I just wanted to tell you you’re something short of extraordinary. Which isn’t to say you bore me, or I don’t put stock into what you’ve been through. But if you demand I stop reaching for a world you don’t recognize, these people you’ve never failed to scrutinize will rise beyond just bitching for the rights you were born into.
Our arms may hold no bullets but they show constellations of scars built by bending and scratching at these bars of this cage built by church pew pamphlets. Our hands grip onto the light we were promised at the end of a long, dim tunnel built with bleeding, thrown bricks and torn up flannels by broken lips, chapped, bleeding, grinning and bruised. And so what if that sunlight burns?
Those burns heal better than the wounds you left, just ten years old telling me to pick up reality and ignore that favored fantasy of a world built on letting wildflowers bloom, just because you were taught to cut them down. We will not fall prey to the lie of tradition so just get ready for a new edition of the generation refusing to die drowning in these poisoned waters we inherited.
You’re welcome to join us.
"Differences" | Abbie Dingman
His eyes crack open and so do hers, but they see a different world.
He sees a world full of opportunity if only people would only look past his skin color. She sees a world full of wasted potential if only her gender was irrelevant in relation to her capability. They walk down the street and try to avoid the stares. "I am myself, not an alien."
She is not a terrorist. She just wants her groceries. The food his mother makes does not smell bad. It is not something to hide out of embarrassment. "Mom, is my language funny?"
Sometimes, She cannot leave her bed. The world is full of danger. It is terrifying. But others only mock her for it. they are angry. Make no effort to understand. "I really am trying. I promise!" "Then just be happy!" "It's not that simple." is met with scoffs.
He is not too young. She is not too old. They are capable. Don't discount that.
Happy and content with the world, it is sad she does not know they mock her. He struggles with communication. People Have punched, attacked, and berated him. And he did not know why, but He knew he was different.
They came here for safety. They came here for a fresh start. They came here to save their children. Their future.
“Please try to understand. I am no less of a human than you.” Please be kind.
"Him" | Abbie Dingman
i told you to stop. you decided that was not good enough for you. “c'mon. just one more time.”
that was what you said the 6th time and the 7th and 8th and so on.
so i allowed myself to be a doll. conform to your crude desires. my body was your toy, the type a child would toss around and forget later on.
you are sick.
"Papercut" | Abbie Dingman
Bits of a soul pour out, dripping down her arm. There’s a crack in the stronghold. A crack where bits of a heart burst, and there is pain.
“It’s alright,” they say, as they write on their clipboards, scrawling notable issues. “To feel this way.”
Doubt invades the mindscape, fleeting thoughts race through. A traffic jam. It’s unnoticed by all. “It’s natural to feel this way.” More of the soul escapes the crack. Soon there’s another, another, and another.
The stronghold collapses. A wonder—how many times must I rebuild again? Add more repairs and augmentations?
An earthquake strikes again.
If only it were this simple. Could I, should I, demolish myself? I would empty the stronghold. Let my soul go, flooding its surroundings.
The last crack.
If only it were this simple.
As simple as a papercut.
"Survival" | Abbie Dingman
Editor's Note: This poem was written and printed in our physical book with a unique stanza layout, which we unfortunately could not reproduce with our website's rich text editor. If you wish to read this poem in its intended format, please inquire about a print copy of Tahoma West Volume 25 at our office in MAT 151, or view a PDF of the poem once it becomes available on the Library Digital Commons.
Keep afloat, They say. It’s also known as: Stay up. Survive. Get through this day. One, one step at a time. Come, now. Good. I want to live. Why can’t I? She screamed.Agonized shrieks fill her head. “No. Stay down. Drown. You deserve this. Why are you alive again? I don’t remember.”
That’s right. Why am I alive? For happiness? That continues to elude me. I’m desperate in my search, now. I remember various avenues.
I recall the dry relaxation overtaking my system as the poison filled my lungs. It entered my bloodstream and transformed my reality. I was happy. But I was numb. Then it was gone. I was afraid. I was afraid and the fear had returned, and I wanted to die again. Next. That was the period in which I allowed my own soul to escape its fortress. Where it belonged. Oh, how I still long for this feeling. Sensations of my own fluids, warm with my life force,
Trickling down my arms, legs, stomach, slowly killing me. Oh, how I still long to die.
And the men! They were the best of all. They told me what no one else had.
I was beautiful to them—at least, my body was. My ears filled with those things… things lovers must tell each other during the most intimate of moments,
“Fuck, yes.”“God, tighten up.”“Say you want it.”
But I knew it, then; and I know it now.
I was not happy, and to them, I was not human.
I was a tool for pleasure, but let’s be honest. What were they to me? Obviously nothing, I never spoke to them again. What were their names?
Then again, It would have been nice to be someone significant, at least… Right?
I was not significant.
I was a hole.
Just a stupid hole made for fucking and that’s all. I was nothing. Completely insignificant.
To him, I was a rag doll he could toss anywhere at his leisure. The car, floor, bed? His favorite places. He could say whatever he wanted—I returned, with forgiveness. I never failed him. Never let him down, and I bore the weight of his own problems coupled with mine as well.
In the end, I was just a towel to him. An insignificant, replaceable, means of pleasure.
Do I matter? Or will I be missed?
"Salty Waters" | Ashley Edliq
I remember how you would scream And when I heard your voice in my head I started to tear myself at the seams
I could not have been more blind My tears fell in a never-ending stream My sanity continued to spiral in a decline
I believed everything you said about me I felt all the anger and hatred you fostered Before you threw me away in the sea
I was drowning in emotions I couldn’t breathe and began to sink Until I hit the rock bottom of the ocean
Until I realized I could only go up from there…
"A Walking Ruin" | Angelica Hernandez-Villalpando
He is constantly moving from city to city All he wants is to get away He needs to forget about his dad who was never home And his mom who gave more to others than to her own He’s been all alone since he was thirteen And his fractured family never helped him pave his way That is why he constantly moving about Simply trying to attain the love he’s never found
"Birds of the Sky" | Angelica Hernandez-Villalpando
Every time I see an airplane in the sky I can’t help but look at it with fascinated eyes The power they hold is truly amazing And I know all too well the happiness they can bring And the damage they can cause And the dreams they can break These mechanical birds of the sky can take you places Places you never knew existed Full of people that you never knew would matter Just like how I never knew you would matter to me I fell in love But then I had to leave
I’ll follow you anywhere And see it through till the end All I want is the chance to be your everlasting romantic adventure If you want to give me a tour of what lies beneath your sheets Give it to me and take your time, I’m in no rush you see If you want to take me somewhere far away where vineyards and sunsets lay Take me and we can make our own little home to stay If you want to let me explore the depths of your mind I’ll do so happily, but only if you show me everything you carry inside I simply want to be yours And I want you to be mine
"Laws of Nature" | Angelica Hernandez-Villalpando
I am that rose Yellow and sweet And these thorns on my stem don’t define me They are present by law Not present by choice And I hope you’ll choose to stay present for me
"I am reminded of my mother" | Jimmy McCarty
Written in honor of the massacre of eight people, including six Asian American women who were targeted, near Atlanta, GA on March 16, 2021
I am reminded of my mother when I rinse rice in cold water. Swirling it around, draining it and filling it until the water runs clear.
I am reminded of my mother when I am sick and eat spicy soup that burns my throat. She taught me that the burning means it is killing the germs.
And I am reminded of my mother when I read the Hyun Jung Grant enjoyed watching K-dramas. Because I remember weekend trips to South Tacoma Way to return plastic bags full of Korean VHS tapes and pick up dozens more.
I remember my mother and her birthday cards that simply read “I love you, Mom.” Because writing more in English was a task too large when I read that Sun Cha Kim spoke broken English.
I remember my mother, after my parents divorced, moving to Hawai’i to live with friends and work in Asian restaurants until she was no longer able when I read that Soon Chung Park moved to Atlanta from New York City to be close to her friends and work at Gold Spa.
And I am reminded of my mother on her death bed sending me finger hearts because she could no longer speak when I heard that six Asian women were killed in a mass shooting in Atlanta.
And I hope that someone told them in English or Korean or Chinese or through some small gesture that they were loved that morning.
"I Wanted a Photograph of Me in the Snow" | Hannah Michaud
Pictures were all I kept after the breakup Tap.. click.. I deleted most of your traces I thought breaking up wouldn't be hard Especially when it was the right thing to do My summer was photos of us, your favorite beach, your facetime calls Each memory looked sweet but they were sour
When it got cold again I moved them off my phone. Tap Tap But now, my gallery Reflecting white like a frozen valley What do I have now?
I quietly gave up one evening I couldn't ignore an unfamiliar coldness I noticed I was no longer a girl, but a glacier
Still. Under miles of blue ice Everything around me frozen I could faintly.. barely hear above A droplet coming down the cracks
It snowed for the first time in a long time It came pattering off my window I could hear it softly whispering down in the night Like gentle music, pensive wind chimes A parade being made for me out of winter? I thought “This is something spectacular.” “They're making a celebration out of ice.”
I walked in it, feet crunching the new blanket of white The branches all bended under the heavy decorations I couldn't stop noticing how the cold air was calming It blew back feelings of festivities I asked my Mom “Take my picture!” I stood in front of a frosted evergreen With a smile and snowflakes in my hair I will slowly build a new camera roll Starting with a picture of me in the snow
"Truth in Touch" | Hannah Michaud
Mornings come and sunsets leave Sometimes, I like to take a break From the ever changing world At night I venture through my house Warm carpet under my feet The cold air washing over me Attention entirety Night’s energize recognized The static shift of my clothes Body electric turns 3D
I was staring at the couch In its classic brown tweed brilliance Splashed with warmth in the sunlight I could see lint, bright and fuzzy What a room endowed with light! Uncommon lovely things around Through the window I see trees With radiant shine and rich brown You could miss it already “Oh, if only light stayed!” I hold dear the truth of touch Giving me a space to be free Reach out with your hands and see Tweed’s lint is always fuzz
"factory reject" | Renee Owley
as children we are guided by warm hands, soft hands. but not shaped. our elders merely spin the pottery wheel the clay of us choosing our own shape the glaze of us becoming our own color.
when we are ready for forging, for the kiln, the hands pull back but are always ready. ready to mend what breaks and to strengthen that which is brittle.
I was shaped. I was molded. I originate from a factory. no hands, only machines. you do not choose. you will not become. you are not clay. you are steel.
you will not forge. you will cool and harden. you are not porous. you reflect. you will not break. your materials will not be brittle.
steel is strong, everlasting. it does not give. it does not absorb. but I cannot be steel, for I am brittle and I have absorbed. I need mending.
clay is not meant for machinery so I must have been shaped by warm hands, soft loving hands. but warmth is a malfunction and it creates that which the factory must not acknowledge.
the factory is not a wheel the machines have no warm hands factories do not make individuals there is no uniqueness, no difference.
a difference is a defect and it must not be allowed to cause defects in other products that clay must not be mixed with the rest it cannot go with the rest
"Wheelchairs and Willow Trees" | Juin Yeh
tragedy never had a charming story meant to pull one in without an introduction other than what happened to you?
our disaster wasn’t horrible, but unforgivable for its actions of what it did to people like us,
bounded eternally to nothing immovable, unable to root into an earth once needed of dirt, the healing ground to roughened skin and brown dusk covered callouses toughened by time spent building ourselves up just to crash back down.
we couldn’t soar higher when even standing failed us, legs no longer the sturdy foundation we relied on all our lives.
i told you metal was never my element, you showed me it was just an extension of the nature i loved.
we were never meant to live forever and chaos shortened the chances, time ticked towards the last breath but you never cared for the countdown.
your beliefs wrote that there was beauty after pain, a life lived ugly still blossomed in legacies far beyond the end, and if nature once rejected us, it will accept us then.
when we left, pain truly turned beautiful, our scars part of the painting on a canvas never meant to be perfect. one with the earth, they left our stems tethered to a place we failed to bond to the living.
maybe that’s how our story was destined to be, where wheelchairs became willow trees