“Water Snakes or Medusa,” by Keah Hansen

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The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.

 

She asked, “Why is it that women are always drowning?”

And Kate Chopin replied, “The voice of the sea speaks to [her] soul.”

And this soul seemed to wash out over the sidewalks like leafs held by puddles. They were singularly beautiful and flickered in the mid-afternoon sun and then almost jumped like fish in a koi pond. I thought of that good Lady of Shalott as a leaf, perhaps oak, swirling in a soapy green dress then resting amongst the reeds and silt. A body proffered to the sublime. The “dark continent.” The flumes of smoke that rest on eyelids or the foams that fork the beach into bits that yield and bits that take. The water admitted her hunger, spit it out with opal teeth, and the subconscious grasped another victim. But who, I wondered, had first moulded water into a woman?

I walked home and broke eggs in a pan. They sung and floated merrily in butter. I asked aloud, “Who would have the audacity to decide on a woman’s body or soul?”

And these words sizzled like life itself on the floorboards. They scratched the ears of my cat mindlessly and drew quizzical circles of soapy water on the moon-shaped plate in the sink. This soul seemed to hide inside the crinkles of the tissues. Or the steam from a lavender-scented bath. It even nestled in the roots of the houseplant when fed droplets from the dripping tap. But I was ravenous so I ate and thought and moved my body through the kitchen, falling into the news headlines and letting the water recede to wreak havoc in the basement.

Then a nasally voice bleated, “Storm warning in effect.” It was Clorox, which smartened up the murky underpinnings of each woman in her home, breaking eggs into pans and thinking. At this point, I used my tissues and waded into a bath soaked with the sounds of violin and imagined myself a muse then invoked all the saints of this city. The secular and sacred vied for me and I wondered which institution would best house my eyes and swaddle my soul in warm linen, made to look like silk.

I glanced outside and saw teardrops clawing at the windowpane and gathering strength in the rivets thrush against the vines. Then I heard the strength of a voice, and another, break through this window and worm into my submerged ears. It was the distinct sound of soul, not misty nor desperate but full as wildflowers bunched with string. I hunched my shoulders and raised myself, steaming, from that bath and pressed my forehead to the window. The tears had morphed back to rain, and there were women, not woman, moving through the streets with volition. The puddles remained but the leafs were trodden upon and the moving mouths were buttresses for all types of watery symbols.

I dried my legs and arms in time and gently pressed a towel against my wide eyes. Then I donned some clothes and linked with someone’s hand, though my hair still gleamed with wetness.

 

these words by Keah Hansen were inspired by the art of Sonia Alins Miguel

New Prose Poem: “Washi Tales,” by Ilona Martonfi

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The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.

i.

No one in the village will tell her. The repossessed house. Her childhood home. The rotting wood. Four rooms. Iron stove. A table. A mother and a father. Two sisters, little brother. Grandmother. Sand dunes, grasslands, reed-lined backwaters, tiny white farms. Disassembled.

Poïesis clangour. Percussive bowing. Scavenging emptiness. Improvisation, nomadic process. Obsessive. The marginal and maimed. That which is cast out. A place of no place. Into the nothing. Riffing off these lines. Her mother reporting the bad news. Or retelling old bad news. Keeping track of shapeless, violent births; confessions and letters; the omen unfolding in real life. Shuffling. Slurring. Inept.

A purple iris. Faceless, carrying her. Name folded into another name. Put black paint back to its unblemishedness. Unbruised.

ii.

Wading in warm mud. A womb. Tales of sexual predation. Cruel loneliness.

 

these words by Ilona Martonfi were inspired by the art of Sonia Alins Miguel

On Sisterhood and Solidarity: “All the Things I Never Got to Say,” by Fiona Williams

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The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.

 

There aren’t enough words in the English language to sufficiently express what you mean to me.
I’m going to try anyway.

I should have told you that your smile is my favourite thing in the world. That the memory of your radiance is what keeps me warm during these cold winter nights.

I should have told you that a hug was all I needed. Instead, you gave me your heart and you gave it to me so fully. You also bought me chocolates.

I should have told you that I never meant to cry during our dinner. You didn’t even question it; you helped me wipe away the tears.

I should have told you that your 2 a.m. phone call saved my life. That the patience and selflessness you have shown me, I will never find in someone else.

I should have told you that I think I found my soulmate. Your intelligence keeps me in awe, and your kindness keeps me afloat.

I should have told you that I worry now that you’re not around. I worry you’ll settle for less than you deserve because even if I could gift you the universe, somehow it still wouldn’t be enough.

I should have told you that you look like Home to me. You look like Salvation. You look like Shelter. You look like Safety.

What I should have told all the incredible women who have helped me become the woman I am today:

Thank you.

I love you.

I couldn’t have done it without you.

 

these words by Fiona Williams were inspired by the art of Sonia Alins Miguel

“For Those Who Don’t Fit Into Boxes,” by Shagufe Hossain

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Growing up
I never lived
in houses with lawns or little gardens or backyards,
with weeping willows or wooden benches.

 I lived,
sometimes,
in a city
where pedestrian walkways,
‘footpaths’ they were called,
were resting places for those who couldn’t afford rooftops
over their heads.

 I lived in apartment buildings,
boxes stacked one on top of the other
to save space
in overpopulated cities—
in lands
dominated,
sliced up
with sharp blades of politics, religion and language
and distributed
like a decadent dessert (not enough)
amongst gluttons, never satisfied.

 But these spaces for living?
They constructed and constricted
and made it difficult to breathe
in boxes,
with each wall
closing in,
a divide,
made of those very same blades.

 Now these boxes stand
stacked one on top of the other
with one wall, standing tall,
the wall of class
(check box: rich/poor)
one wall, standing tall,
the wall of gender
(check box: male/female)
one wall, standing tall,
the wall of body
(check box: abled/disabled)
one wall, standing tall,
the wall of beauty
(check box: fair-skinned/dark-skinned)
one wall, standing tall,
the wall of knowledge
(check box: valid/invalid)
Mighty walls, standing tall, solid
with edges like blades.

 I lived,
sometimes,
crossing over to the other side.
But these walls with their sharp edges
would cut into my flesh
so I grew up
wounded,
bleeding.

 And these boxes?
They worked
for those who lived in black-and-white worlds.
Lazy minds, refusing to see colours or greys,
fitting themselves into moulds
as others saw fit,
gift-wrapping themselves in societal expectations
and presenting themselves
(happily?)
to a world
that was ready
for no more.

 But not you and I.
You and I
stood either somewhere in the middle, bleeding,
or outside,
in a corner
of a verandah
looking at the skies, limitless,
using boxes with pinholes,
projecting realities,
our own,
to capture the essence of life.
Breathing.

 

these words by Shagufe Hossain were inspired by the work of Marcin Wolski

“Considering.”: New Prose by Tristen Sutherland

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Once upon a time, there was a man on a ledge. Well, not a ledge. A balcony. Every day at dusk, like clockwork, the man stood on the balcony, staring out into the blue hazy expanse. Sometimes, he looked down, considering the 20-story drop. Sometimes, he considered jumping. The man had everything he’d ever wanted. His apartment was beautiful. His job was prestigious. His car was automated. And, yet, he considered the 20-story drop from his apartment balcony.

 Once upon a time, there was young girl who would watch the man on the balcony, like clockwork. She would watch him standing there as he considered the urban twinkle of lights. She had frizzy hair and no freckles. She never understood why. All the people she knew had freckles and wore their hair in long ponytails. The girl’s mother had given up on combing through the girl’s hair years ago. Now, it sticks up in all directions, with a bow neatly placed by her ear as if to say, “Truly, we tried.” Once, the girl gathered the courage to ask her parents why she had frizzy hair and no freckles and they didn’t. Her mothers just glanced at each other, considering.

 Once upon a time, on a particularly blue day, the man stood on his balcony, considering. The girl watched him. She noticed that his hair had gotten wilder and his dark eyes seemed more… Determined? Anxious? Afraid? The man looked across the horizon. It looked like the ocean, shades of Prussian blue, cerulean and hints of ochre swirling in and out of each other like a Van Gogh painting. His achievements would never change how people felt about him, the man finalized. Cursed with no freckles, frizzy hair and chestnut skin, he was hopeless. He considered. The girl watched attentively. The moon was full and its white light competed with the industrial glow of the city. The man tried to convince himself that the drop would be like jumping into the ocean. Quick. Easy. Painless. He considered. The girl began to worry. She thought of the man as a friend, her only friend with frizzy hair, no freckles and dark skin, like her. But the man was finished with considering. He took a deep breath and scanned his surroundings. This would be the last time he’d look at the horizon this would be the— He noticed a girl with frizzy hair and no freckles standing on a balcony next to his peering back at him.

 Once upon a time, there was a man about to jump off a balcony. But he couldn’t. Not that night. Because a girl with frizzy hair and no freckles on a balcony next to his reminded him too much of himself. Instead, the man and the girl stood on their balconies, looking off into the Van Gogh sky. The girl was too nervous to speak. The man didn’t know what to say. So, there they stood, calm in each other’s presence. Calm. Of course, it wouldn’t last. The girl would go back inside to loving parents, who would never understand why the girl wanted freckles. The man would go back to his apartment, knowing that his skin would always hold him back. But in that moment, they were both calm. A unique unspoken solidarity was shared. So, there they stood. Considering.

 

 these words by Tristen Sutherland were inspired by the work of Marcin Wolski

 

On Looking and Being Seen: “For Young Girls,” by Eileen Mary Holowka

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Content Warning: Depression and creepy insect stories

Maggie used to write stories in the attic. That was back when she was a child, when she wasn’t allowed to leave the house and instead spent family gatherings curled up in strangers’ jackets on her parents’ bed. She would rub her face into them and try to find a home in each of the different scents: winter smokers, damp lavender, a flooded basement. She would rifle through the pockets, stroking keys to guess where they belonged and reading crumpled receipts.

These days she had trouble writing. There were too many parties to attend and they always took days to get over. She still rubbed up against strangers’ jackets but it never gave her the same joy. These days, the smells were too familiar and all new possibilities seemed to end with every touch.

Sometimes Maggie went home with the jackets. She liked the homes and the jackets more than the people inside them, but they were her only excuse in. Most of the time they would have sex and some of the time she would bleed after. It was a symptom of some condition she hadn’t been able to diagnose. It became a kind of performance art piece, bleeding onto other people’s beds. They were never appreciative of her art.

Maggie built sets. Mock kitchens with only three walls and trees with trapdoors. It was a dream job on the way to what she hoped could one day be economically sustainable. She moved around theatres invisibly, in all-black outfits that doubled as formal wear, and spent rehearsal breaks hiding in the wings watching the actors bicker like they were in a play.

The best part about casual sex was locking herself in the strangers’ bathrooms, before she had let them down with her leaking uterus, to go through their cupboards. She loved the belongings and rituals of others, finding out where they kept their extra toilet paper or whether they Q-tipped their ears. She never took anything or moved it out of place, just looked. She figured it would make her a better artist, or make her like that particular stranger better. She tried to imagine what a future in their home would look like, but it was always better the less she knew.

The doctors kept telling her there was nothing wrong, but they scheduled her an ultrasound anyways. The technician pressed down on Maggie’s full bladder while they both watched the screen. Maggie eagerly looked for something, a cyst or a tumour, as if it were a fetus. But there was nothing there, not even a child, to explain her problems. She walked out of the hospital past husbands and their swelling wives and felt more infertile than she’d ever felt in her life.

Her journey home was slow and heavy, despite or because of her emptiness. Even the trees were barren, she noticed. Autumn made her want to call her ex. She touched her phone, but it turned off as soon as she tapped his name. She had no idea where the bus stop was without Google and it took her an hour to walk home. It was dark and damp, and she looked into the lit-up windows of other people’s houses with longing. She called him later that week, several times until she got past his voicemail. When he heard her voice, he paused, and hung up.

The printed ultrasound results came the same day. Everything was fine, but sounded deadly. She read the paper aloud to Anne over Skype. Apparently there is fluid in my cul-de-sac. Did you know you had a cul-de-sac in your uterus?

That explains your pain, Anne replied. Cars keep getting stuck.

Imagine the tiny little houses.

Little moms and dads.

God, even my diseases are domestic.

Maggie liked her parents and visited them often. They would cook her more food than she could eat and fill her full of enough tea to make her bus ride home unbearable. They tried to get her to clean her toys out of the attic, but instead she just hid in the back and watched spiders build webs around her Barbies. She didn’t have the heart to throw them out, nor the desire to clean them, so she just watched instead.

The attic was full of garbage treasures: VHS tapes of dance recitals and episodes of I Love Lucy; Mom’s broken mint green typewriter; her grandmother’s wedding photos. Maggie’s dollhouse sat in the corner near the window, covered in mud from where the roofers had gone wild. She used to imagine herself as the prettiest doll and would dress and undress her mock self for hours. Doll Maggie had always been intelligent and composed. She went to parties, her face always painted into a smile.

Maggie was scared to touch her doll self, even to save her from the wreckage of shingle bits. She had never intended to stop playing, but eventually everyone else did and the lonely, imaginative Saturdays became guilty pleasures, with an emphasis on the guilt. She knew that when she grew up she would call herself Margaret. She just didn’t know when that growing up would come.

As a child, she was good at being seen and not heard. She could never keep up with her family’s political conversations and figured she must not have any opinions. She told her father her theory and he laughed her down. She decided to drop that opinion as well.

Maggie brought a man home to her parents once. He was tall and professional and liked to put her down. She could see the confusion in her mother’s eyes, as she placed the plate in front of the man like some kind of offering. She could tell her mother would rather throw it in his face, but was trying to treat her daughter like a woman. Maggie would have preferred to be chastised like a child and she felt like one as she made eye contact with her mother and shrugged.

His name was Douglas. He always told her she was a good listener, but mostly he was just a good talker. He was a writer and told Maggie she should be a writer too and that he could edit her work if she liked, because it could use some editing. He called her Margaret, said it was a good writer’s name. It sounded so good in his mouth that she felt obligated to keep kissing him. She adored him and he adored her, except when he didn’t.

So I just googled it, Maggie texted Anne, and it says the cul-de-sac is also called “Pouch of Douglas” cuz of some guy named Douglas who “discovered” it I guess.

OF COURSE.

Even my insides belong to dudes.

Dudes named Douglas. Had to be a Douglas.

It’s always a Douglas.

The last time Maggie and Anne Skyped, the internet began cutting out in the middle of their chat about depression. Anne’s comforting words fractured into alien xylophone fragments and Maggie broke down laughing.

She hadn’t always been so sad. She read that birth control could be making her this way, but the doctor said that was just part of the deal. So she stayed on the meds and took selfies instead. Except they never looked beautiful or poetic enough, like Anne’s. Instead they were unnerving, lacking the adequate amount of performance for the camera.

Early in her career, Maggie had tried acting. She was excellent when she had to play a quiet school girl, but unconvincing when she tried the role of a confident lesbian. She realized she was only good at performing herself, her own intimacy, and went back to facilitating the public intimacy of others instead.

During her long distance relationships, Maggie always watched herself on the screen, instead of her lover. Her own tiny image was too distracting. Her long-distance self was cold and hard and contained behind glass. These days, she was somewhat softer. At least, she leaked.

She rarely brought men home but, after watching an episode of Sex and the City, the idea of having sex next to the open window appealed to her. It wasn’t the lovemaking that made it so enticing, but the idea that the neighbours might be watching, thinking of her as some sort of Samantha sex-goddess and wishing for her life.

As a teenager, Maggie had worked in her father’s office building where she’d spend the morning filing papers and the afternoons staring into the windows of the apartment building across the street. She’d map out the tenants’ rituals: the old lady’s lunchtime smoke, the child’s after-school milk and cookies, the perfectly trimmed bachelor’s quick change into evening clothes. She always hoped she might catch them looking back her way, but the window was likely reflective.

On one of her dates, she took a guy to an art gallery, but ended up coming down with diarrhea. He gave up on her after she spent too long in the washroom, and sent her some sort of inflammatory text about her thighs, or ass or something. It was her gut saving her, she realized, because after she recovered she stumbled into a Nan Goldin exhibit she knew he would have ruined. She spent two hours in the room, gazing at other people’s wounds, and crying. She went home knowing she should write down her thoughts, but ended up in bed instead, with an old recording of Judy Garland covering Singing in the Rain playing in the background on her parents’ passed-down wedding gift television set.

The next date was even more hopeless. She spent hours preparing, trimming her pubic hair into the toilet with safety scissors and wondering if other girls had better methods. However, as soon as she met him, she knew it was over. His profile picture beard was gone and he kept calling her Meg. She smiled and pushed through it, walking 16 km across the city with him until she finally came up with an excuse to leave. She went home and watched Rear Window on loop until she fell asleep.

Most nights before bed, she would scroll through Facebook, Twitter, /r/Relationships, and YouTube to watch the lives of others. Sometimes she would comment, but normally she just acted as a witness, eager to see a glimmer of emotion, something beyond herself. In the mornings she scrolled through Instagram, pretending that what she saw were just static portraits, but inevitably identifying with and reading into every one.

One night, an ant crawled into her ear while she was sleeping. At first she thought the crunchy popping sound was some kind of air bubble, but she was unable to pop it. She fished around for awhile before deciding to look in the mirror. Its tiny black legs were just visible as they reached around for a way out. She stared in icy panic, suddenly wishing for her mother or a roommate who could pull it out of her. The responsibility of the task ran over her like spilled milk, mundane but devastating, as she forced her trembling fingers towards his tiny body, burning her eyes open so she wouldn’t lose him.

Afterward, he crawled around her fingers and she watched with a kind of respect, understanding now that he had wanted to be there even less than she’d wanted him to. She put the ant on the windowsill and crawled back into her bed. Her room was yellows, blues, and beige and smelled of her home. On the walls hung postcards and letters from her friends. It was kind of lovely, she realized, this place entirely her own.

The next day, the subway was stalled due to a suicide. She took out a notebook and began sketching the man sitting across from her. She sketched his pale face and sunken features, shaping them into a story. He looked on the verge of breakdown, as though he had just suffered some great loss. She ripped out the page and passed it to him, a gesture of friendship, empathy, or just mutual boredom.

He took the picture from her and squinted at it, shaking his head.

What’s this? he asked.

A drawing I did of you, just now, Maggie answered, smiling.

This isn’t me, he said, and the subway started again.

 

these words by Eileen Mary Holowka were inspired by the art of Marcin Wolski

Why Black Role Models Matter

 

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As a young child, if someone were to ask me about my race, I would say with great pride: I am Black. Being the daughter of a Women’s Studies Professor definitely had its informative advantages – by the age of 6, I was familiar with heavy terms such as systemic racism, visible minority, and gender politics. This early exposure, untainted by perspectives of my peers, made me proud to identify as Black. Unfortunately, various life experiences caused this pride to waver. It never died completely, but at times it did temporarily burn out.

The first time my Black pride died was in fourth grade. I had just returned from Nigeria, and upon being re-introduced to an environment where being Black meant being Other, I realized that my identity was bizarre to those around me. At first, I did not realize the slight differences that caused my peers to distance themselves from me. However, when my rude awakening did happen, it altered the picture-perfect idea of my Blackness. It was my first day at a new school, and all I wanted was to be friends with the tattoo club girls, who would always be on the basketball court making cool designs for their temporary tattoos during recess. I distinctly remember mustering up all the courage I possibly could in order to approach them; more importantly, I remember my request being politely declined because the tattoos would not show up on my skin. After that, it became difficult to take pride in something that my peers considered strange – so I gave up embracing my identity in order to be accepted by them. I decided that I needed to re-define my Blackness, and I turned to the Internet for inspiration. At the time, I did not realize that re-defining such an important part of my identity in order to be accepted by my white counterparts would cause me to view being unapologetically Black as something to be ashamed of.

As an adolescent, if someone were to ask me about my race, I would pause and quietly admit that I was Black. I was no longer the young Black girl who ran around the house shouting, “sing it loud I’m Black and proud!” The girl who begged her mom to tell more stories about the Nigerian Civil War, and about the history of slavery in Canada, was gone. This young carefree Black girl was replaced  by the Black girl that loved catfish, grape soda, and fried chicken, because the media told her that this was the acceptable way to embrace Blackness. This girl refused to have crushes on Black boys because she thought they would all eventually become “thugs” and “gangsters.” She idolized Cinderella and knew that her Prince Charming could only be white. She identified as stereotypically Black in order to be convenient for her white friends, but wished she was white so that she could be exactly like her idol, Cinderella. The media told her that her Blackness was only okay when it was stifled by the stereotypes created by whiteness to control Black people and Black bodies. Her Blackness was accepted only when she realized that she was ‘other,’ while whiteness was the standard. She accepted this as the truth because Cinderella did not look like her, but the characters who did were servants, antagonists, and clowns. She truly believed that in order to be the princess she wanted to be, she had to somehow achieve this standard called whiteness.

I know the effect of not having role models that look like you in the media, and for me it was a catastrophe. When you see people that look like you represented in a negative way, you begin to believe that there is something wrong with you. The shift from young pride and innocence is subconscious and slow, but before you know it you have stifled yourself in order to attain a certain standard that the media enforces. In times of self-doubt, I looked to my movie and TV show characters for an affirmation that my Blackness was acceptable. When I failed to find this affirmation, my ten-year-old self watched the movies with the white Disney princesses and began to idolize them. But my ten year old self looked nothing like her idols and this was a problem, because in order to become them, she had to look like them.

I say all this to emphasize the importance of events like the Montreal Black International Film Festival, which took place earlier this month. This annual festival allows Black artists and creators to express themselves in an area where they are often both underrepresented and misrepresented. Representation of Black people in the media is crucial because there are young Black children out there, watching and waiting for their next idol. They all need to know that not only are they acceptable, but they are beautiful and destined for excellence. In times when their non-Black peers question their Blackness, they need a Disney princess that looks like them so they know that they too are royalty. And lastly, they need to know that whiteness is not the default, and that Blackness is not the ‘other’. They need to be able to turn on the television and see a positive representation of someone who looks like them. These young people need to be aware that unapologetic Blackness is not only acceptable, but something to be proud of.

 

Chidera Ihejirika is a proud Nigerian Canadian in her second year at McGill University. She is an admirer of Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie and a lover of storytelling, dance and hiphop. 

“A Standstill,” new poetry by Khatira Mahdavi

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I called you

and gave you my word

that between right now and forever

there is a house of mirrors,

and then there is you.

You, a standstill—

the starting point, the finish line

and all of the in-betweens.

 

You called back

and whispered across the line

that from here until anywhere,

I’m your favourite ride along.

these words by Khatira Mahdavi were inspired by the art of Pasha Bumazhniy

“Code Switching of the New Romance,” new prose by Kate Shaw

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Spanish cropped up in their discourse in a very predictable way. Their relationship was established in English — her first language, his second — and Spanish tended to couch the more intimate sentiments. For her, it created distance — both from the topic and from him — when they traipsed into territory that was rife with vulnerability, con dudas.

—Pues ¿por qué crees que te sientes así?

Spanish, in case asking directly about his emotions was too big a threat to his masculinidad, to the machismo of his culture. Spanish to distance herself from a fair question, but one that asked for vulnerability from a new partner who maybe wasn’t ready to give it. Spanish, porque tenía miedo.

She used code-switching as a buffer, a way to protect herself when she took a tentative step into the thick haze that was an infinity of potential futures for them.

It was different for him.

—Te escondes con mi idioma.

He didn’t fear that haze. The lack of clarity was something he simply accepted as inevitable, even beautiful in its incertidumbre. His Spanish was meant to pierce it boldly, shoot it through with light — aunque efímera — so they could both see, at least for a second. See each other.

The contexts overlapped almost perfectly. If you didn’t know them — as individuals, as partners — you might think the role Spanish played for each of them was identical. You had to have a much more personal perspective to see that what allowed her to hide was what most allowed him to show.

these words by Kate Shaw were inspired by the photography of Alison Scarpulla

From the author: “What spoke to me most about the photo was the haziness of the image and the reflections. I linked the lack of visual clarity in the photo to the uncertainty of the future shared by the two characters, which they approach in different ways. The idea that a reflection appears identical to the source it reflects without actually being the same is connected to the fact that the characters use Spanish in the same contexts but with very different intentions.”

New prose by Annie Rubin, “We Are Survivors”

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It felt like dying, only you’re expected to reincarnate much faster: rapid loss of breath, chest heaving to compensate. Dizzy. The room would fade in and out. I watched myself descend into fight or flight, an encumbered observer over my own body.

At fifteen, I asked to be separated from that part of my identity rooted in fear. Was it possible to unlink? Could I attain the division of self: an existence without the weight of imminent extinction?

My father felt it too. He brought me tea one night, bourbon and honey. It Will Help You Sleep, he promised. What If I Die, I asked. You Will, he said. But Not For A Long Time. We Are Survivors, You And I.

They gave me Zoloft to stop the shaking and Seroquel to help me sleep and Prozac when I had the urges to go to temple when it rained and they gave me Lexapro for the side-effect depression. They gave me Klonopin and Ativan and Valium and Xanax was my favorite; it made the room spin the least.

The effort was in solid determination to mute what so viscerally tied me to my ancestors: that brink-of-death anxiety we all know so deeply. It ebbs and flows through our veins tethering us to each other, the Jewish people.

Maybe we didn’t speak Hebrew at our Seders but the bloodlines flowed. We were descendants of those lucky enough to hold on, who knew they had to keep living. At family gatherings, the room would get silent. Why Is Our Family So Small? someone asked once. The Rest Of Us Were Killed.

But the drugs seemed to perpetuate more drugs; we were desperate for some kind of medicalized solution, capitalizing on our ingrained identity. Could we learn to escape? Or to ever quell the pharmaceutical self?

The healing had to begin through the (re)discovery of voice. Shrouded by years of institutionalized hate, the beauty of our culture must manifest itself in celebration, unapologetic lighting candles and sharing kindred spirit. Singing and loving and never- forgetting, we must come out of hiding. I want to hear each voice.

this prose by Annie Rubin, “We Are Survivors,” was inspired by the art of Christine Kim 

From Annie: “This work is inspired by the image of a character looking poised and overwhelmed, the base, supporting a dilapidated castle. The figure represents the protagonist’s Jewish ancestry in the strife and struggle of the Jewish people, who bear a weight that has been carried through generations. Striking colours provided a glimmer of hope through the subversion of institutionalized hatred, confiding in the expansive possibility of self-expression.”