end up like this. Do you remember? It was March, and you told me about your friend; the one who confessed to you. You loved her, not in the way lovers do, and I learned that day that there’s more to love than what I had figured out. You said, why does everyone have to tell me their feelings when they’re no longer there, and I promised that we wouldn’t end up that way. I’d be better than her. Am I? Look at us now. I’ve spent so long thinking about what to say to you that I never thought about what those words would be. There’s so much to say, don’t you think? I don’t remember how many days it’s been, how long I’ve spent waiting; how many times I’ve promised myself that it wouldn’t happen again; how many letters I’ve written and tucked away; and how many dates I’ve circled on my calendar and promised myself a confession. There is no such thing as missed chances between us, but I keep myself on edge, because what about— The portrait of me you drew on my Physics worksheet? The times you settled beside me when you found me on the ground so that we could be alone together? And the times we touched hands? The one time we hung out after school and I caught you watching me instead of the sunset? Did it mean anything to you? I still have your drawings on my worksheets. It’s been sixteen months. When I talked about you with a friend for the first time, she asked me, is it difficult? I looked up at her, and the look in her eyes was uncanny to pity. It was at that moment that I felt my heart sink in my chest, and I knew that I was only standing at the beginning of something destined to end. Are you okay? She rubbed my shoulder in a feeble attempt to comfort me over what seemed like nothing back then, and I remember not being able to muster an answer because the hundred things I wanted to say stuck to the walls of my throat. – It’s been exactly two years since we’ve met, and I remember the first time I fell for you. I was studying somewhere you wouldn’t find me, a place sufficiently out of your eyes’ reach. I was aware of how close I’d come to teetering into a boundary I shouldn’t be crossing, and I desperately wanted me to stop. The earphones wedged in my ears didn’t make the heat any more bearable, but I stayed because I managed to evade you for an hour and I was certain wherever this was would be the only place far away enough from you. I learned that that wasn’t the case. I looked away for a moment, and a beat later, you started walking out of class, then along the staircase on the level above me. Your friends were there. They waved at you, gesturing you over. You didn’t move from the edge of the staircase. You were asking for someone. You asked for me. When we locked eyes from across our separate levels, the rush my heart felt became a permanent feeling. – I saw you in my dream. I woke up, and every fibre of my being believed that suffering a nightmare would’ve taught me that loving you would bring no good out of it. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? I’m always counting on a reason to hate you, but we know I never will. Every unreplied text, every conversation cut short, every time you passed me in the corridors and didn’t wave back, every time I looked at you and you didn’t look back—they should’ve meant something. I wished that they did. Being there a second time made me think it would happen a third time and then again, and it would never stop. I hoped it would someday. – I’m sorry I couldn’t say this earlier. Then, I think about the way we wouldn’t be friends if I did, and I don’t feel sorry anymore. – I wish you hated me instead. Good morning, I wish you never greeted me, in your voice riddled with fatigue, while I settled into my desk next to yours. You came, I wish you never said every time I showed up to class, because you were the only one who cared if I did. Do you want to spend your time with me? I wish you never asked. Would these wishes have changed things, or would I have found another foolish way to love you? – It’s the end of it all. The end of ‘us’. We’re past this now—our history of two years. I should be happy, because I’m given the space I need to recover from ‘us’. Your class is located at a corner of the campus that you’ll be out of sight, and hopefully, out of mind. As it stands, there’s not a corner of this world that’s far enough to make me forget about you. I miss the intimacy that’s existing in a space with you. I know it’ll only bring me pain, and it’ll hurt much less if I can force my mind off you. But what will I do, then, when someone doodles on my worksheets and I think about you? What will I do when I look at another pair of eyes and think they’ll never gleam like yours do? What will I do when another hand holds mine and I hope with all my heart that they would be you? – I can’t let you go. You’re still my everyday. My every moment. – Please keep in contact with me. Text me back, maybe? Editors: Amber T. & Amshu V. Image source: S. Ruvalcaba, Unsplash

  • Vision in a Safeway Parking Lot

    TW: references to depression, anxiety, self-harm You’ll mark three breaths in time with the snake-spitting off the engine, which sounds like a pair of metal legs playing footsies under a table, ktch ktch ktch, until you turn it off. Carbon monoxide can be fatal. If the alarm sounds, please exit the garage in an orderly manner. Maybe the carburetor’s broken. You’ll look down to see your arm speckled like a snow leopard and yank your left sleeve up. You’ll grab a basket and reach back to tug up your hood. When it's on you are Fort Knox, only snugger. You’ll pull four cheap boxes of ramen, two yellow bell peppers, a MTWTFSS pill container, 99 cent deodorant, two IPA tallboys, and a Valentine’s card on the clearance aisle, which was two days ago. There'll be a woman using a walker with high-rimmed glasses and stains on her sweatpants and you'll keep passing her while you remember to pull down your sleeves lest her searching eyes scan your red craters that have buried into both your arms and you'll wonder if she knows how long you've been here and if she'll rip your hood from your head and claw your sleeves from your arms and berate you with that humble speak, that familiar familial dialect resurrected from the foothills of Mulshi. She never will. You'll count the times you pass her, and frantically rush to self check-out when she finally catches your gaze from the pharmacy line and nods carefully, bestowing her blessing, and you'll wonder how her calculating, clammy eyes suffused with oil had ever scared you. You’ll take the stairs down and stare up towards the white noise we've come to call fluorescence so little worms crowd your vision, like coughing too hard in the shower, and the blurriness makes you dizzy, intoxicated. At the bottom you'll flurry to the car with red eyes and hands-on-throat to stop the poison from pumping in. — Recently, I finally willed myself to sit down and read Crying in H Mart. As I had expected, I finished the memoir in one sitting and was left reeling with nostalgia and emotions. Michelle Zauner’s narration of being choked with memories that surface through the small things you spot has not left my mind, and hence we have this poem. My poem is a response in the conversation the memoir opened for me, and speaks of my own experiences walking down memory lanes along store aisles. Since moving to the US, the feeling of homesickness (but not really) only seems to hit me when I stand in front of the spice aisle in Safeway. It takes me back to how department stores, their parking lots and our car in it, especially after dark, were the first liminal spaces I was exposed to and used to be the first I sought out when I was attempting to avoid spiraling. Editors: Rajeshwari T. Image Source: Mick Haupt, Unsplash

  • Warm Regards,

    (distilled from student e-mails) I’m not feeling very well. I’ve been feeling ill all day. I am feeling very ill. I’m feeling rotten today after a long feverish night with little sleep. I have some problems with depression. I have been sick with some horrible bug for the last four days. I came down with the flu Sunday, and haven't been feeling okay all week. I woke up with a migraine this morning, and it's not getting any better so I’m breaking out the big guns – Zomig. I’ve been feeling sick for most of the weekend and woke up today with terrible back pain (old age you see) and a sore, swollen throat. I hit my head really hard at practice yesterday. I now need to wait for the rash on my face to go away. I’ve got a dentist’s appointment this morning in Beaverton. I was unable to attend class today due to a case of head lice, which I spent the day curing myself of. I got COVID at a concert last week, and am still recovering. I inadvertently drank rotten milk last night and woke up not feeling great. I suspect I ingested some chemicals during my shift at the ceramics studio, or maybe still need to recuperate from a persistent cold I can't entirely seem to shake off. Either way, I’m sick. It’s been a rough morning. Editor(s): Quill L., Rajeshwari T. Photo Credits: Unsplash

  • Pieces on Holidays & Traditions

    Foreword: Traditions and cultural celebrations make up much of my yearly highlights. From celebrating Lunar New Year with a cluster of extended family members to eating mooncakes on a quiet night during the Mid-Autumn Festival, my heritage has shaped many of my favorite experiences. I love learning about different traditions and holidays across cultures, and each piece in this Holidays & Traditions Collection provides deeper insight into the folklore, practices, and general history behind a myriad of Asian customs. Through this themed collection, I hope everyone can experience the heartwarming sensation of gathering with loved ones in a lively celebration of heritage and identity. —Emma Wong Thanksgiving Peking Duck by Kaitlyn Fa A heartwarming and empowering poem featuring mouthwatering imagery, divided into subsections based on food and its connection to family and identity, in order to combat anti-Asian notions. ““i’ll be ready / with my crown of duck / bejeweled with cucumber / wrapped in a sturdy pancake / and a side of boiled pride / to eat away ignorance / and reclaim my culture” Diwali by Siona Wadhawan An uplifting narrative intertwining the history of Diwali with the author’s personal experiences and childhood memories. “Dozens of tiny clay candles, or diyas as they are called in Hindi, litter the driveway. Each flame glows vividly, bathing in the pale radiance of the moon, transforming the pavement into a beautiful starry night.” Cultural Connections: How Transracial Adoptees Celebrate Lunar New Year by Amanda Winters An insightful spotlight on various Chinese adoptees’ experiences with the Lunar New Year, emphasizing the importance of bridging the gap of potential cultural disconnect. “As Chinese adoptees find new ways to come into their Chinese identity and celebrate the traditions of the culture that has been taken away, it is always important to keep sharing these stories not only for other adoptees, but for the larger Asian community as well.” The Process of a Tea Ceremony by Lex Kobashigawa A detailed description of the tea infusion process during a Gongfu tea ceremony, a preparation method originating in Fujian, near the Chinese province of Guangdong. The intricacies of each step are illustrated in careful detail, and the piece plays to all five senses, leaving readers feeling refreshed. “The first infusion was the most vibrant. An eternity of masterful brewing being poured into the aroma cup.”

  • 59th St.

    TW: self-harm It was five stops from 59th to Queens. The doors opened, and I stepped in, the air thick. An ochre hue settled on everything and everyone, carrying a stench that infiltrated our noses. This cart was crowded. The lucky ones had lunged towards a seat and avoided the eyes of those forced to cling to the pole. The doors shut, subduing everyone to a silence. The old man in front of me had his eyes closed, his body gently swaying, the train rocking him back and forth. He was bent a little forward, as though something was pulling on his neck, dragging him towards his feet. It was pulling and pulling, wrapping around his head, gripping his collar tighter and tighter. He was fighting it with all that he had left. He wasn’t sleepy; he was tired. His face was etched with weariness - the eternal kind. The wrinkles on his face were like cuts, an elegant scraping knifed by his life, his job, his family, this city, and his pain. It was a record. He succumbed, finally, and his head fell forward. Any further would have severed it. The shock of the snap jolted him awake. He frowned, embarrassed by his surrender to exhaustion. The train slowed to a stop and he got off. I watched him hurry away. In his place was a lady and her little boy who had stepped in just as the doors closed. The boy ran to the very end of the cart and slapped his palms on the two seats left open, glaring at anyone who dared to come close. His mom followed, and the two sat together cheerfully, grateful for the rest. The boy leaned on his mother’s arms, and looked about him, his eyes settling on the strange woman before him. Her head was shaved, every inch of her ears pierced, her nails a deep black. She didn't let the fragility of her body, however, reveal vulnerability. She was skinny – too skinny. Her cheekbones too sharp, her wrists too bony. Her wrists were also an elegant scraping. She knifed as well, an artist of her own kind. The boy stared at her wrists and then stared at her. She stared back. The boy, too frightened to keep looking, looked at his mom instead. The girl raised her eyes to the mom. The mom smiled, and the artist, who was preparing for vehemence, was taken aback. She swallowed her surprise and let a small smile through. As the stops went by, the quiet mutters of the passengers slowly went from English to Spanish. The accents grew heavier, the voices a bit stronger. We got off at 111th Street, and walked around a small neighborhood. We made it to the Queens Night Market, which radiated a liveliness that couldn’t be found in Manhattan. Vendors were sweating under the heat, which hung on everyone's shoulders. They were put to work. Long lines for food covered the entire area, and the nearby field was filled with people lying across picnic blankets. People were smiling here, genuine smiles, and I realized that this market was more than just a place to eat; it was an escape from exhaustion, an opportunity for repose. A youth group was setting up in the middle of the field. The lead girl, who looked about my age, began to sing. And when she sang she let go, her voice a person of its own. In her softness, we heard a scream. When she belted, we felt her bullets. Everyone was silent. She had suffocated us with her voice. When she ended, the field erupted in applause, and she smiled sheepishly. The night went on. Queens was alive; it had escaped the eternal exhaustion, at least for a few hours. Editors: Nicole O., Nadine R., Marie H. Image Source: Unsplash, Hanyang Zhang.

  • Pause

    I have not paused and thought for a while Not about school, career, direction, future but just about the moment Fear, that bullet quietly lodged inside, somewhere, doesn’t make itself visible but also prevents itself from being forgotten, Sometimes it thrives, like a nurtured seed, and sometimes it frails I always forget that I get to control its growth, somewhat If I don’t pause I don’t pause to think about what I want; the seed grows I am at an intersection, facing crossroads that seem daunting, like each wrong direction could mean misery of a lifetime But as I pause I wonder what is it that I really desire Love It comes in so many forms, and sometimes I forget that the souls of these forms are in fact one One of pure joy and care A lover is, at its core, no different than a sister, a mother, a friend in the purity and sincerity of their love for you, for me Love connects, heals, creates, and even in the toughest of times it makes us better But when I forget to pause I forget to love Forget the winds carry messages of strength the grass beckons us to interact and congregate forget that this life is more than just what we see, feel, hear, taste but also how we simply be Pause and be, then all will fall into place. Editors: Luna Y., Nicole O.

  • Blackberry Thorns

    CW: mentions of blood Blackberry Thorns I want to steal a blackberry from the thorns and choke it. Choke it and watch it bleed. “The tradition of ‘blackberrying’, to scour the summer hedgerows to take advantage of the wild bounty on offer, is still a popular British pastime. During World War One, however, it was considered something of a necessity after food rationing was introduced. Schemes were established to make the most of the natural resources available, and English children were given time off school to pick blackberries for the production of juice and jam that were sent to soldiers fighting on the front line.” – Royal Horticultural Society ~ “We’ve decided to go for another candidate that has more experience with children.” “Okay.” “Get more experience and keep a look out for vacancies on the website.” “Okay…” ~ There are long branches obscuring the pathway, with blackberries blooming near the root and a sparse amount of thorns threatening to cling onto my blouse when I walk around them. How did I just notice the blackberries? ~ Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric dripped in joyful sunlight from the vivid yellow, a blaze of mellow honey in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the plastic gold buttons and the drum. I kept the elasticated leather belt on my navy trousers and tossed them onto my office chair. Not fresh, but not ready for a wash just yet. I started redressing my fingers with new plasters. I didn’t want the interview panel to think I was messy or clumsy wearing four plasters on my hands. One for a splinter I accidentally got wedged into the base of my left middle finger from smacking the wooden table above the washing machine. One for the deep cut across the right pinky where I was washing dishes and sliced the finger against the edge of a mackerel tin. One on an index finger and one on a thumb to stop me from chewing on the threads of skin that appear at the cuticle. Now home with no employers to perceive my bandages for incompetence, I patched myself up again. I thought I had that one. I was so confident; they said I interviewed so well and they loved my ideas. I never noticed the sprouts of thorny branches, the way they planted themselves in the corner between the front window and the door. The way they would soon touch the artificially placed pebbles and overhang across the door. I didn’t see the blackberries find a home in mine. I didn’t see them, but I can imagine the wash of burgundy ghosts between the crevices where fingers meet palm – like a phantom of dried blood that clings to the edges of its parameters and maps out the contours of a stain. I thought I did well. But now…I’m picking at it, picking at every part when I think, I know, I failed. ~ Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric draped in an electric emerald, a cyclone of lavish green in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the plastic gold buttons and the drum. I kept the elasticated leather belt on my navy trousers and tossed them onto my office chair. Not fresh, but not ready for a wash just yet. I reapply all plasters back to the four injured soldiers attached to my knuckles. The wild stems crawl out of its corner into the pathway, covering the left side of the doorway and grazing the steep stone steps with plush berries. The friction between the fruit and the stone left juicy abrasions in an angry pink. The cuts in the blackberries’ plump flesh lingered, crimson catching the eye every time I pushed the door to check it was locked. I saw the beautifully budding berries and wanted to reach. To lean into fond memories of berry picking at the park, to feel the red seep out of black beads. Weeding out handfuls of my youth, plucking away the naive wants, and withdrawing my hands from the scarce thorns that only knew how to greet with bite. I wanted to inspect the fruit, admire the young buds that have yet to buldge and burst, and slow my leave the same way there are stains on my steps. I couldn’t, the red on my hands would not have left a good impression. “The standard of applications was extremely high. Unfortunately, on this occasion, you have been unsuccessful. Many thanks for your application.” ~ “The majority of blackberries and hybrid/species berries produce their fruit on stems (or canes) that grew the previous spring and summer.” – Royal Horticultural Society Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric was enriched in an opulent magenta, a swirl of decadent plum in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the metallic raspberry buttons and the drum. I kept the elasticated leather belt on my navy trousers and tossed them onto my office chair. Not fresh, but not ready for a wash just yet. The branches were savage, clawing at the concrete, grasping for the sun. Its saturated fruit was taught, brimming with violent raspberry flesh and a floral scent you could only detect if huddled in the embrace of thorns. Attempting to push away a feral branch thrashing in the wind, a blackberry breezed the back of my hand. I felt the phantom of rich wine dishonoring the uniform pigment of my skin and settle amongst the wrinkles. A wretched stain. A stubborn keepsake for the young berry whose life had spilt onto my wrist. A sun-soaked spot that does not politely wash away the pomegranate paint, like dye blotching the frail fibers of a pristine white shirt. “You were very strong with your answers. For example, with one question, you scored a 3.5 and they scored a 4. So, it was close. We went with the other candidate.” ~ “Left unpruned, plants will grow into a tangled, thorny mass of stems that are less productive and hard to access for harvesting.” – Royal Horticultural Society Mom says she’s proud of me and how resilient I am, but what’s the alternative? ~ Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric beamed a brilliant white with yellow and navy embroidery, a billowing of chantilly in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the pearlescent white buttons and the drum. I pulled the elasticated leather belt off my navy trousers and tossed them into my laundry basket. They’re ready for a wash. All fingers are in solid condition, I don’t need to reapply any plasters. The wretched stains. My arms are veiled in long sleeves, but I feel it. I feel where the blackberries want to seep into my skin like water making contact with deprived porous soil. Pooling in my palms and spilling through the valleys in between my fingers. A blossom of deep blackberry, budding from my dirtied nail beds and branching out in soft leaf-shaped bruises up to my elbow. My hands are painted in the berries’ saccharine syrup, as if I carried the weight of the world’s fruit in my fists and squeezed. Bitter lines flared above the sangria red marks, exposing where I tried to drag the color with my fingernails and pull out the blackberry blemishes. Out. With soap and a disheveled sponge, I flush out the blushed colors and scorn towards my door. Something must be done about the blackberries, but I hesitate to prune their wicked plumage. “Overall, you scored very highly, and were a brilliant candidate for the role, demonstrating a great working knowledge, fantastic experience and personal qualities. It's only that on this occasion another candidate scored a little higher than yourself.” ~ I want to steal a blackberry from the thorns and choke it. Choke it and watch it bleed. Watch its blood find passage along the small branches embedded in my palm. I want my fingernails to push and create the same beautiful bruises as the blackberry’s blood until I can’t indicate a difference. I want one act of defiance, one act where I’m not pristine, I’m not logical, I’m messy. If it weren’t for the white blouse I was wearing… I would take a blackberry outside my door and watch its ripe life bleed out. What’s the point, anyway? I plant seeds that never fruit. I plant again, and again, and again, and again. And they never fruit. They always die. They always fail. It’s not enough to harvest, I'm not eno– Exhale. ~ Rushing out of the house, hand in my pocket to reassure myself I definitely had my keys on me before I closed the door to automatically lock, I scrambled with my suitcase and felt my limbs move faster than my racing heartbeat. I had fifteen minutes to get my train. Almost swinging my suitcase off the stone steps, I looked back at the blackberry branches crawling across the pathway to my door. Still wild, still untamed, never pruned. I gave up applying to the same job at different branch locations. Nothing will be done about the blackberries whilst I’m at Mom’s, nor when I come back. I’ll look for new vacancies when I come back. I can’t be late for the train. I need to keep moving. The blackberries will remain, still. Editors: Joyce P., Claudia S. Image: Unsplash

  • Losing Her

    Ever since I’d started my first semester at college, my dreams have become harder to see. In high school, I had written my college essay about how my dreams were like fireworks waiting to be lit, destined to illuminate the sky. But now being in college, I can’t even get the lighter to spark. This entire summer I’ve woken up in my childhood bed, rummaging through my mind for a piece of the person I used to be. I reread my journal pages and look back at the gullible champion I’d been a year ago. All I could find was envy. She didn’t have money, half a degree, or a semi-sturdy resume, but she had hope. It’s like the ability to believe in God and never question if he’s real. What drives me nuts is how fast it all happened. She didn’t have a slow, peaceful death, not even a slow painful one. She was ripped from my body like a shadow and smothered in my sleep, leaving me behind. But that isn’t what happened. I let her get away– I released her not knowing that part of me would be missed– craved, and now, ultimately, lost. It isn’t all my fault though. High school’s celebratory senior year hoists you up so high only to drop you from a cliff, supposing you’ll land in the success you wrote about in your ‘Why Me’ essay– or at least near it. It feels like the world was ripped from under your feet and thrown onto your back. You begin to wish that once you started to believe in God, you’d be killed right there on the spot so you wouldn’t have time to question his existence– no time to catch the world. My thumbs twiddle over the globe, trying to find a comfortable place for them to sit. I keep shifting them all over, but their placement feels wrong everywhere. Knowing I could drop the whole thing– I fear to and want to all at once. If only I had the strength to spin it backwards. I’d find her again. And dismiss her replacement. It’s not that I want my past. Just my whole. Buried in grown-out sheets, I still dig a grave. I can’t remember her touch, her smiles I used to feel. But I hear mourning from her funeral. It sings from my dry mouth. She’s the only thing I can talk about with friends anymore. But I’ll listen to their new reflection, hoping I’ll be able to accept mine. Editors: Cathay L., Claudia S. Image: Kaysha Siemens

  • Venom Eyes

    Content warnings: mentions of death, weight loss, ill physical and mental health. One night later With a purple paddle brush littered with multicolored zig-zagging bristles, the daughter smoothed out the back of her head, gracing her hair upwards into her left hand, cupping, holding, then securing a pink and red strawberry scrunchie three times around the mound of tangling hair into a high ponytail. She then felt the strands of short hair at the back of her head slowly crawl down from the scrunchie vice, and tugged out the elastic in defeat, letting the long stretch of rich mahogany cascade down her shoulders and spine in dented and frayed waves. A few pieces landed softly next to her left ear to frame her face at the front, snaking down past her navel. On her right side, she dragged her fingers against a metallic silver headband sitting on top of her Sony boombox. She pushed the headband up onto her head to comb flyaways back – particularly the ones at the side of her face that were just long enough to tuck behind her ears but not quite, looking like mutton chops detaching from her cheeks. Illuminated by a healthy honey glow from the lamp, greased up like a Christmas turkey with all of her bottles and tubes of skincare, wearing an oversized t-shirt with Snoopy lying on their iconic red hut decorated with Christmas lights and snow floating from the neckline, she was ready for bed. ~ One week earlier “Shall we drive to the venom eyes?” The smile lines near Mum’s eyes lifted as she asked that question, thinking she made an incredibly witty remark and inside joke. “I brought that up ONE TIME! One time! I made a fleeting comment about how they looked like Venom’s eyes and now you won’t let it go. I regret ever bringing it up now.” After dramatically flouncing her arms in the space between her and the glove compartment, the daughter smacked her left forearm onto the car's windowsill and leaned her body weight into the anchor. The daughter sighs into her left shoulder, hoping if she crumples her body closer to the car door she could exit this line of conversation. A whisper of embarrassment swirls in her belly like a draining sink, a familiar sensation whenever her mother decides to repeat something she says as the new insole joke she did not mutually sign up to, feeling mocked rather than endeared. “Well, I can’t unsee it now whenever I go up there!” “Oh my god, get over it. I didn’t expect you to bang on about it for weeks after I’ve said it.” ~ 5 days earlier “Do you want a drive to the venom eyes?” “Stop it! We need to stop calling it that!” “Well, what else would you call it? The deerstalker spot?” “I prefer that over bloody Venom eyes. Let’s go to the deerstalker spot, then.” ~ Present day A drizzly mid-tone blue veils over the broad and vacant skyline, the long sunlit days slowly closing into nighttime hues. The monolithic silhouettes of trees and fields replace the distinct patchwork of countryside greens and sun-bleached browns. Inside the dusty silver Suzuki Jeep was a strawberry-blonde mother grasping the steering wheel and her daughter in the passenger seat, the meat of her palm resting against the edge of her tanned jaw as she leans her elbow against the windowsill. Both stare down the shape of a tree in front of the single country lane, the weighty corners of the branches bent downwards and create two oblong convex shapes in the negative space between the tree and the road – angular, distorted, and glaring, they stare back at the two women like a pair of Venom’s eyes, the symbiote and anti-hero from Marvel comics. “Have you had as bad of a week as I have?” The Mum asks with a rising pitch in her inflexion at the end of the question. “Yep.” Responded the daughter in a low, defeated but accepting tone. A thunderous explosion of delirious laughter bounced across the car’s glass windows and pulsed in the spaces between the daughter’s ribcage, wheezing from the inevitable breaking point. It was too dark to see the Mother's scatter of freckles bob on her rosy cheeks and blushed face as she laughed. In daylight, they delicately spread across her face and body, as if the melanin was gathering like Army troops to shield her from overexposure to the sun. In daylight, they replaced the awe of stars in a sky untouched by light pollution; seeing the details of her freckles was like finding the constellations hidden in a bright night sky in the countryside. The same night sky that the mother and daughter sat under in a car held upright more by duct tape than metal and plastic, laughing hysterically like a weeping dam that had burst to the brim and exploded. It was drastic and sudden, almost relieving. “These two weeks have been...shit, to put it lightly.” “Tell me about it.” The daughter flung her left hand to her forehead, resting the weight of her skull against her elbow on the door's windowsill – as if merely mentioning the weeks were tiresome and draining. The mother continued, “What with your Grandma being her usual self, you not getting the job, and your Dad almost dying.” “Yep.” She repeated, this time pushing it out with a guttural exhale, like a breath she held to keep herself from deflating. For the past two weeks since the news about her father’s near-death experience, the daughter felt that the mechanics keeping her alive weighed heavier in her body. Her heartbeat thudded faster at any pause in a routine, and exhaling exerted more energy and effort than before. It was the core reason why both of them were having such bad, terrible, awful, nightmarish weeks. When the father thought he was speaking his final words to his ex-wife. He wasn't obviously in hindsight, but no one knew that at the time. The daughter taps at the fragile silence; "I'm sorry you had to deal with all that by yourself. I know why you did, but still. I'm sorry he rang you and you had to talk to him. That's not fair. That's not fair on you." The mother exhales, "I's not your fault honey, you were stressed out with your interview–" "I wasn't stressed, but yeah I get what you mean–" "It was on your mind, and I didn't want that to color how you did." "Well, I guess it doesn't matter now, anyway." "I'm sorry, sweet." "I'm sorry too." ~ “I think...another thing I’m having a hard time coming to terms with, is that…considering how Dad doesn’t speak to his family, when he does die I will, as a result, would then be cut off from them too. Like I know we weren’t even close to begin with, but without Dad, I won’t have a reason to speak to them at all." “Well, in reality, you have family in other ways–” “No no, what I mean is like, you know, the only thing I have that is Indian about me is Dad’s family – which isn't anyone's fault! It's just the way it is what with Dad's relationship with his family, you know – so when he dies I guess I, technically, won’t have any tangible connection to being Indian anymore. Not like others would.” And there it was, the silent confession that was kept close to the daughter's chest for so long was now shared information, it was too revealing but still wasn't enough to explain what she was feeling. Even if it felt like she had already said too much but couldn't take it back now. "Ah. Well, we really need to sort that out then. You still in touch with your cousin." "I mean, we don't not talk to each other if that makes sense. Like we don't purposefully avoid talking to each other, we're friends on Facebook. But I don't use Facebook that much and, yeah. I just don't talk to Dad's side of the family much, he barely talks to his brothers at all, to begin with." It was a well-spoken truth between the mother and daughter that the father's relationship with his siblings was thinner and colder than the film that starts to form on water in sub-zero temperatures – like an ice cube tray that was taken out of the freezer too soon. Each brother and sister filled the spaces in those trays. How was the daughter supposed to interact with a dynamic like that? What was she supposed to do when the only thing that gives her the 'you're South Asian' pass can suddenly disappear at the notice of her father's cremation? The two women continue to sit in the car, exchanging rambles and silences, at staggered – yet prolonged...intervals. Under the sunken stars in a dark ocean of a solemn cerulean sky, the unshed tears and invisible scars were exchanged for words too honest to document. Too much for dialogue in one sitting but too little for the two generations to explain all that has happened before the Venom eyes. The sinister shape created by the tree's negative space was as sharp, piercing, and unnerving as their "I'm sorry"s, "You have nothing to apologize for"s, and "If you need this, I forgive you"s. The words they needed to hear, but neither knew how to comfortably carry them in their chest and breathe steadily at the same time without staccato. At the sunless and moonless boundary between too late in the night and too early in the morning, the mother and daughter decided it was time to head home. Waking up the Suzuki Jeep, the mother drove back so they could finally go to bed for their restless – but perhaps more peaceful – sleep. ~ One night later Walking past her desk where the daughter was getting ready in her Snoopy shirt and slippery skincare, she left her room and was at the door to her Mum's bedroom in three steps. The distance between them was often very short. She scanned over the cluttered heap of duvets and sheets to find a pop of warm tangerine hair and a pair of glasses peeking out from the pile; a cool stream of light poured from a phone, painting peaks and valleys onto the woman's face where the desk lamp wasn't strong enough to brighten the dim room. The mother craned her neck over the duvets to look at her daughter, standing diagonally in her doorway. One foot in, one foot out. She lifted her glasses to the crown of her head, "I must say, you are glowing", the daughter huffed out a breath in disbelief, ready to pivot out the doorway. Wasn't interested in hearing another tease about her looking slimy and sticky from skincare. "I'm serious", the mother added, "you look better than you've done for a long time." The daughter's skin was improving slowly, and she apparently looked like she lost weight. At least according to Mum on the first day she came back to visit her this week. It wasn't meant out of malice, she knew what she meant. And not that the daughter was purposely trying to lose weight either; she likes who she is regardless. Quickly, she understands how her Mum felt when she was losing weight from stress and people were complimenting how well she looked. Quite an ugly thing, to praise plus-size bodies for looking nice and well in the context of weight loss. They don't know how hellish June has been. Pausing, thinking, remembering, the daughter replied, "Remember not long ago, when you were wearing all those dresses you barely wear because you couldn't be fussed do the laundry for your normal clothes, and everyone was complimenting you on how nice you looked, and you kept telling them you didn't get that because you were feeling your worst? I get that now." Erupting from the duvet pile was an earthquake of shakey laughter, followed by wheezing. The figure still standing by the duvet pile's door joined the hysterics and wheezed in tandem, hunching over to catch their breath and contain the sprites of pain escaping her lungs. "I seriously get it now. Because you think I look great when I really fucking don't feel it." The laughing continued, "I don't feel good at all! These past few weeks have been an absolute nightmare. I totally get how you feel when people say that now!" They couldn't stop the fits of unhinged giggles, gasping for air at intervals like commas, a shared ache from the seconds of joy after a fortnight-long tidal wave of being not okay. "Fucking sucks, doesn't it?" "Yeah!" "What a week – what a month we've had, honestly." "Yeah." "I'm glad we had that conversation, at least to talk about some stuff about your Dad." "Yeah..." "Do you feel better about it now?" "Yeah." "You sure?" "Yeah, I feel better. Do you?" "I do." "Good. Alright, well, goodnight Mum." "Love you lots." "Love you lots, too." "Goodnight, sweet." "Yeah, you too." The daughter started walking back to her room. "Have a good night, and best of luck attempting to get some sleep, Mum." "Will do!" "Goodnight." "Goodnight." Editors: Joyce P.

  • 20 Years Since the US Invasion of Iraq

    March 20, 2023 marks 20 years since the US invasion of Iraq and the eight long years of war that followed. Known as the Second Persian Gulf War, it began after the September 11th attacks that prompted George W. Bush’s War on Terror. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2002 showed more than half of Americans supported Bush’s efforts. However, 20 years later, the Iraq War has had long-lasting, damaging impacts on Iraq. The invasion was initiated by the Bush administration’s claims of Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, which were later proven to be false. Yet, post September 11, the beginning of the War on Terror marked a wave of colonial violence by the United States which left five million Iraqi children orphaned, over 100,000 Iraqi individuals dead, and countless more displaced in a country that faced and continues to face wide social and economic change. The US invasion of Iraq was unjust and its impact on the region cannot be overlooked. The United States also did significant damage to the preservation of Iraqi cultural heritage. According to the Global Policy Forum, over a thousand artifacts were smuggled out of the country by the United States, and several Iraqi museums and libraries were damaged as well. Such actions damaged the cultural and historical preservation for generations to come. We cannot let history repeat itself. Currently, Iraq is still undergoing social, economic, and political issues that were further exacerbated by the war. We cannot forget the countless lives, families, and generations devastated by US military action and the overwhelming support from the American people for an invasion based on falsehoods spread by an administration within the American government. Editors: Phoebe H., Alisha B., Chris C., Lang D. Image source: Getty Images via CNN

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