Our latest issue, “Alone Together: Confined in a Connected World” is now available to read for free. Featuring artists, writers, and poets from the CSUSB and Inland Empire community, our aim is to help one another connect during the difficulties of the pandemic. The issue is embedded for you below to read, and can also be downloaded.
We at Pacific Review would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to all the communities and its thriving members of CSUSB, San Bernardino and the greater Inland Empire. You are all in our thoughts, our stories, our visions of the future during this tumultuous and uncertain time of COVID-19 and other multiple happenings occurring in our world. Thank you to the talented contributors who have their work in our first online issue. We highly value your words. Many thanks to Juan Delgado, Rachelle Cruz and Briar Rosa for taking the time to converse with us and share with us what inspires them to be dynamic and responsible educators, cultural producers, writers and artists in our communities. At Pacific Review, we are dedicated to highlighting the stories and people that make our region and our region’s history diverse, beautiful, strong and worthy of preservation. We hope to continue to hear from you even in these dark times. Although we are a tight student-run literary arts operation, we are also susceptible to the same pains, struggles and obstacles that all of you face. However, we will strive to be part of the collective transformation and work that is a part of community healing and bridge building.
In solidarity, resilience and care,
The Editors and Staff Members of The Pacific Review
Our “Special Features” page is now live with two interviews from dedicated artists on campus. Check them out below!
Rain rattles, paddles, and pours
right into the pores of my skin.
Or (in other words) Baptizes.
Cleaning the Earth,
Gathering and showing us dirt
In places we didn’t know it existed
I listen to the rain,
The kind that helps mothers
and grandmothers to sleep,
If the Noah in us could fall asleep too,
Or if he’s always still just
I open my eyes, reach for the paddles, and row.
I gather the ones
he accidentally left behind.
– after an untitled piece by Naomi Richman, a 10th grader at Boulder High
The kitten stares out above a spill on the kitchen floor.
Unlike Narcissus, the kitten does not look down.
If he did, he would not see himself as he is,
A kitten, or even a grown cat. He’d see Tiger.
I see this depiction not as growth and maturation,
but the artist’s dream of her own transforming.
This seeing may be no more than
my own desire surfaced and mirrored back.
On the anniversary of my mother’s death,
I leaf through an album she made,
pasting in photos of wildlife
– she loved animals – and labeling
lion, grizzly, antelope, cardinal, cobra
in her instantly-recognizable script.
Passing by a storefront window, I glimpse
an aging woman – white hair, lined face –
and must remember to strut
– a gait once so natural – and break
a recent habit of hesitant step
in fear of falling.
I do not recognize myself. Like Mother,
I carry within me a younger,
more lovely image that sometimes is
mirrored back in the eyes of the beguiled.
Turning the drawing around, Tiger stares out
above brooding cloud.
If Tiger looked down, he’d see a sweet cub
before ferocity became necessity.
Your language is foreign to me.
I can hear you speak but-
I don’t understand what you mean.
The music’s loud so you grab my hand to show me.
Step by step
You lead me to a bedroom door.
I enter the room.
I can hear you speak but-
I don’t understand what you mean.
With a bottle of whiskey, in your hand
You lock the door,
I understand now…
But you’ll never understand me.
I am not distant.
Like your drunk and sexually frustrated friends
You’re one of them,
Lost in drugs and sex,
You see no need in speaking.
I look away,
Admiring New York’s peaceful city lights
With watery eyes.
You’ll never understand me.
“You lost communication” I finally say,
But your mind is in blank space.
I am not distant.
If I found a magic lamp I’d know
what I’d ask for
He’d come out in the most grandiose way
Smoke and fireworks coming out from the lamp
Maybe he’s blue maybe he’ll be cyan or like me
and ask me
What is it you seek my child?
My eyes wide open in excitement
I would ask to look more like my parents
The bafflement on his face is clear so I elaborate to avoid confusion
I explain not entirely, just my skin color
I’m tired of getting asked at school what my ethnicity is
Hearing people say you owe me money to one another
As if my ethnicity was a simple numbered color on a roulette table
Now that that’s clarified I go into my second
wish giving him no time to rest.
I would ask him for a better tongue
I can see how he could take this a variety of ways so I go on
I just want to properly speak Spanish I need
to be able to roll my tongue
Being blessed with the most possible R’s
I need to be able to use the voice of my ancestors
not the one of the people who gamble on me
I see him raise an eyebrow and say Well? and the last?
A lot of money so that I have the privilege to have both.
My mother passed a few years ago.
She’d made it to ninety-two,
Quite a time,
More than I expect myself.
Her presence occasionally wafts about, becomes apparent:
A tattered quilt in the back of a closet
A brown photo between two pages.
I used an old desk phone a while back when my cell phone died.
The old phone had an answering machine in it.
I plugged it in and the message light began to flash. The notes of a past sounded in the room:
Two wrong numbers
And then there she was, clear, present, alive.
I held my breath: she said the weather was too hot and nobody had called her all day.
Last night I lifted a plate from my cupboard,
An old teacup saucer that I used as a remnant, a mismatch,
the last of a set whose other members had long ago vanished.
Made of bone china with a light gold inlay, roses painted across the borders.
The last of my mother’s tea set.
The plate slipped from my hand, shattered on the counter, plummeted to the floor.
I stood, stared, gathered the sight:
One more last remnant of her splintered, fractured, gone.
Trigger warning: the following story includes graphic sexual and violent content
It was the second time it happened. The first time could have been a misunderstanding. Perhaps she led him on, perhaps it was a blip of insanity. She was unsure and blamed herself. But the second time, it was him. His behavior was nothing she ever expected, it was barbaric and brutal.
Mary sat in the polyester desk chair, responding to an email when he came up from behind. She felt a hard lump against her back as he placed one hand over her breasts and pulled her knee-length skirt up over her knees and forced his fingers underneath her cotton pink underwear. She wanted to scream, she wanted to pull his hands out, and run away. Shock paralyzed her entire body, she was frozen in a nightmare where she opened her mouth, and nothing came out. It felt as if a pocket-knife pierced through her body and stabbed her insides over and over again. She squeezed her eyes shut and heard a loud pop, it reminded her of the noise her ears would make when she would suction water out with her hand after a day of swimming in the pool. Except it was much more painful and it burned like hot vodka going down her throat.
He grabbed the back of the chair and fiercely swiveled her around, his eyes empty and black. His face softened when he noticed the blood trickling down her legs.
He stepped back. “Are you okay?” Mary looked at her legs, watching the blood run down the office blue carpet. “You’re a virgin?”
“I’m 17,” Mary wiped her legs with Kleenex and ran out of his office. She did not shed a tear until she was in her car with the doors locked and turned the radio volume up high. She hung her head over the steering wheel and wept. She could hear her soul snap and shatter into pieces, leaving her naked in a pool of her own shame as she sobbed against the rubber steering wheel.
Mary couldn’t tell anyone. She’d only been his part-time assistant for six weeks. The assistant before her was there for a year without a complaint. Pastor Abel was 43 and the senior pastor for The Garden. He was highly respected in the community and in their church while she and her family were pitied.
When Mary’s father abandoned her mother and siblings, The Garden stepped in. When Mary’s mother lost her job and they were on the brink of eviction, The Garden stepped in. The Garden became their home and God became their father. When they became financially stable, Mary’s mother provided everything with almost nothing, and held tremendous pride for it. Still, members of The Garden pitied Mary and her family. They were seen as the needy, broken, family.
Mary wiped her nose with the sleeve of her cardigan and stared down at the crumb-filled floor of her car. She could feel the warm blood puddle 42 Trigger warning: the following story includes graphic sexual and violent content. underneath her. She needed to tell someone. If she didn’t show up to work the next afternoon, her mother would ask questions, Human Resources would remind her she’s still on a 90-day probation, and Pastor Abel might fabricate his own story. Although it was unlikely he would say anything at all. He couldn’t risk his position at the church, he couldn’t risk the stress upon his wife.
Pastor Abel’s wife was five months pregnant and would visit the office Sunday afternoons, her hands hugging her basketball-shaped belly, followed by their foster daughter. The wife admitted the doctors advised against the pregnancy, but they’ve been wanting a child for years, and God finally answered their prayers, and provided a miracle. After her second miscarriage, she quit her job as a schoolteacher, and devoted her time to ovulation cycles, monthly attempts of conceiving, and homemaking. Their last successful attempt resulted in a stillborn, due to an infection in her placenta. Her body mistook the baby as the infection and forced him out too early. Traumatized by their losses, they accepted and raised a foster child until she conceived a fifth time. The doctors labeled her a high-risk pregnancy and diagnosed her with preeclampsia, two weeks before Mary’s incidents.
Switchfoot, Mary’s favorite Christian band, drowned out her cries. It burned like fire between her legs, her underwear now crunched with dried blood, and her face was stained with tears, black from mascara. She was a garbage can of damaged goods and shame. She was dirty gum under a shoe, rotting fruit in the kitchen, a degraded corpse in the morgue. She was half-used and thrown out like snot-filled Kleenex.
Mary wanted to tell everyone. She wanted every member of the church to believe her, she wanted the men to storm into his office and throw him out the second-story window, she wanted to see his blood blanket the sidewalk and fragments of his skull strewn across the blacktop.
And then she would ask, quite stupidly, just as he had, “Are you okay?”
Even if everyone believed Mary, it would be his wife who suffered. If Mary pressed charges, his wife would lose the foster daughter she’s had for three years, they’d be forced to hire expensive lawyers who would clean out their bank accounts and take their home; his wife would live in the basement of some relative, divorced, broke, and alone. His wife, overwhelmed by it all, would lose her fifth baby. A baby girl they were going to name Esther after the character in the bible, a Jewish queen who stands up for her people.
Mary’s heart became heavy with the harrowing realization that it was no longer just about her. She was now forced to choose between herself and the Pastor’s wife. She has a foster daughter and a baby girl due. But there were two incidents in one week, she reminded herself. It wasn’t exactly rape. So, does it even count?
And as she sat in the parking lot debating while tears streamed down her pale cheeks, she watched Pastor Abel walk across the lot with his arm over his niece, a small blonde girl who was no older than 12.
She sits on the curb of Whittier Boulevard and Atlantic
It could be any street corner in any neighborhood
She watches the lowriders as they pass at 5 miles per hour
Here come the show cars with their fancy paint jobs
The Sons of Soul, Orpheus and the Latin Lords
They stop in the center of the Boulevard
One car club at a time, they begin to make their cars dance
To the rhythm of oldies, disco, cumbias or mariachi music
I wonder what they will be blasting today
Hydraulics bounce the cars up and down, to the left and right
Bam! Synchronized they drop their cars to the ground.
I hear it before I see it, they sling profanity like rocks
The peace, the show, the fun is slipping away into the darkness
I watch as a dozen young men and girls quickly get out of their cars
Crowbars, bats, and bottles flying through the air
The beauty of the Capri is distorted
The flames a patchwork of color with no form
Windshield glass flying through the air
3 young Chicanos are beating the disco king
He tries to shield his face and tries to roll away
There is nowhere to run he is caught between
Their kicks and the tires of the bleeding Capri
A loud thump of iron and wood as it hits a target
It resonates like the bass of a stereo through the air
A Chicano falls to the ground, his head is bleeding
He rolls on the concrete holding his head
His face hidden beneath the crimson
“Beto! Beto! Are you alright?” He kneels by Beto’s side
Tears in his eyes he says, “Come on ese, get up, you can do it bro”
Beto’s hands relax as he takes his last breath, his brother kneeling at his side
A flood of tears trickles down the crimson and red tears hit the ground
El Chicano stands up with a determined look on his face
He goes to his car, looks at windows broken, bashed with a bat
he reaches past the sliced leather into the glove compartment
he pulls out a gun and looks around, blood, glass, crowbars
He finds his target, “Hey Orpheus,” he yells to the guy with the bat
As the batboy turns, the shot rings out and the bullets fly
His brother’s killer falls to the ground and the crowd runs
East, West, North, and South
away from the bullets that continue to fly
The sirens are blasting and drawing near
The flashing lights are getting brighter
The shooter falls on one knee, tears streaming down his face
“I have to go Beto, I’ll see you soon Bro”
He looks back at his brother one last time
he runs into the dark of night
A flood of memories fills her mind, she remembers
Her brother was shot and killed on Breed and First Street
She whispers a prayer to God as she runs towards home
Away from the memories that make her bleed
Away from the violence and senseless death
Away from the boulevard, this city, this life.