by Samantha Seo
So many decades have passed.
We grew apart between love into hate and sad letters.
Phone calls impossible for my paper flowers,
your face vanishes into crowds, escape inside our song.
I breathe into your lungs like the soprano in the opera,
my ghost will inhabit your soul.
The ground weighs beneath my feet in white hospital linen,
my headache burns past nightfall.
If our collective CPR stopped, lost charge,
our last breath would synchronize into one.
Despite every passing second alive
for all who breathed us in, a pair of doves.
Each set of lungs, colorful balloons, warm kisses,
they throw us into air and I watch you rise like rain.
Samantha Seto is a writer. She has been published in various anthologies including Ceremony, The Screech Owl, Nostrovia Poetry, Soul Fountain, and Black Magnolias Journal.
photo by he(art)geek
Francis Zuzuarregui is an eighteen year old visual artist who lives in Mountain View, California.
by Zarina Zabrisky
Please forgive my mistakes; English is my second language. I need help, Doctor. I have a problem with garbage. I’m afraid of garbage. I see garbage everywhere. What? When was I first scared of garbage?
I think it started when I was twenty. I lived in Siberia with a real jerk. That jerk was an aspiring philosopher. He dreamed about the Nobel Prize as he stretched out on a pea-green couch in front of a broken TV. When asked to take garbage out, he always refused.
“Demonstrating a capacity to act is against my principles,” he preached. “Masha! Read Gumilev! The ‘passionarity,’ Masha, learn about ‘passionarity.’ Each ethnic group, Masha, has a level of vital energy and capacity to act. Each ethnos goes through stages. Rise, development, climax. Inertia, convolution, memorial. Russia is in deep inertia now. Use your brain! How many times have I told you: show you are capable of doing anything and the garbage of the world will pour into your bucket.”
Translation: take out the garbage yourself. Following his principles, he never demonstrated any passionarity for anything other than eating pickled herring and drinking vodka. For a few years I was parading my passionarity, along with empty vodka bottles, down the dirty staircase, working two shifts at a brick factory, giving birth to triplets, hand washing diapers in ice-cold water, fixing sewage pipes, pickling herring and shopping for vodka. I waited for his Nobel Prize. Russia snored in its deep inertia. Then, there was no passionarity left. I went to live with my mother.
Thus the jerk stage was over. I have my own theory. I believe that each girl goes through a jerk stage. If she is lucky she might even get to some other stage. I got lucky, and there came a handsome prince with many capacities. He was an American engineer. He came to study the secret of Siberian bricks, saw me hammering the bricks, lost his head, and took me to America.
American ethnos got more passionarity. We live in a lovely brick cottage covered with ivy. He puts orchids in my flaxen hair and fixes sewage pipes. He drinks only mango juice, cooks candlelight dinners and takes the garbage out. He recycles. He plays chess with the triplets. On two boards. It never snows. Suddenly, life is good. And you get used to the good life. You forget the junk. You watch a hummingbird shit on your hammock, and you are happy.
I’m happy, Doctor. I never think about the jerk. But, Doctor, I see garbage everywhere. It must be my memorial stage. I did read my Gumilev.
I might be lying in my hammock, and all of a sudden I see the old pea-green couch floating by. A decomposing herring carcass reclines on it, a half-finished vodka bottle clutched to its ribs. It raises the bottle, winks and says in the jerk’s voice: “Here’s to you, bitch. You learned my lesson. You got the prize.”
I’m disgusted and I say, “What are you talking about, you drunken idiot?”
“You know. Capacity, Masha. Passionarity. Remember? Life knows. They know. They use you, and they abuse you. The only way out is to use them. So—bravo! You finally used your brains. Be a bitch. If you are not a bitch, life is a bitch to you. Lie in your hammock. Watch your tropical sunset. Drink your mango juice. Don’t move a finger. They’ll fix the sewage pipes…”
And the herring laughs and drinks vodka out of the bottle.
“Stop it,” I say. “I’m not like this! Shut up and take the fucking garbage out!”
And then there comes the garbage. It creeps up on me from the blue swimming pool, from pink rose bushes and from behind the emerald ivy; it’s everywhere: empty vodka bottles, crinkled Pravda newspapers, stinking cigarette butts, moldy cloth diapers, fish bones, broken bricks… rotten mangoes, dead hummingbirds, philosophy books, garbage, garbage, garbage… it rises, it swells, it flows… It is about to get me… I wake up screaming, and my handsome husband is by my side… I put my trembling hands around his smooth tanned torso… oh no! It’s a giant smelly dead herring, the morbid head is laughing, the slimy lips are reaching for me.
“Passionarity!” roars the herring.
And I don’t know, Doctor, what is the dream, and what is the reality? What is this buzz: is it a hummingbird or the broken TV set? Don’t look at me like this, Doctor, you are scaring me… I might have become a bitch, but I kept my capacity to love, my passionarity to live! Just tell me, should I demonstrate it? Will this prince turn into a drunken jerk? Will the garbage of the world pour into my fucking bucket? Or should I quit and leave and head for the desert.
Zarina Zabrisky started to write at six. She wrote traveling around the world as a street artist, translator, and a kickboxing instructor. Zarina started to publish her work in 2011. Since then her work appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in the US, UK, Canada and Nepal and three of her short stories are nominated for Pushcart Prize. (Nominations by Eleven Eleven Journal of Literature and Art, Red Fez Literary Magazine and Epic Rites Press Publishing.) Amy Hempel has picked her short story for distinction as Finalist in The Normal School’s Normal Prize in Fiction, 2012. IRON, her first short story collection, is now available from amazon.com in the US. You can find more about Zarina and read her published work here.
photo by editor B
by Stephen Leeper
I’m from where the women’s heads are shaved and dreaded
Eyes open. Eyes closed
I’m from where old-fashioned sewing machines sit on wooden desks and dusty floors
Heads down. Legs crossed. Knees touching.
I’m from where criminals know where you keep your gun
Men walking, heads turning
I’m from where days are numbered across a sunsetting sky
Young silhouettes running along the beaches
I’m from where gazelles act shy before the camera
Tall grass unable to hide their shame
I’m from where kings play acoustic guitars
Eastern name. Western bling.
I’m from where white photographers take pictures of happy black boys
A group standing afar waiting for their close-up
Stephen Leeper began writing poetry when he was sixteen but he never identified himself as a poet. He began writing essays when he was eighteen but he never identified himself as an essayist. It was only this year that he started embracing his identity as a writer, applying to the MFA Writing program at the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco over the summer. During his first semester he produced a chapbook of poetry with several experimental poems exploring psychological theories of ethnic identity formation. This poem is a selection from his book.
photo by futureatlas