Session One Anthology

MENTOR: CHEN CHEN


hatred

Calen Firedancing

the password to grandma's computer
    is hatred and her year of birth

love being too white and fair
    too empty for a password
and hatred being the family crest-word
    long before her birth year

this morning I escorted her to breakfast
    biscuits and gravy tasting like hunger
and an old white couple staring past our skin
    and me noticing like grandmother does

hatred of the way sweat glimmers
    on large black foreheads
a reminder of cotton and the way blood runs
    from thorns to the crushed hair on arms
of dehydration settled on the skin
    white as ash

of men and marriage and men and marriage
    fleeing west from Oklahoma
of hair knotted and breaking like ships in storm
    carrying chained men over
of that same hair receding up the head
    making the sweat shine higher and higher
and of strong women where men and marriage were not
    and of beatings from strong women

me an athlete until I wasn't
    me an enemy to rock n roll until I wasn't
me black unless I wasn't
    and always white enough to leave the question open

me digging through family photos
    finding documents and awards
family trees and family recipes
    family secrets

and the greatest secret of them all
behind the missing fathers
underneath the over-buttered pie crusts
only one ingredient—

~

Calen Firedancing is a freshman at Williams College. He was born in Los Angeles and currently lives with his mom and brother in Phoenix, Arizona. He is studying Political Science and Africana Studies at Williams. Calen also is on the board of Cap and Bells, the student theater group, and is a member of Speakfree, the student spoken word organization. In his free time, Calen enjoys literature, poetry, and film. 

 

intra-truths

Diana Khong

i. i’m bad at calling back. when i look in the mirror,
the word daughter misaligns my mouth. my phone
grows heavy with all the relatives i can’t look in the
eye and their faces coalesce into redness the way
a wound dissociates a bloodstream.

ii. i slot my collapse for the year of the dragon,
when the tide comes back to claim its lost. i steal
a pair of shoes i can’t afford and pretend i’m
glory, half-lidded and nameless american.

iii. all children are born leaking from the gut. my
body never seals so i let a man cherry-pick stray
bones out of me, fill an ash tray with shard and
burst. my tongue doped to stillness, a sloppy
intercourse between me and the self that died on
the boat.

iv. the first dead bird of the season is always blue.
we have no way to explain this except that things
are not meant to become the space they inhabit.
so when my skin is saddled and eyes begin to
bleed, my disintegration becomes synonymous
with whiteness.

~

Diana Khong is a young poet and ghost from the diaspora. She's founder and editor-in-chief of Kerosene Magazine and is staff at Noble Gas Quarterly, Ascend, and Red Queen Literary Magazine. Her work specializes in female sexuality, decolonization, and the shape of mouths. For updates, you can find her frequenting social media on Twitter and Tumblr, both @deerthrum.

 

Moon Activist

Keyi Liu

Three times in January, rain.
The first rain poured until windows drowned. A night rain.
The snow gave away with a gasp, kissing the earth.

The air even shone, reflecting like blackberries rolling on a plate.
    The moon
a cold rock, like when we are transformed
    by rain.
We are sisters of the moon and she our Sister
    moves slowly through
the sky, and I will tell you
    she is not lonely,
people just forget to love her, my devoted sleep companion.
    She bathes me
as I drink
    and gulp acidic breaths
and reinvent my faces in the midnights.

    I hurt—I thought,
it is so cruel that pacific islanders cannot opt out of global warming
    and I can sit
warm, smelling the rain from in here like
    a foreign dish.
We should all be out there tasting the chemical makeup of
    the rain.
We should taste more, more
    until our lips
tongues mash together and become the texture of grain.
    We should taste
metallic and never forget our element. So I tell my mother
    I am now a moon activist.
Sisters like us glow and we light up thick-furred rats that go to bed
    without moisturized skin.

The second time
the rain brought a fog, and since it was too foggy to see the teeth of my friends,
I saw a few slivers of grass around my calves.

A full body is life and bodies cut apart
    are death.
A rainforest-cat crept near me and I
    ate it.
For 18 years I crouched low over a plate
    gnashing body parts,
I abstracted strands of meat with my tongue,
    and I said
please cook me more blood and the Earth was defrauded
    660 gallons of water
to give me a hamburger that existed for three minutes.
    And I realized
No, the body breaks, itself and others, it isn’t life,
    my body is a graveyard
a grotto of putrid, decayed non-recyclables.
    The moon is falling apart,
its lakes dry craters, lunar water evaporated by the sun
    rain flowing away from its surface.
The moon is our Sister and we will look much like her in the future
    So I told my mother
I would become a Jain and she cried into her pork dumplings
    and the fog swallowed her, my mother.

I stand in the third rain as it falls; nourish me steady.
I take a handful,
sifting it through my fingers, washing my hands
as prayer.

I bring my hands together. Sweat nervously.
    Violently dry them,
then I'm calm when there is a perfect geometry.
    I'm the girl swallowing,
knowing hyperhidrosis won't allow me to shake hands
    or hold a love poem.
They crumple and drip drop
    when I touch them.
Chiral molecules loving each other; my vision, mismatched myopia;
    Would it kill us
to have more foresight? My mother has a heart
    on the wrong side of her aching body.
I paid so they could subtract instead of giving her another one.

~

Keyi Liu is a first-year at Williams College from Calgary, Alberta. She loves bodies of water, oil painting, and 8tracks. She tries her best to get her friends into Goodreads. She has been published in Alberta Views Magazine, 2 chapbooks, and was the 2011 winner of the National Mathieu Da Costa Challenge for her poem about the liberation of Lucy and Thornton Blackburn from slavery. In high school, she co-founded a magazine for dissenting voices that now has over 60 writers in Canada and abroad. At Williams, she is starting a zine with close friends, volunteers teaching public speaking to elementary school students, and is part of a social entrepreneurship think-tank.

Genesis

Shereen Lee

Sometime yesterday God decided
the universe was half dead, which meant
time for a mid-life crisis. So He remade
Himself in man’s image,
in the image of Adam created he Him,
in awe of dry-eyed destruction
and forest fires left behind as law.
And in the beginning

God brought sunshine,
sandy like signal lights.
And He said, The whole world
is just waiting to be unmade,

and laughed; and He cursed
all the picket fences,
the grass and wind
sedated in borders.
And God fell in love
with weakness, and He said,
Let the walls sleep, and it was so:
and the stars collapsed from their
pedestals, born new into orbit
collision, satellite crashes.
And God saw the world empty and fierce,
and that it was good;
and the weeds smiled for January heat,
and paint flaked off the walls.
And God lamented the
tragedy of his deification,
and He said, Faith what faith;
Stop bothering me, I don’t exist.


And on the seventh day
god saw all of his pathetic homes,
their spirals and symmetry,
their stained-glass sins.
and he turned away from its screaming,
peaceful at last in a field with no reception
endless and free from prayer

~

Shereen Lee has retained all of her original parts and is in fair to working order. She edits poetry at Inklette Magazine.

 

Rough Translations

Clarity Lim

Honey-kissed dawn and 咖啡 coffee led me
Downstairs where grandmother stirred the morning like
Northern winds in her porcelain 杯 cup.
These memories leave words             skipping,
      fleeting,
never known.
我不知道 I don’t know. Uà bhō jai.

I heard her calling through the censers cupping
Fragile prayers. Her blossomed lotus holds me.
Bhō jai lèu dă mitgai.
Maybe she can help me hear again,
Words from my grandmothers’ voices.
I chase them like
        faint stars.

My memories can’t be heard anymore
Than my tongue can speak them. My mother spells me
       Vuch Chang but, the letters stare
Back in confusion. I mean nothing in the alphabet chosen,
A scribble of curves to those who speak me.

“It means clear moon. Or month of clarity.”
But it remains anything but.
I am rough, dialect of mud, grasping at
     sounds they baptize
Ancient.

I try but still I
gargle mud.

~

Clarity Lim is a Senior studying Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Clarity began performing spoken word with the help of Kollaboration Houston, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Asian-Americans in mainstream media and entertainment. Since then, she has branch her poetry to both stage and page. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Brian Lawrence Prize in Poetry by UH's Creative Writing faculty and placed 2nd for Houston Poetry Fest's Performance Poet of the Year. When she is not in Houston for school, she is in Dallas forcing her sister's cats to love her.

 

My Imprint on La Raza

Jay Lucero

I've got fear by the throat and refuse to let go.
The one who has control is the woman with this strength.

Power swims in my palms and like the vibrant spinning sun,
I promise to shed light.
Have my skin be so radiant that it glistens on my loved ones.

They become browner/ darker and kind.

My imprint on their form.
 
That credit isn't only mine.
They come from families of latinos and blacks,
Nativos and brujas,
Who sing songs of freedom through flames.

My mouth smiles with meadows on my tongue.
Esta es la raza.


~

Jay Lucero aka Silverfemme is a senior at Hunter College. They were awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award from Queensborough Community College. Jay is a poet and actor born and raised in NYC. Jay hosts a podcast called Room Culture Sessions. They are a magical brown oddity that embodies no and all genders.