In this section:
you burn me by Juliana Barriere ’24
Riddle for Insomniacs by Georgia Moskiou ’24
Completed Sappho Fragments by Sylvia Sage Holland ’22
View from a Roof, 3.17.2020 by Ida Beckett ’24
Social Distancing by Pilar Joyce ’89
ad infinitum by B. Malone ’24
Winter Tangerine by Fia Zhang ’24
limits by Georgia Moskiou ’24
north field by Abby Martinage ’24
mutualism by Meiya Sparks Lin ’22
rabbit mouse poem by Aniela Cohig ’24
Pink Shell by Jasper Saco ’22
The Old House by Vân An Trịnh ’24
offerings by Trudi Benford ’91
Purpose by Tayo Oredein ’98
reincarnation by date generator by Kiki Chen ’23
Lakeview Hospital: Metairie, Louisiana by Arden Eli Hill ’01
you burn me
you burn me.
That’s the phrase,
From some broken line of poetry,
Something Sappho wrote, shattered by time, corrupted by the fallacy of translation,
It’s a skeleton of its former self.
Yet still somehow it touches the core of my being.
You never cared for my poetry.
You ignored my texts when they were overly conceptual.
You laughed when I compared your love to a run-on sentence,
always trying to slip another clause in.
Maybe that improvised edge was just a function of your apathy.
You were a boyish lover.
You didn’t want to understand the things outside of your grasp.
You touched me like you were picking a lock,
And you stared at me with wide, blue eyes that didn’t know what to make of my body.
You never had that look when I was fully clothed.
Maybe my poetry isn’t as disarming as I anticipated.
You tried to politick my favor,
To charm me with apologies and carefully crafted phrases
But the bruises on my skin faded, after a couple of days
deep purple became the faintest greenish stain,
I realized I didn’t have to ache.
The geese by the lake were cackling after you left me,
Just a few yards away.
They craned their long necks to stare at me,
do they burn too?
Riddle for Insomniacs
Q: What do you get if you let the titles of your books tell you a story?
A: The Philosophy of What If Louise Glück decided to Catch and Kill The Gangster We Are All Looking For with her Completed Works, and Hank Green embarked on A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor to Discipline and Punish THE OTHER AMERICANS with Solid Objects while some Math Campers pondered The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Q: What do you get if you figure out what was before Time was?
A: A logical impossibility. / A high-five from God.
Q: What do you get when you take the audience away from a performer?
A: A tree falling and wondering if it made a sound.
Q: What do you get with a body that keeps on living and a mind that can’t keep up?
A: A therapist, a priest or a boyfriend.
Q: What do you get when you cross a mid-youth crisis with loneliness?
A: A self-administered haircut. / A borrowed copy of Infinite Jest.
Q: What do you get if you want to get out?
A: A clue.
Q: What do you get for getting out?
A: A chance.
Completed Sappho Fragments
Sylvia Sage Holland
[sometimes I feel]
[moon shines on waves]
[and does not ask]
Sappho (fragment 24 A)
[our oaktree love]
[and melding gold]
[we send them now]
[link, paper, envelopes]
[folding time and space like fresh laundry]
Sappho (fragment 24 C)
you will remember
for we in our youth
did these things
yes many and beautiful things
View from a Roof, 3.17.2020
It’s cold enough for me to feel but not
enough to go downstairs and don a blanket
or a sweater or something comforting.
I can stand a couple minutes more.
I’ve never waited for the dawn before.
What strikes me is the smell that so transcends the
city that it transports me to fields in which
I have never been and into boughs of blossoming
trees I have never dared to climb. The haze
slurs buildings, its intoxicating moisture
hanging on my arms and clinging to balconies
many blocks away, creating the sort of condensation
on neighbors’ windows that reminds me of
rainy taxi-cab drives which seem so impossible now:
following the droplets, writing words backwards,
my fingertip ever-so-slightly frozen as its own heat drew lines.
Impossible in sweet-smelling fields.
This is not New York. The freedom tower is gone again
and must be lost every day to this oppressive net of droplets.
It is absolutely silent. A fatal stillness settles,
and I feel I cannot move.
Pilar Joyce ’89
The full moon watches outside my window. Subversive.
Sleepless restless. Wishing thoughts could comfort me.
That’s Michelangelo’s moon and now mine too.
The same moon today
The same the world over. One moon for every country, the bringer of cramps, the granter of wishes, the master of tides.
I dreamt of you today as I slept in my office, my bed, my bed in my office.
Pandemic parameters of work and of play.
I don’t mean to, but the moon only allows me 3 hours a night.
So, I nap—a safe, snuggly passage to another place.
Far from Zoom. From this inescapable room.
I dreamt you were in Rome. I met you in a restaurant full of life, laughter, movement.
You felt like home. Your smile matched mine.
Right there. Right then.
Just out of reach.
Like the perfect pastry under glass. A moment defined by gratefulness
I wanted to share all the unasked questions—
“Just my hand?”
Does your loneliness match mine?
Is this in any
familiar to you?
I think about perfect blue button-downs and 501s
And god’s cheap trick
Of faith or delusion.
Sentimental self-talk, convinced there is a truth worth fighting for.
A luxury I can’t afford.
I dreamt that you smelled like soap and felt like a perfect fall night.
Elgar’s serenade of strings, and so many other things.
You felt like home, but I couldn’t reach you.
after “The End of Poetry” by Ada Limón
enough of this, enough of that, enough of not
enough of love, enough of lying, of the
coffee clinging slick to your teeth, enough
of the cigarette-drenched air blown in my direction,
enough of the holes you dig in our backyard,
big enough for the dog to fall in,
enough of the crescent moons of your fingernails
in my arm, enough of smoke, of candle
wax, of crying, enough of not crying,
enough of my ragged morning voice,
of slammed doors, of breaking glass,
enough of the holes in the toes of my socks,
enough of the wan blue computer light,
of the lavender you backed over in your car
last night, enough of rattling, enough of silence,
enough noise, i am digging my fingers into the dirt
and i am asking
if this can be enough.
—to eat winter tangerines. To press
an unclipped nail to the oily rind, pierce
soft white pith that grazes and laces
the flesh. Here, slowly peel the dancing
skin to corkscrews in the humming
meters of Wallace Stevens. Here
the orange skins feel waxy and alive,
the small ridges of its fat palm
the leaves of zest closely clinging
Here the orange slides along the neck of a table,
a rising sun diving shyly into the mountains
Sleeping…a glass of light in the valley of its throat
Here: to pick apart the shades of Joni Mitchell,
to tip-toe around the details of a locked-in
memory—how it felt to be bitten by a spider
in the arroyos boiling underneath the orange sun,
fretting on a bad ankle,
dancing like an animal,
head tossed back in abandon, my voice
carrying itself away—
i. Let there be an x axis.
ii. Let there be point A and point B anywhere on the x axis.
iii. Let me be point A and I’ll let you be point B.
iv. Find the absolute value of our difference to calculate the space between us.
v. Divide your result by 2 and meet me in the middle.
vi. Nevermind, I changed my mind. Divide by 2 again. And again. Come closer.
vii. You keep approaching me, each time halving the distance you travel ad infinitum. You’re always closer, but never close enough. Why?
viii. Make the infinite sum of the finite distances you travelled not equal infinity.
Prove Zeno wrong.
i. Let there be a Cartesian coordinate system with axes x and y perpendicular to each other.
ii. Let there be point A anywhere on the x axis and point B anywhere on the y axis.
iii. Let me be point A and I’ll let you be point B.
iv. Look how far I’ve come. Look how far you’ve come. Add our squared journeys together and you’ll get another square. Find its root. That is now our distance.
v. I divide the result by 2 and I meet you in the middle.
vi. Nevermind, hope you don’t mind. I’ll divide by 2 again. And again. I’m now closer.
vii. Our distance though negligible is still existent. You’re mine to see, but never to hold. Why?
viii. Make the infinite sum of the finite distances I’ll travel not equal infinity.
Prove Zeno wrong.
i. I’ve searched for you far and wide. But I’ll look deeper.
ii. Let there be a Cartesian coordinate system with axes x, y, and z.
iii. It’s getting pretty deep and my math is pretty rusty. So, let there be light.
iv. Shine that light towards me. Calculate how long it takes to reach me. Assume the speed of light is 3×10^8 m/s to approximate our distance.
v. Do what you must. Find me bathed in your light.
Prove Zeno wrong.
tomorrow we’ll have different weather patterns and
it’ll be my turn for sunshine, yours for high winds.
i’ll wrap things in paper and
cross my fingers that they don’t go bad.
i’ll try to remember how the flags on mailboxes are meant to work or
work up the courage to talk to the woman at the post office.
i’ll be too slow and
things will spend the weekend in processing.
but tonight the sky is the same color here
as it is there.
and they mentioned your favorite poet
in this chapter of my book.
Meiya Sparks Lin
my father splits open
a fig: heavenly cavity
pink underbelly of clouds
he tells me about his great-grandfather’s funeral
how the the pallbearers kicked the coffin stands, one at a time
how the bones, unheard, wept when they hit ground
the fig falls, quartered, and
my father, more allegory than man, says
in every fig, there is a dead wasp:
the fig calls it symbiosis;
the wasp (dead) does not call it anything
with sticky fingers, i dig for a corpse, but
here there is only soft flesh
CW: animal death
rabbit mouse poem
and the newt i caught in the creek that ran into the hudson river from your yard,
swimming in your pool, the one that was yellow and purple with algae because you couldn’t be bothered with pool cleaner. i remember once you found a slurry of grey- ish field mice next to a bed of hydrangea (blue because the soil was acidic) and took them to the vet in some misguided attempt to save them but their mother then abandoned them because you had touched them.
3 quivering eggs of fur left to die in your sister’s pink sock (its mate had been lost in the dryer). you gave them names (i don’t remember the names), and for a week we sat in your wood panelled bedroom coloring printer paper with cheap oil pastels while the mice writhed miserably on your bedside table. on the day the last one died we buried the limp bodies in the little rectangle of space between the lawn and the brick foundation.
i think about their skeletons there, blue and cracking in the overhydrated earth, years after you moved out of the cramped wood panelled house, years after i stopped remembering what you look like really; i am miles away from that house but i make a necklace (in my mind) out of the bones, thread them through my ears like pale ribbons, pin them to my eyeballs with imaginary glue i am waiting to remember maybe.
When I was seven, or maybe eight,
we visited Ft. Myers in West Florida,
and we went to the Pink Shell.
The Pink Shell has this waterfall flowing
Into the pool, rush of water pouring down onto me
On my dad’s shoulders.
The screech of children’s laughter,
it was music to his ears –
pride is not the word I’m looking for.
I have the worst memory I know of –
side note of depression –
but I remembered this.
The waterfall sounded like you could imagine:
so loud. so quiet.
Coming out sounded like you could imagine:
so loud. so quiet.
There was a beach behind the resort.
I remember I had a cut on my foot and my dad taught
me: saltwater heals all wounds.
I was so scared to stick my foot in the water;
I watched my dad stand shin deep,
sunset on the horizon.
I think about this so many years later
because the Pink Shell was the beginning of the end.
It was the last time we were happy.
When I was thirteen going on fourteen, we
ventured to Santiago de Cuba. The
We visit the beach where my parents left on a boat,
Fleeing whoever was after them. I see the vastness
of the ocean. I am scared.
The beaches of Cuba are as you imagine:
so loud, so quiet.
There are no people, they are in their homes,
tucked away, quiet, away from freedom.
I wonder what it’s like.
The ocean spray stings my contact-covered eyes.
The sunglasses do nothing to protect me.
I look down.
The yellow tint of the glasses distorts my vision,
but I see it: a pink shell.
I pick it up.
I turn it over in my hand as sand spills off the crevices.
The soft curves of the shell draw me in,
in and out, I’m in deep.
I clutch it in my hands, tuck it in my shorts for later.
I watch my dad dive into the ocean, fearless.
We’ve barely spoken this trip.
I don’t worry:
saltwater heals all wounds.
I walk into the water.
The Old House
Vân An Trịnh
I was five, once,
excessively rude for my age,
peeling off the crispy edges of a sticky rice cake
when no one was looking.
(or so I thought.)
Winters were cold, back then,
before the baby in my house could tell me otherwise, dolled-up in
her coat and scarves,
her tiny shoes,
her head left bare.
The lake downtown still tastes like home on the tongue,
its water still and teal-green,
its wind a crisp chill, softly cracking my cheek cells open for air to spill
(an ache that no balm or oil could cure),
I remember a dinner table, well-loved, chipped of wood and stained with oil.
adorned in red (paper/packets/dresses and pants),
we filled our bellies like glasses of wine,
sat underneath the floor where dust bloomed with time,
sent prayers & hope to our next selves down the line.
I left before the lights went out,
before the water turned cold,
before Home turned
from a place,
to a memory,
to a feeling I can no longer quite hold.
Trudi Benford ’91
once I give you a glass vase
crackled with hand-painted gold, burgundy
colors pulled from your living room rug
you promptly return it, saying
“I’m impossible to buy for, anyway”
some weeks I try a bulky loaf
of that misshapen bread you love
tiny bags of sour tomatoes from my garden
bunched wildflowers held with string
you take them all with a Mona Lisa smile
then I bring a striated cutting board
costly, made of some endangered wood
I thought you’d use it for serving
but instead you quickly scar it
with a long serrated knife
Tayo Oredein ’98
Who I am
has largely been a function
of who I am NOT
in this country
Before anything else
I’m Black before I am woman
Hell, I was Black before I was even myself
And I’m awesome at it.
But if I didn’t live in a society
where being Black
Didn’t mean that I’m not white—
Were it not so rife
With struggles and oppressions
weren’t so inextricably linked
to this melanated situation…
If society hadn’t insisted
on who I can’t be
because of what I’m not,
would I be who I am today?
Would I hold my Blackness so dear?
Would I cling to it as much as it clings to me?
But at one point, my eyes
Believed the lies
I was fed
That whiteness was the standard
by which excellence is measured
That I could not hold a candle
to those with pale skin
not realizing it was they
who paled in comparison
That my Black is beautiful…
Because the coils in my hair
Were placed there
By my ancestors
with precision and care
My lips need to be thick
Full enough so they can hold
The boundless love and wisdom
That spills forth from them…
To bless our girls
And lift up our men
That my skin is infused with melanin—
The official color of resilience
Being Black is my strength.
I dance in my Blackness
I revel in it
It sings in my soul
I am extra Black wherever I go.
I’m Black and loud
I’m Black and proud
I’m Black in earnest
I’m Black by design.
I’m Black. On mutha fuckin purpose.
reincarnation by date generator
i. output 294
imagine: it’s 2005. you’re prepubescent. you’re meandering around amazing grace children’s daycare in akron, ohio. you see me, an infant, in the hallways. i don’t recognize you. why would i? you’re prepubescent. it’s not 2005 anymore. what a stupid year. i meet you in bates dining hall. we walk downstairs into founders 221. we’re not holding hands because my hands are always sweating. we take a zipcar to the washington monument. i do not have a driver’s license. you pretend to be a security guard while i steal the british crown jewels and replace them with rock candy. it’s just like national treasure except neither of us are nic cage. it’s just like spiderman: far from home and i am spiderman, obviously. we jog 2 blocks west to brooklyn. you buy me boba and i swallow the whole thing in 5 gulps, no chewing. i do a kickflip in front of the supreme store and the e-boy on shift lets me into the back where i grab every shirt i see and you replace them with souvenir tees from dc. we walk upstairs to founders 331. i hand you a plane ticket. we sprint through LAX to catch our flight to moscow, idaho. we make it back to bates. interpol is waiting for us, demanding the crown jewels. it ends in a shootout with laser tag guns that shoot real lasers. i jump in front of a green blast aimed at you before my buddy (a pilot) lifts us away in his chopper. you’re crying. why couldn’t i just give them the jewels. truth is, i sold them in brooklyn and gave the money to the samaritans of boston. truth is, i’m in a time loop and it’s gonna reset in 7 minutes. before i die i whisper “treating your bumble date right that’s gangsta.” when you go back to your room there’s a usb drive on your desk with an imovie of our adventures. now: it’s 3005. no longer prepubescent, we are phosphorescently
ii. output 592394
we get our first jobs in 1962: you, a waitress in a building without ashtrays. me, a painter specializing in kitchen ceilings. us, a crack team of card counters who cheat at casinos up and down the west coast but stay out of las vegas on principle. by now we know this isn’t our first time around. in the morning we’re shrugging on socks on the porch while frank ocean plays in the kitchen. i propose in hawaii and you throw the ring in my piña colada before telling me to try again next time with a scheme that’s not tackier than the toothpick umbrella in my drink. we scream at each other over a brunch of chicken tacos and root beer. when i reach to wipe your face you knock the tissue out of my hand. we don’t talk again until we watch the moon landing through a window on the street and you squeeze my hand when armstrong takes the first step. i think i broke your heart in a philadelphia printers shop two weeks before the boston tea party. 2023: i sign a professional contract with a hockey team in germany and the first thing i buy is a train ticket to kansas city where you’re a professor of art history at a community college. every day one of my hairs turns silver. i show up to your office hours with a pair of matching cleveland cavs bucket hats and the ring from hawaii. you have a framed picture of us in the alps on your desk, even though we never went to the alps. we take a weekend off to visit the smithsonian air and space museum and i squeeze your hand when we walk past the Apollo 11 exhibit. for breakfast we have vegan hotdogs from a food truck in portland. i read you my vows off of all the postcards i always meant to send.
iii. output 78326
i take you home to palo alto and drive the whole way back to vancouver with the windows down. i buy us burgers in milan and you wipe the pacific ocean off my cheek. we do not share a bed. it is march. what a stupid month. we’re older now. you hold my wrist when we run through dublin. i tell you if i could have any superpower it would be to make every day sunday. you tell me to stop looking back but it seems like that’s all i ever do. i bury mint leaves in every garden we pass. we fuck all over the midwest. none of your middle school lacrosse teammates would recognize you now. we go live for 15 minutes on instagram every tuesday so our mothers don’t worry. you leave the toothpaste uncapped in every motel bathroom. in a tel aviv museum we learn frankincense and myrrh were traditionally embalming fluids. i fingerpaint a portrait of you on a raft in lake waban while you antagonize the swans with a nerf gun. the interpol officer assigned to our case is trying to hunt us through our dreams. you call me an asshole in bangkok and i think about it for months. in pittsburgh you get a call that your grandfather has passed and we sit on a bench overlooking the rivers while you cry. we con david dobrik out of a tesla with a sob story involving the stock market and mimes and zip it down the autobahn until our stash of aa batteries runs out. we’re older now. i grab your elbow and pull you away from the bonfire. we tumble down the dunes all the way to the pendleton west woodshop. march again. always march. my chest fizzes when i wake up before you. i think about how jesus lived his life knowing He was born to die.
Lakeview Hospital: Metairie, Louisiana
Arden Eli Hill ’01
Thirty years before Katrina
and some minutes after midnight
I emerged from the womb
into brightness and white gloves.
The month was mild.
The lake, a milk-hungry kitten,
lapped the shore.
There were incubated hours
before the lawyers called my parents.
Nurses cooed. Janitors smiled
at me through the glass.
When I am young, my parents and I drive
past the hospital sometimes on our way
elsewhere. I look up at its windows
watch the Lakeview sign grow smaller.
I get home, find the place on a map,
and count the blocks between
buildings and Lake Pontchartrain
with its almost endless bridge.
Between water and city
there is grass and the levee:
so much is growing. So much is
going to break.
I want to know
Trudi Benford ’91
what childhood hurt
made you run
until your hips seared
with chronic ache
who loved you
to give you resolve
to grow your hair grey
who held your heart
where did you learn French
when did you buy
that soft ugly sweatshirt
that drops to your knees
and makes you twelve
I want to know
that came before
You Got a Little Something…
Wipe your mouth…
You got a little privilege right there…
Yea, wipe it a little more
To get that bullshit oozing down your jaw
From your gaping mouth
having to share America
Land of the free…
Home of the brave
With the descendants of slaves
That your people stole
Despite the Miseducation and claims of Kanye
The Trans-Atlantic trip was in fact involuntary
Y’all were the ones turning a profit
Using Black bodies as gold,
Turning us into human currency
And grudging guinea pigs
Poking and preying upon
Black and Brown
For medical gain,
publications and fame
Practicing and perfecting painful procedures
on alert, prudent persons
White doctors experimenting to find a cure
Ensured Guatemalan men
Receive Syphilis-laden injections
Subsequently withholding penicillin
from the Tuskegee men
perishing from the same malady
Just so that they can learn
what untreated Syphilis does to the body
It was your forefathers
Who named towns and estimable institutions
After mass murderers and villains
Responsible for the decimation of the denizens
Either through cajoling or arrogation
Stealing people, resources, culture-
Entire fucking nations
At their own discretion
And in an offer of otiose remuneration
Black people were promised forty acres and a mule
What we got was Section 8 and rats
Pumped into the inner cities
And a host of atrocities
instilled and sanctioned in the legal system
to assure the preservation of your whiteness
And the outlawing of my melanin
Allowing white Americans
To criminalize black children
Playing alone in the park
With a toy gun
But affording leniency to white counterparts
Shooting up schools with a real one
Or for that matter, white folk on state or federal payroll
The FBI killed Fred Hampton in his sleep
Because in the middle of a war overseas
Your government asserted the Black Panther Party
was the country’s number one enemy
When all they were doing was fighting for equality
Because your people didn’t think mine worthy
Why do we have to verify our humanity?
Why is it not just a given
Why do we have to justify our pain?
Why do you insist asking “How do you know it’s about race?”
Bitch, how the fuck do you know it’s not?
And with audacity under your tongue,
You riposte “All Lives Matter” in the same breath
You demand we respect
the laws honoring white
While you overlook the laws of humanity
And veto those that would protect my life
And so it is
this skewed rubric
Is the fabric
from which the star-spangled banner was made
Where you gripe
Should people not stand for a flag
That never stood for them.
Protesting when red, white, and blue
becomes blackened with soot from being set ablaze
But never when Black becomes reddened with blood
from being set ablaze by the whites in blue
Purse, petty, and privilege proud you are.
Rocking your whiteness with confidence
Your biggest accomplishment
As though you played a part in being white
Like you had the in-utero presence of mind
to check off the “white” box for this lifetime
“Will that be Turbo? Lily? or Ultra white?
The ultra comes with additional entitlement
And an extra loud voice
So that your words will carry weight
even when you’re spewing forth garrulous claims
of losing white spaces”
“But white self-interest is not the same thing as racism”.
Ummm….yes. Yes it is
Do me a favor, and tuck in your privilege
And yes, I know, I know…
Not all white people.
But I’m not talking to them…
I’m talking to you.
Racism has many faces.
One of them is yours.
So if I were you, here’s what I would do
I would sit down and shut the fuck up.
steal a ouija board,
hide it in the woods,
find it disappeared.
like you did the night
when T-H-E-Y spelled out
the philosophy course you planned to take next year.
when S-H-E said your name three times
as your fingers touched.
recycle the cardboard planchette,
shatter the teacup.
sleep with a blessed piece of cloth,
sleep with holy water,
sleep in the same bed.
in the morning:
sit in the mist,
walk to the farm,
in a later life:
walk into the woods,
come home safe.
The Lord’s Prayer
our father, who art half-forsaken
in heaven, hallowed be the head
that bears the crown, whose temples
dent under the weight of metal,
smooth and blood-warmed, dying
stars burning above your brows.
our father, when he coughed up blood
and stared at the stars, did you
look back? did you see him there?
did you care? thy kingdom has come
and gone, your will may or may not be
done depending on what a half-dozen
prophets say, and when he coughed up
blood, when i pulled my shirt down, when
she breathed in and in and in, did you look?
did you see how it is on earth, how it is in
our father, this daily bread turns to sawdust
in my mouth. forgive me my trespasses, i say,
and yet i will not forgive those
who trespass against me. i have
taken my own hand and lead myself
into temptation, and i have only myself