The Evolution of Wings

Years ago, when we got bored during study hall and Googled “Thayer Stokes,” we discovered his dad was a rich-ass tech entrepreneur with his own Wikipedia page. We all found that to be varying degrees of completely hilarious, since Thayer made the local news in ninth grade for getting high as a kite and crashing Daddy’s BMW into a stoplight. I let him cheat off me in Geometry because his hands were big enough to cleave me in half. When, one night, he slipped Xanax into a girl’s cheap beer, the rumors ricocheted into our collective consciousness and lodged somewhere between our knife-thin ribs. Our entire grade held our breaths, waiting for the cops to show up with handcuffs so shiny and stiff they’d hurt our teeth.

So when Thayer disappeared for days, we thought he’d for sure gotten his ass hauled to the Rosendale Youth Center, a pretty name for juvie. All of us except one agreed. Sammy Holwell, whom we called “dumbass” affectionately, swore that he one-hundred-percent-for-sure saw Thayer turn into a bird. We just laughed at him and figured he must’ve been tripping too hard.

****

 A few weeks after Thayer’s disappearance, Charlotte Beryl’s cluster of church choir friends came in all frantic with dangling tongues and mascara oozing down their cheeks. Their voices dovetailed into one story: they’d been eating lunch on the front lawn when Charlotte’s face twisted in a way faces shouldn’t. She fell to the ground as her hair sizzled into wreaths of rose-gold smoke. Brown mottled feathers julienned her skin into shreds.

The one stupid thing they couldn’t agree upon was the goddamn species. One girl thought sparrow. Another insisted finch. Maybe wren, someone else said.

Afterwards, I couldn’t get this grotesque image of Charlotte out of my head. I kept thinking of feathers unfurling from her eye sockets. Her painted lips puckering and pulling into a beak. A mesh of honey-blonde corkscrew curls, ripping out by the roots. Her French manicure calcifying, claw-like. An eternal scream of horror caught in her throat, languageless.

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This is what I remember most about Charlotte Beryl: In seventh grade, Charlotte came over because we had to write a report on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and since I still spoke with misplaced emphases and thickened syllables, nostalgia for home as a slipstream of wine-red silk, she decided I was yellow enough to be her essay partner.

When we finished, we were about half a page too short, so I showed her how to Ctrl+H to replace all of the size-twelve punctuation with size-fourteen. “You are such a supergenius,” she kept repeating, and even though I shrugged my shoulders in modesty, her words made me feel like I was a Pretty Big Deal.

Somehow, I got it in my dumbass head that we were friends after this, so the next Monday lunch, I walked over to her table, a cluster of white girls with matching sparkly barrettes, and summoned up the bravery to ask, “Can I sit here?”

A few of Charlotte’s friends eyed me and giggled. Their laughter jangled and clinked.

Charlotte couldn’t, wouldn’t look at my face; just dipped her fork into ranch dressing and shoved iceberg lettuce into her mouth.

Nobody said anything. I wanted to leave except I couldn’t. Couldn’t do anything except stand there, wishing to puncture and deflate like an abandoned balloon. I felt less real than these girls who had mothers and church on Sundays and last names that teachers could pronounce. I was a silkscreen silhouette with an accent I couldn’t unhook from my teeth.

“Ummm,” Charlotte finally said, which was somehow worse than saying nothing at all.

I laughed with my eyes wide open and said never mind.

****

In Mama’s urn, I store all my Beijing memories. A lightning storm with teeth. Afterwards, the sky wrung itself out, dripped peroxide. The Communist Youth League named me a Youth Pioneer so I wore my honglingjin, red scarf, to school daily. Sticker advertisements enameled over whitewashed apartment walls. Knotty sidewalks, knottier fruit. Mama’s lullabies until her throat ripped out of her voice. In the ocean-belly of summer, the cicadas sang instead, in oscillating chirps. Mosquito kisses. Shards of afternoon light winnowing through Mama’s jade pendant when she died. Later, Baba walked in on me blue and spasming, my honglingjin cradling my neck too tightly.

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Afterwards, I dreamed of funeral pyres, a heaven I didn’t believe in. Sometimes rosary beads strangled me instead. Even when I was awake, swirling angels and paper corpses drifted past my eyes like mirages. I stopped wearing my honglingjin to school and got kicked out of the Young Pioneer battalion. Whatever–they were smarmy boot-licking motherfuckers, anyways.

In the days before Baba and I left for the United States, I spent hours practicing English, searching for the words to describe a longing for beak-faced boys with zits, or skies that swung open like switchblades, or myths where everything incinerated to bone. Anything to preserve the laws of gravity.

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After Charlotte Beryl’s metamorphosis, the inevitable exodus swept through and left only  air so quiet it choked on its own silence. Shop owners boarded up their windows and skipped town without retrieving their security deposits. Before they sped off, our neighbors gave me their daughter’s pink Barbie bike, even though I was about a decade too old for such a thing.

Only children and adolescents turned into birds. Half of my history class was gone by spring break. In the early mornings, the sky a milky rose, mothers tiptoed in the lonely streets, desperately searching for the children they’d lost to the skies and the trees.

Finally, we reached a consensus on the breed: song sparrow.

During gym class, Sammy Holwell collapsed on the basketball court, spine convulsing into a question mark. Someone muttered “fucking dumbass” and usually that’d be a riot, but this time nobody could muster a chuckle.

An entire sixth grade class went on a field trip and never came back. Our schools slowly emptied until they shut down altogether.

I held my breath for years, waiting, always waiting, but never felt bright crackling underneath my skin, never woke up with a mouth filled with feathers. Our town became a suburban conglomerate of guano and fading memories. I couldn’t remember if I wore a fire-embroidered cheongsam on my twelfth birthday. Eventually, I could no longer hum the melodies of Mama’s lullabies, the jasmine-tea songs that made me yearn for places I’d never been and people I’d never met. Even Mandarin bled off my tongue. When I said home in English, I felt the word reverberate on my lips, but it clattered like all hollow things do.

Every so often, I would see a bird soar over a sprawling orchard or plunge through the foaming twilight sky, and I was almost certain it had Thayer Stokes’s stocky body, or Sammy Holwell’s nervous twitch.

I wondered if the sparrows had forgotten their names, their families, their past lives. I wondered if they still remembered how to speak in their first languages, or if those words had been etched away by the incessant chirping and cawing. I wondered if they still searched for home, a light smudged on the endless horizon.


RONA WANG is an eighteen-year-old freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying mathematics with computer science. She has won five Scholastic national medals and was published in The Best Teen Writing of 2016 and 2014. Her writing has also been recognized by the Sierra Nevada Review, the Claremont Review, and the Adroit Prizes. When not writing, she is involved with activism and the art of cat video appreciation. She is originally from Portland, Oregon.

Letter from Art

BY SUDHANSHU CHOPRA

In Midnight in Paris, when Gil Pender, a present-day, successful but creatively unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter, travels back to the 1920’s for the first time to a party for Jean Cocteau, I’m amused by the presence of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: my dear authors speaking as if they are writing: Zelda, “missing the bathtub gin,” is high on adjectives, and Scott, well he never misses out on a chance to say “old sport.”In the background, Cole Porter sings a Cole Porter song. Everyone looks neat and shiny; cigarette puffs punctuate sophisticated sips of wine. The person I’m looking for is not there.

Another scene, another bar, though plain and quieter, Gil meets Hemingway: unkempt hair and fairly under-dressed as compared to the people in the situation earlier described. I get hopeful. But later in the movie he, too, is shown getting drunk at what seems to be an invite-only party. He is also associated with a woman—a stunning fashion model conveniently out of an ordinary man’s reach (unless the man is an anti-hero, whose lack of sweeping ability only makes him all the more attractive, and who, of course, is not fictional.) With these steps, Hemingway bluntly walks out of the shadow I had initially thought he might be sitting comfortably in. He, too, turns out to be part of yet another literary circle: the circles capable of only producing revolution, and failing to open up to freedom and diversity (whichthey apparently advocate), mostly because of their closeness, their circularity.

I wonder if all this was being watched from a dark corner by someone like the anonymous master who wrote the very fine Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.Also, a ballad singer comes to mind, one having no idea of the privilege he could have achieved by asserting his ownership over the invaluable lyrics he so nonchalantly scattered at curbs going around towns. Maybe if by wearing a certain sort of trinket he had shone like radium, people would have thought of him as a finer man. He would have inspired awe—in place of homeliness—amongst his ragged listeners who would have spotted him from a distance, thus in a way bringing him closer to them than his words ever could.

I, Art, have always been the field of the elite. The part of me that has not been so is unknown, mainly because it could not fit the social construct of popularity.And I do not speak just of kings and nobles, but of every era that has been doing the same: a handful of erudite gathering in groups, leaving out millions whose stake in me is no lesser. A bird’s eye view would show separate, distant dots—formless on the body of time—rather than a uniform veneer that covers all nakedness.

Since my inception, perhaps even before—when my idea was being conceived in black holes—I was meant to be imbibed, not made. I had smooth, flexible ends, not the stiffness of unwritten rules and tacit protocols which were forced upon me by every movement no matter how much liberal and anti-establishment it called itself to be. And these limitations have not been so much in the works than in the interaction of people producing those works, because wherever humans are involved there is always preference and dislike, clash of thought, and intervention of ego.On these factors is decided what and who deserves tobe in the group—who is capable of being an artist. Therefore, every age has had its artists, and the commonplace folks—the ones who can’t comprehend me.

At this point, I’m inclined to wonder if I’ve always been just another societal norm, away from the universality I stand for. Sometimes they try to adapt, the non-artists— they spend evenings watching intense theatre, or standing in front of confusing brush strokes on canvas, and after getting home, try to convince themselves of the beauty of what they just witnessed.They are ready to change, rather than contribute with their originality. Would I ever be able to purge myself of promoting this pretence?

How would I know? I’m too old and fraught now to pine for a perfect past. I can only ask you to write prose poetry or poetry prose, or any third form that you can conjure, maybe even go directly to a fifth, or simply come back to the classic iambic pentameter couplet if that is your dark corner where you can sit secluded from ideology and relationship to the external, offering your blank mind to my once free, independent and all-pervading body.

It is then that I hope to find you, my elusive person. And I hope to find you before Liam Neeson does.

Best,
Art


149738016536773SUDHANSHU CHOPRA hails from India. He draws inspiration to write from observation, memories, subconscious, books he reads, movies he watches, and music he listens to. Sometimes a phrase or simply a word is enough. Some of his poetry has been published in In Between Hangovers, Anti Heroin Chic, Calamus Journal, Wordweavers, FIVE:2:ONE, and Right Hand Pointing. Some more of his poems/thoughts could be found on his blog, The Bard.

Editors’ Note

Over the past few months, both of us have come to realize that home is more than a place where one belongs. It is an embodiment of the self, and its true nature surfaces only when one believes in it. This issue, in a way, brought us closer to ourselves, closer to home. It was going back home that made us believe and find strength in our vulnerability and imperfection.

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When we started Inklette, we hoped to invite more people into this landscape. We knew that being a mere literary publication would not suffice. We wanted to be a community, an oasis for everyone who could see the desert.

We are ever so thankful to the masthead for the same. In the past four months, we have developed an even stronger sense of home. From reading submissions to editing the pieces you will read in this issue, we cultivated an even greater belief in being unafraid. In fact, we work, not as editors, but as a family. We admit to our insecurities, we anchor each other.

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We are pleased to feature Akhil Katyal and Vikram Kushwah in this issue. Akhil Katyal’s revealing poetry on topics ranging from the vividly personal to the conspicuously collective, took us by surprise. Vikram Kushwah, on the other hand, courageously combines and portrays the dynamic nature of the human mind in his spell-binding photographs.

While Katyal’s poetry sharpens the conscious dimension of our mind, Kushwah’s photographs integrate that very space into an altogether movingly subconscious landscape. Both of them are accomplished artists, uniquely subtle with a remarkable body of work.

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Needless to say, Issue II is bold and eclectic. During our submissions period, we received four times the number of submissions we received for our first issue, whereas the acceptance rate in every genre witnessed a significant decline. This amplified expectations, but we have tried our best to deliver what we believed we ought to.

Our contributors belong to several countries and come from different backgrounds. For some, it is their first publication! When you click to read different pieces, you will find yourself in varying landscapes, in the spirit of stunning identities and hopefully, at home.

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Dear readers and contributors, you brought us here. You motivate us, the Inklette team, each day to make Inklette an experience, relying solely on true creation.

You are the energy that drives us and we, as usual, are infinitely thankful. We do hope you enjoy reading Issue II.

 

Trivarna Hariharan and Devanshi Khetarpal

Editors-in-Chief

Inklette Magazine 

Warren Read reads ‘On the Edge of Black Lake’

December 4, 2015


This November, we asked a few of our Issue 1 contributors to send us videos of them reading their work. Here is Warren Read reading from his novel excerpt, On the Edge of Black Lake.

How We Learn When We Are Young

December 4, 2015


How We Learn When We Are Young

by Haley Zilberberg (Intern)

When I was in ninth grade, I had a really great English teacher. At some point during the school year, she gave us a test. The test had really small boxes for our answers. The entire class struggled to fit the answers in the boxes. When we turned in the tests, she asked why no one had written outside of the box. There had been a lot of room on the margins outside of the box, and she had never told us that we had to write just in the box. But most of the students in my class saw this box, and saw it as a limit. They literally stayed inside the box.

In the college program I am enrolled in, there are often no “boxes”. I have few tests and many, many papers, which is something most students hate. But I love it. I can constantly voice my opinions and learn through making decisions on my point of view.

One of the tests I had this semester was a test that had some open-ended question and some multiple choice. My professor had a multiple choice question with options a, b, c, and d. It said to choose one answer. I was really frustrated with the question because none of the answers was adequate in my opinion. I told my professor and she told me to circle whatever answers I thought could apply and write why. And for some reason, this made me so incredibly happy.

When children are growing up, in my experience, there are way too many “boxes” and too little room for exploration, questioning, and expression. Children are praised for sitting in their seats, for answering things how they are taught to, and for being quiet. But if we let young people voice what they had to say, I’m sure we would learn just as much as they learn from adults.

Being a writer, I have the opportunity to say everything I want to in whatever form or manner I want to. Even when I am given a prompt or a specific way in which to write something, in my experience, art is a field in which people are commended on changing things up.

In elementary school, I submitted a poem for an essay contest and ended up winning. In middle school, I entered an essay contest that had strict guidelines to write in “FCAT” style (one opening paragraph, three middle, and one end—each paragraph with its own strict guidelines). Instead I submitted an essay I wrote completely neglecting the guidelines and ended up winning. Being praised for exploring alternate routes and completely ignoring the rules was something that shaped me into who I am today. Children should be taught to break the rules so that they can have their own thoughts and opinions.

By breaking the rules, I don’t mean stealing and vandalizing. I don’t mean being a class disruption. I mean that children should be allowed to explore their creativity and individuality. Everyone communicates their ideas and thoughts best in their own way. Everyone learns differently than the next person.

Young students in the recent years are being too limited. They don’t get as much recess or time exploring the arts in school. They get so much homework. They have to fill in literal boxes for standardized tests. They are often times taught a standardized curriculum in a specific instruction that teachers have no choice in.

Not every child will be good at everything. If twenty children were told to write a poem, a small fraction of them would probably actually enjoy it. But I think it is important to expose children to different things, to different forms of art and expression. I think when we are young, it is important to let children know the importance of having a voice and individuality.

Ian Burnette reads ‘Ghost Story’

December 21, 2015


We’re missing our dear ol’ Issue 1 again! And while we wait for Issue 2, let’s rewind to Ghost Storya wonderful poem by featured poet, Ian Burnette. Watch him read his poem right here: 

Inklette: 2015 in Review

 January 8, 2016


A week ago, the Inklette Team was asked to explain what they learned from being a part of Inklette in 2015.

2015 was a great year for Inklette, a year that included the first online issue in November. Together, the team has grown and so has Inklette, and there is much more to come in 2016!

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Trivarna Hariharan, Editor-in-chief

Embarking on this journey with Devanshi Khetarpal has been extremely enriching. I feel honored to be working alongside such talented teammates, from each of whom there is so much to learn. Inklette is one of the best literary experiences I’ve ever had. It has given me the opportunity to understand diverse kinds of literature and arts; and taught me how a magazine really operates. It has made me much kinder with younger authors. It has made me realize the importance of an effective editorial process. I hope Inklette grows by leaps and bounds, and makes us all proud in the years to come!

 

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Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-chief and Founder

When I started Inklette as a six-page newsletter, it was impossible for me to visualize it as an online, literary magazine. Trivarna, my Kindred Spirit, and I embarked on a journey with little hope or expectation. Today, Inklette surprises me every step of the way. Each day I witness the community that Inklette has created. With the first issue itself, Inklette displayed its remarkable potential and energy. We have published both emerging and established writers. Our careful editorial process has helped us to create a long-lasting bond with all our contributors. As the Editor-in-Chief, I feel fortunate to be working with so many talented artists and writers from all over the world. Working for Inklette constantly helps me see what other writers today are aiming towards. Inklette is a passion, a world, a creation but above all, it is something I am grateful for.

 

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John S. Osler III, Prose Editor

Discovering Inklette this year has shown me how great collaborative writing can be. Up until this summer, when I discovered Inklette at the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, writing was mostly something I did alone, behind closed doors. Inklette showed me how rewarding it can be to work with someone else to hone their work and make something greater.

 

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Nathalia Baum, Prose Editor

One of the only other passions of mine that comes close to writing itself is helping other writers. There’s just something magical about actively engaging with a piece of work and its author. From working as a consultant in my school’s writing center to being a TA for Creative Writing, I’ve always loved figuring out ways to make a writer’s already beautiful thoughts even more beautiful. This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. There, I met so many amazing writers–including Devanshi Khetarpal, one of the wonderful Editors-in-Chief of Inklette. Each time I see a new submission for Inklette, I’m immensely grateful she and Trivarna Hariharan gave me a chance to expand my passion even more.

 

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Scott Stevens, Poetry Editor

This publication is the first publication I’ve had the pleasure to work with. It has a spirited staff, a superb influx of work from around the world, and a dedication to finding the best styles of poetry and prose from both new and experienced writers. This large volume of writing gives me hope that there will always be people from Mumbai to London to North Dakota, writing and ready to share their work.

 

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Liana Fu, Prose Editor

 I’ve only been a prose reader for Inklette for a few months, but it feels like I’ve been here much longer. I love the sense of community and meaningful interactions about writing. It’s great to share a passion with other people who are just as enthusiastic as I am and eager to create amazing art.

 

 

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Smriti Verma, Poetry Reader

Inklette is, perhaps, one of the first magazines that I’ve worked for in a proper way, and it’s been great to be part of a literary community where you can communicate with others of your age and where the editors are friendly and welcoming and trust your opinion. Perhaps one of the best parts of being a reader for Inklette has been actively forming and debating the merits of a piece and seeing it from other perspectives. In this sense, Inklette is about evolution of both the editor and the author. Apart from this, there is obviously something beautiful of being part of a community where young people collaborate and simply strive to make good art.

 

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Joanna Cleary, Poetry Reader

I recently joined Inklette as a Poetry Reader and have thoroughly enjoyed reading the submissions for our second issue. Inklette has not only introduced me to fellow poetry lovers, but it has also exposed me to various writing styles, genres, and techniques from poets around the world. This has helped me understand what poetry means to others, which, in turn, has helped me redefine what poetry means to me. 2015 was a great year for Inklette. I have a feeling that 2016 will be even better. As we continue to create and share new art forms, I hope that we will encourage our readers to see the world through multiple perspectives and foster a love of all things creative.

 

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Archita Mittra, Intern

Inklette has offered me the chance to interact and actively work with a vibrant community of incredibly talented young writers and artists. Moreover, it has introduced me to a wide range of literary styles and influences, and given me a perspective on how writing and art is published and perceived today. Ultimately, Inklette goes on to prove that writers need not work in isolation, and that great art is more than often, collaborative. As an intern, I’m immensely grateful to be a part of this wonderful magazine and I wish Inklette success in all its endeavors.

 

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Divyam Sharma, Social Media Manager

I have been a Social Media Manager for Inklette since its inception in 2015. It has been a spectacular experience so far. Day to day analysis of data, and the responsibilities of content curation along with constant monitoring has made it so much more exciting. The exposure to established poets and authors from around the globe has proved to be a boon for my urge to read, also the teammates in the visual arts department have always left me wondering if the world is so much more colorful than what I can see around me. As the journey continues in 2016, I hope our upcoming issues strike more and more number of clicks and every other time we publish, we do it with an increased vigor and a greater commitment for the cause of spreading love for art.

 

Blog Credits: Haley Zilberberg (Intern)