I Can’t Forget by Townsend Walker

I thought I’d found the peace that I’d come for.  Here in Munich, where I spent a year in college.  A felicitous town with musicians on every corner: Mozart concertos, Bach sonatas, a Billie Holiday tune here and there.  Choirs singing hosannas to the highest lighten even the heavyset Cathedral of Our Lady.

On Wednesday, I strolled into the gardens of the Stadtische Galerie.  The museum was housed in a gold-colored Tuscan villa, once the home of the painter Franz von Lenbach.  The first gallery held Klee’s colorful and cheerful work: Southern Gardens: vivid orange, red, blue and aqua patches and Rose Garden: carnelian, cerise and scarlet geometric figures and a cluster of smiling people.

The next gallery was deserted.  Klee’s Ravaged Place hung on the far wall: a bruise-purple building with a dabbled white roof is askew in the background.  The building once had four walls, but like a stage set only the façade remains.  Its gaping window holes were shaded violet black, wraiths curling behind them.  Two smaller structures tilted in from outside the frame.  Their windows were vacant eyes to the sky.  In the foreground, headstones.

Not different from my last patrol.  A long day.  My unit had beaten off two insurgent attacks and we were a couple miles from base.  We saw the village beyond the ridge.  Smoke, still curling.  Crumbled dun-colored mud houses.  Wooden framing sticking out at unnatural angles.  Fragments of cloth fluttering from splintered windows.  Blackened shards.  Littering the sand, blood-streaked arms and legs and a doll.

The memory emptied me and I slumped on a museum bench, head in my hands, heart pounding.  I was nauseous, like the time in the back of an old bus bumping down a mountain road in Morocco, sucking diesel fumes and greasy mutton.  Hot and I couldn’t get up, trapped between two guys who were asleep.  I squeezed my head tighter and tighter to quiet the clattering explosions in my skull.

My Dad, a Nam vet, never told me about the flashbacks.  But he was career; maybe it’s different for them.  My twin brother Will followed Dad’s lead, until it all ended at Shahi Khot.  I’d stayed away from everything Army until what happened to Will.  But I had to finish what he started.  That’s the way it was with us.  So it was Special Forces and language school.

Someone hit me.  I jumped; nearly knocked the old man down.  Slowly, I saw him, the attendant, a thin wispy-haired man carved by age.

Bitte, are you well?”

Probably, he only tapped me on the shoulder.

“I’ll be fine, danke.

“I never come in this room,” he said.  “Too many thoughts, too many memories I don’t want to have.”

Looking down at him, I asked, “Der Zweite Weltkrieg?”

“Stalingrad,” he said.  “I can’t forget.”

He looked at me, eyes filling with tears.  His lips moved, but no words came out.  Then he placed a thin arthritic hand on my arm and held tight.

I walked slowly out of the Galerie and back through the Plaza of Our Lady.  Leave was over.  That evening I took the train up to Frankfurt for my flight.  I’d be in Kabul in twenty-four hours, and sign up for another tour.  I’m not haunted by memories there.


A Note on the Author

Townsend Walker lives in San Francisco. His novella La Ronde was published in 2015 and his short stories have appeared in over seventy-five literary journals. “A Little Love, A Little Shove” and “Holding Tight” were nominated for PEN/O.Henry Awards. The two stories are included in his new collection, 3 Women 4 Towns 5 Bodies. Townsend wrote A Guide for Using the Foreign Exchange Market, Managing Risk with Derivatives, and Managing Lease Portfolios, during his career in finance. In addition to writing stories, Townsend conducts a creative writing workshop at San Quentin Prison.

Townsend submitted I Can’t Forget along with an image of Paul Klee’s painting, ‘Destroyed Place’, which Klee completed in 1920. However, in the story, Klee’s ‘Ravaged Place’ is referred to. On further reading of Walker’s ekphrasis of the painting, he seems to be referring more to ‘Destroyed Place’: “The building once had four walls, but like a stage set only the façade remains.  Its gaping window holes were shaded violet black, wraiths curling behind them.  Two smaller structures tilted in from outside the frame.  Their windows were vacant eyes to the sky.  In the foreground, headstones.” [‘Ravaged Place’ is actually entitled ‘Ravaged Land’.]

This artwork points to Klee’s skills as a draughtsman, indicated by the buildings. The two-dimensional surface and shapes indicate the influence of Cubism, which Klee discovered during his travels to Paris where he met Robert Delaunay and discovered Picasso and Braque’s works in galleries. The sense of the surreal is highlighted by the hands sweeping from the headstones towards the vacant buildings, rendering the landscape a ghostlike presence. Death permeates the piece, signified by the dark sombre tones of black against purple.

Walker’s story is a great example of how art can emote and bring forth stories buried in our unconscious. It is also a great example of how a writer can combine Ekphrasis in a work of fiction. Visual Art as prompts to writing is not a new concept because art triggers memories, sensations and emotions in each of us; I Can’t Forget indicates this.

 Eva’s Comments

Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, to a German father and a Swiss mother. His parents were both musicians; his father was a music teacher in Bern where the family settled in 1897, after moving around in Switzerland for some time.

Music and art filled Klee’s life since childhood. Encouraged by his parents, he studied the violin. Although he was very good at the instrument, he chose to focus on visual art during his teenage years. However, his parents were not that supportive of his forays into art, preferring that he continued with music.

Against his parents’ wishes, Klee left for Munich in 1898 for art studies at the Academy of Fine Arts and briefly attended Franz von Stuck’s class there. He chose to settle in Munich in 1906 after spending some years travelling to Italy, France and living some years back in Bern.

In Munich, Klee focused on graphic art for the most part. A chance meeting with the abstract artist, Kandinsky, in 1911 would change the course of his life. Kandinsky recognised talent in Klee’s work and was very supportive of him.

In 1912, Klee exhibited in Munich’s Galerie Goltz in the second exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a group formed by Russian emigre painters (Kandinsky included) in response to the rejection of Wassily Kandinsky’s work, ‘Last Judgement’, from an exhibition. Der Blaue Reiter is also an art movement important in the development of Expressionism; this art movement lasted only 3 years from 1911 to 1914 but has left the art world with a vast collection of artworks which can be viewed at Lenbachhaus, Munich.

Paul Klee was very interested in colours and was an avid researcher in colour theory. He wrote extensively on the effects of colour on art. His lectures at the Bauhaus School of Art, where he taught for 10 years starting in 1921, have been published under the name, Paul Klee Notebooks, a two-volume work, considered as important to modern art theory as Leonardo Da Vinci’ s Treatise on Paintings is for the Renaissance.

A trip to Tunis, Morocco, in 1914 impressed Klee so much that he would later write, saying, “colour and I are one” proclaiming himself a “painter.” From this period on, Klee started to experiment with abstraction. Already a skilled draughtsman, he combined his abilities in draftsmanship—straight lines forming shapes like rectangles and triangles—with colours to form a unique style—visual art, combining Expressionism, Cubism, Abstraction and Surrealism, all associated with music—that some scholars have recognised to be influenced by his earlier schooling in music. Perhaps, Klee could be a synesthete like his friend, Kandinsky.

Klee was conscripted as a soldier of the German Reich in March of 1916. Fortunately, for him, he spent most of the war in an office which spared him from the horrors on the war front. Klee’s diaries and letters indicated his detachment from the war. But the war would leave profound impressions on him. The death of his friends August Macke and Franz Marc devastated him. He responded by creating pen and ink lithographs dealing with war themes. Perhaps it was during this time that Klee would come to say “I paint in order not to cry”, a phrase that has come to represent his works made during and after WWI. Critics have said that Klee’s pieces during and after the war indicated his detachment: Klee commented on the devastation brought by war by abstracting it, representing the horror by symbols and leitmotifs.

“The more horrible this world (as today, for instance), the more abstract our art, whereas a happy world brings forth an art of the here and now.” — Paul Klee (diary, 1915).

Paul Klee passed away in 1940, in Switzerland, from a wasting disease that engulfed him towards the end of his life. The pain caused by Scleroderma would enter his later work. I think apart from expressing his physical pain on canvas, Klee also drew from the trauma incurred during the war and allowed this to find expression in his work. Paul Klee left behind an oeuvre consisting of just under 10,000 pieces of artworks. Although born in Switzerland, he never obtained Swiss citizenship because the Swiss authorities felt that his artwork was too revolutionary for the period.

Paul Klee’s work can be viewed worldwide as well as at the Paul Klee Centre in Bern.



Image Credit: ‘Destroyed Place’, 1920, Oil on paper, 8 3/4 x 7 5/8 in. (22.3 x 19.5 cm), Lenbachhaus, Munich.


Of life – by A P Shells



I have told you too many times

Have told you too many times I cannot

Told you too many times I cannot take it anymore

Too many times I cannot take it anymore I have told you:

the lacerations
red tattoos, curves into a
smile: savoring a covenant
I can’t seem to remember:


Of life, I am no placid man – there is screaming

in the house, yet, a severed ear is a deafening one:

– – – – –

my body, a portrait of
sanguine insanity —
where are these brushes,
and whose favorite color is



Of catharsis, I understood none –

yet there is brevity in a severed ear,

or the portrait of.




it shouldn’t have been



Author’s Comments:

The poem is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. It has raised questions on identity, confrontation with situations in life, and catharsis. The poem reflects that.

I am drawn to this picture for its honesty. There is something about this picture that prompts us to think about pain and resolution – why did he mutilate his ear? And why did he create this self-portrait? What did he hope to achieve? Was he hoping to achieve anything at all? I’m not too sure about the answers to those questions. There may not be answers too. As with life, we are very capable. We may live amidst the quandaries, amidst the questions we have no answers to. We do not strictly calculate everything we do. That is fine. Yet to that end, the picture draws me in to ponder.

Eva’s Comments:

When I received this poem, I’d just finished watching the animated film, Loving Vincent. It’s the first film in the world that’s made entirely of oil paintings. Amazing! Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, this animated film has gone on the win many awards.

Vincent Van Gogh needs no introduction. He is the most mythologised artist of the 19th century. Many interpretations of his oeuvre have largely been focused on his mental condition. Art Historians know that Van Gogh was institutionalised, of his own accord, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It was during this period that he painted his most famous and popular piece, The Starry Night. This artwork inspired the song, (Vincent) Starry Starry Night by Don Mclean. This song never fails to bring tears. “They would not listen, they did not know how perhaps they’ll listen now.”

Vincent Van Gogh touched everyone he came into contact with; this was portrayed clearly in Loving Vincent. Van Gogh continues to touch our lives today as indicated by A P Shell’s On Life.

Van Gogh is categorised as an Expressionist painter because of his style of painting. Expressionism originated in the early 20th-century in Germany.  It is characterised by subjective perspectives depicted in images or text (poetry). These perspectives are highly emotive due to their distortion of reality. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of their felt experience rather than the physical reality surrounding them. For Vincent, it was Nature that he related to and found catharsis in. Vincent Van Gogh was ahead of his time as an Expressionist painter. A more accurate label to categorise him would be ‘post-Impressionist’, according to British twentieth-century art critic Roger Fry.

It’s good to note that Vincent Van Gogh did not paint for long. His painting career lasted between five to eight years. By the time of his death, in 1890, he had created over 800 paintings, all inspired by the people he’d met, loved and known, and by the natural beauty he saw around him.


Image credit:

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890). Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889, Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50 cm© The Courtauld Gallery, London.

The Man in Shades by Tiffany S L

The man in shades walked into our car porch as my aunt Lily was on her way out to catch the bus to school. He sauntered in, head erect and entered the front door, left ajar for Ahmed, our driver, to come in to tell Papa when the car was ready.

I was three years old, playing in my room when the man in shades strolled in. He tousled my hair and asked me to play police and thieves with him. I didn’t answer. Then he took off his shades and pulled a balaclava over his face, leaving his eyes exposed.

“Ready to play?” he asked menacingly.

I stared mutely back. His eyes were the sort that you didn’t want to look long into; they bored into mine. The corner of his lips curled in a smirk, the glint from his gold tooth mesmerised me. Time hung in the air for a few seconds before he put his shades back on over his face cloth. I felt much better.

“Where is Papa?” he asked, pointing a revolver that he’d retrieved from his overalls at my temple.

The cold steel of his gun made an impression on the side of my head.

I leaned against the door jamb and stared up at him, half wondering if he really meant to play with me or was just being polite like the many adults who came often to see Papa. The steel revolver was still pointed at my head when another man in a balaclava appeared.

“Bang!” the man in shades said and winked at me. He pulled the gun away and blew into the mouth of the pistol as if blowing out a flame. Years later, I would remember this image when watching cowboy movies.

“Take me to your Papa,” he coaxed, smiling, putting his gun back into the front pocket of his overalls. That golden tooth again.

I ran to my parents’ room with both men following.

In the room, I saw Mummy seated at the edge of her bed. When she saw me, she went berserk, shouting to the man in shades to leave me be.

He laughed a kind of bemused laugh, winked and nudged me towards Mummy. She held me tight and told me to be quiet.

Loud banging was followed by lots of shouting.

“What are you doing?” she screamed at the man in shades, pounding his chest with clenched fists. “How can you? We trusted you!”

He laughed again, amused, took hold of her right wrist and led her back to the edge of the bed. She didn’t put up a fight.

“Sit,” he commanded and she did.

“Come out, Ah Lee!”

“No!!!” screamed Mummy. “Stay inside.”

Diam, you damned woman!” the man in shades retorted, taking out his gun.

She shrank into the bed.

More loud banging before Papa shouted, “NO!!! What do you want, Ah Fook?”

Papa had locked himself in the bathroom when he heard Mummy shouting hysterically. He is a man who always thinks on his feet. Both my parents would giggle in glee like two school children in cahoots when retelling this part of the story, Papa proud of his wits, Mummy proud that she stood up to the man in shades. I would feel the coldness of steel against my temple.

Bent double in a quaking heap, right in the corner between the built-in wardrobe and the bedside table, was Ahmed the driver. His knees were propped up, his bare feet in a puddle of water.

“I’ve got a gun, Ah Lee,” the man in shades spoke loudly into the bathroom door while tapping it with the butt of his gun.

Papa finally emerged, with a towel around his waist. He still had his pyjama top on.

The next thing I remember was being lifted over the fence and placed in the arms of the neighbour’s helper. My nanny said something I didn’t understand and scurried away quickly.

I was too young to remember the entire tale of how we were robbed in daylight. Many years later when a pair of sunglasses on my boyfriend’s face triggered a memory of that day, I asked Mummy about the robbery. She rummaged through some papers in an untidy drawer and found a newspaper cutting which made headlines in the early 70s – “Family Robbed at Gunpoint by Trusted Contractor”.


We moved to another part of Singapore soon after the burglary. The experience had traumatised everyone. Father hired security guards to stand vigil at the new house. This house had a long drive way which the Feng Shui Master had advised against because it meant that Wealth would have a long way to travel before He could enter the front door. Unfortunately, Papa did not heed this piece of precious advice. Seven years later, he declared bankruptcy. This changed our lives, my live, profoundly because for the years until I turned sixteen, we became homeless: we had to live with one relative after another, with whoever would take us in. It was the year I turned 10 and I learnt quickly what goodwill meant.


My maternal grandfather was the first to give us a home. He lived with two of my unmarried aunts in a terraced house. In that house, also lived my uncle, his son, and his young wife. Another daughter, Aunty Su, lived about a ten minute cycle away in one of the many streets off the main road that led to the Catholic church at the top of the hill.

My most favourite thing to do every evening before dinner was to take the Chopper – my pride and joy – out for a cycle around the neighbourhood. I loved my white Adidas shorts which made my legs longer; it was the only pair I would wear. I am twelve and growing breasts. But I could still wear a T-shirt over my bare pre-pubescent chest without attracting untoward attention.

I cycled along the roads to the park at the top of the hill next to the Catholic church. I’d stop outside the park where I waited with baited breath. There, I’d hope to catch a glimpse of him – my first crush – leaving the church to go home after choir practice on Thursday evenings. What joy it was to be young and in love. How wonderful it was to feel the wind in my hair, to feel my body in action. My periods had started two years ago, making me feel more a woman than a child. Mummy was awkward in accepting my bodily changes. I felt uncomfortable in myself too. Years later I learned  that ancient communities celebrated this female rite of passage with a ceremony. I lit a candle when I turned 45; menopause was on its way, this needed celebration too.


I was relatively happy although we had no permanent home. I grew up with plenty of freedom but lots of responsibilities.  Every Thursday evening I had to cycle form Grandfather’s to my Aunty Su’s to pick up my cousin, Meredith, and take her over for dinner. Of course, I would make sure to cycle past the church. Meredith would sit pillion and I would ride the Chopper, hovering off the seat because really there was only space for one person on this bike. It felt good to feel the strength of my limbs as I cycled us home.

One Thursday, a man in shades walked out of the front door when he heard the metal gate rattling. Aunty Su had said I could wait in the car porch for Meredith’s school bus to drop her off, then take her to Grandfather’s. Both Aunty Su and Uncle Bill were usually at work when I collected Meredith. I hadn’t expected anyone to be home.

“Hi, I’m Paul,” the man in shades said, extending his right arm for a handshake.

I blushed at this intrusion.

“Hello,” I replied, remembering my manners, shaking his hand.

It turned out that Paul was Uncle Bill’s younger brother who had just returned from Australia. He was staying at the house now but nobody thought to tell me this.

I was smitten by Paul’s youth and good looks.

I waited in anticipation for Thursday to come round again. From waiting in the car porch, I graduated to waiting for Meredith in Aunty Su’s living room. Uncle Paul would always let me in but never before a hug or a soft caress of my cheek. His touch fanned the embers of many teenage fantasies that had been ignited by the myriad 50-cent Mills and Boons novels borrowed from the second hand book store near the local cinema. His shades would hang on his head like a hairband girls wear to keep their fringes up. They were Ray-Ban, I discovered. He looked divine. Uncle Paul always asked me something about myself. He wanted to know if I liked school, what books I was reading, about my friends. His attention to my waffling meant the world to me. Father never asked about my day.

During this period, my parents were preoccupied with many things. Papa with bankruptcy and Mummy with looking for part-time work. Papa was at work somewhere, a place he seldom mentioned because this period were dark times for both of them and all of us. He’d leave work in the morning with a brooding face and return home in a cloud of thunder. I was left on my own daily while Mummy spent whatever energy she had left on my youngest sibling who was still a child of seven. I learnt to parent myself. As for my second sister, she tacked along with me when she could or was left to her own devices too. I learnt to parent her. We seldom speak of the days when we used to live with Grandfather.

One Thursday, Uncle Paul let me in as usual. After a warm hug and his usual caress, he invited me into his room. He stroked my bare legs lovingly and told me how pretty I was as I sat on his single bed. Then he moved closer and kissed me gently on my forehead, then proceeded to kiss my left cheek, the top of my nose and then my right cheek. I sat there, frozen from the weight of his body against mine. I was also pinned against the wall by his bed. I didn’t know whether to push him away, to stop him, because he was my uncle. At the same time, I was enjoying his amorous touches and full attention. I started to feel the prickle of his growing moustache when he got to my lips. His breath tasted of coffee and cigarettes. Soft kisses were followed by the probing of his wet tongue prying my tightly closed lips open. At this point, I could feel panic and bile rising from my stomach to the base of my throat. The metal gate made a noise as Meredith unlatched it to let herself in. Uncle Paul moved away from me and led me out of his bedroom. It was time to take Meredith back to Grandfather’s. I hurried away as Uncle Paul scurried back into his room.

The same thing happened again the following Thursday but this time, the bile came up from the base of my throat and I had to run to the bathroom to throw up. I locked myself in there which made him panic. I only let myself out again when Meredith arrived; he knocked on the door to let me know this. I walked out of the bathroom without looking at him, took Meredith’s hand and headed for the Chopper.

Thursday rolled around once more. I unlatched the metal gate with trepidation. His bedroom was both a foreboding and attractive place. I wanted to know where the kissing would take us: Mills and Boons never specified and the movies weren’t very telling either. At this point, I knew something was not right yet I couldn’t get away from him. He didn’t stop me either, beckoning me to come inside, flirting with me throughout. “I won’t hurt you” he promised and I was ensnared. He played me along for months. The petting and caresses had started to make both of us lose control. His kisses were accompanied by heavy breathing and grunting as his hands moved greedily over my body. Physically, I was like a feline on heat, yielding to his every touch. That day, while kissing me and fumbling at his zip with one hand, with his other groping me, his hand settled on the padding of my sanitary towel. He pushed me away gruffly, “Why didn’t you tell me?” he growled before walking away, leaving me bewildered on his bed, wondering if I had done something wrong. For years, I would blame myself. How I hated the M-word.

The next time I saw him again, I was fourteen. It was at the golf club. Mummy was with me.

“How are you?” he asked and smiled at me after saying hello to Mummy. He reached out his hand automatically. I moved away.

“You’re practically a woman,” The awkwardness was unbearable.

Charm is his middle name, I thought bitterly. By now, I’ve heard all about his girlfriends as the relatives speculated about his choices. Each speculation drove the knife deeper into my aching, confused heart.

Years later, at my psychoanalyst’s practice, I learned what ‘grooming’ meant. I learned also to move on. I had kept this shameful secret for over 30 years, sweeping the shame, hurt and betrayal under the carpet of my unconscious. Teetering on ‘my fault/his fault’, I spent my adult years blaming myself, then blaming him, but mostly blaming myself. I’ve finally come to accept that in cases like mine, the fault always lies with the adult, never the child. It has taken me decades to reach forgiveness: I’ve learnt to finally forgive myself. The #MeToo movement of 2017 finally gave me courage and a voice: no more victim blaming.

Yet, when I see a man with a pair of shades on his head, I would remember that icy sensation of a gun to my temple, like the sensation of opening Aunty Su’s metal gate that allowed me into her car porch—a sensation mixed with trepidation and curiosity. Remembering both events, a knot would tighten just below my stomach where my uterus starts. When my skin touches metal every so often, my muscle memory would remember this sensation of cold steel against warm skin. I would remember a particular man in shades, someone I called Uncle Paul. I no longer call him uncle.

Eva’s Comments:

This story touched my heart. It is longer than the word count stipulated for this journal but I’m publishing it because the story resonated with me on many levels. (Flash Fiction can be between 100 – 3,000 words, in some cases. CarpeArte Journal has chosen to stop at 1,000 and to accept 1,500 maximum in exceptional cases.)

I love this story for its balanced portrayal of loss—the loss of innocence and the loss of trust in an adult who did more wrong than right. The narrator has not conveyed bitterness nor hatred for the person responsible for her loss but has told the story with all the elements that entail story telling: beginning, middle, end, with conflict and then resolution, although ‘yet’ provides for an open-ended conclusion and not so much a resolution. The resolution can be found in the narrator’s capacity to forgive herself, in my view. This is also a story of trauma and remembrance, of nostalgia and yearning. The pull and tug of the subconscious forces at work to repel and recall traumatic experiences are the marvel of the human psyche.

I’m publishing this story in support of #MeToo because the #MeToo Movement has given many women a voice and platform to courageously come forward to name and shame their perpetrators. It has certainly given this writer an opportunity to come out and write her story down. Now, it must be noted that I don’t know if this is fiction or memoir. Many times, memory can be both.


The illustration, a wall mural, by an anonymous artist, was the image that accompanied this story. I have asked Tiffany SL where she found this piece of artwork and who the artist is. She was unable to give me more details, other than she took a photo of it in a restaurant. She told me that when she saw this mural, she was immediately taken back to a forgotten past in Singapore where children cycled freely on the streets and when Singapore was still filled with innocence. She was inspired to write her story down after seeing this piece of street art.

Indeed, the children on the mural is a picture of happiness. Their faces resplendent with joy; childhood ought to be like this. The mural also reminded me of my own childhood in Singapore where I did cycle freely and where life was much simpler and happier.

For legal reasons, I am inserting a disclaimer here to say that in publishing this piece of artwork, the journal’s intent is to share art, in this case, public art, so that art enthusiasts can learn more about different genres.

On murals

Murals are artworks that have been painted  or applied directly on walls, ceilings or any permanent surfaces. Art historians say that the earliest murals date back to Upper Palaeolithic times which make mural paintings one of the oldest art forms in human history.

Murals are found in many places from caves to tombs to temples to churches, and in people’s homes. During the Middle Ages, murals were painted on dry (secco) plaster. It was not until the 14th century, circa 1300 CE that artists started to work on fresh plaster, leading to what we know today as frescos. Painting on wet plaster meant  a higher quality of mural painting could be achieved. A famous example of a fresco that has lasted since the 13th century is Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ (1490s) at the Convento di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

In the 1920s, an art movement called Mexican Muralism, where murals were used to send social, nationalistic and political messages of reunification under the post Mexican Revolution government, saw to the huge production of murals with overtly political messages. This lasted up until the 1970s and was headed by Mexican artists like Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. The Mexican Muralism Movement impacted many artists in Mexico where the tradition of painting murals calling for activism in the political and national arenas has become part of the art scene in the country.

There are many murals found on the walls of heritage buildings in Singapore where this image is from. Street Art has become a commodity in this nation-state where muralists are commissioned by the authorities to paint images of a Singapore that no longer exist

On my travels to North Vietnam, I saw murals along a stretch of busy road. This indicates that mural paintings are found everywhere from North America to Europe to Asia.

Eat Me ‘Til I’m Gone by Miles White

He looked fine, dressed in colorful silk robes and scented with exotic oils, sitting upright in the place where he liked to meditate. He looked even now in a state of deep meditation and inner peace. Incense was lit and the people in the tiny village gathered around him drinking warm bowls of butter tea and eating roasted tsampa. Their way of life was fading away, which made it all the more important for them to remember the old ways because they were the last who would know such things as they knew, and he knew more than any of them.

They had read from the Bardo for three days now, chanting loudly enough so he could hear them and be guided, and they believed he had made the journey safely. He already knew the way from previous journeys, he had assured them, and had prepared himself well in the last days and months. Still they had read, chanted and prayed. Now there was a final journey to make.

When the men said it was time they should think about going as it was becoming light, the man’s wife gave them some hot broth and strips of fresh raw yak to eat and wrapped pieces of dried yak meat in burlap for them to take for later. The men packed the things they would need and then gingerly lowered the man down into a lying position, undressed him and wrapped him again in simple white cloth.

The lama made another prayer and gave the instruction. With great precision, Jamyang delivered a powerful hammer blow to the man’s back that broke his spine. They folded him over double and wrapped him into a bundle, tying it tightly. They strapped him to the back of the most able-bodied among them and headed off into the mountains just as the sun broke in an explosion of golden light at the farthest horizon.

The men breathed heavily as they trudged the narrow trail to the upper plateau. Their fur-lined caps were tied tight on their heads and their robes pulled around them against the morning air. They climbed in silence, carrying their load. This would be easier with a yak, but tradition held that afterwards, the yak must be released, an obligation they could not afford, and so they did the work themselves. They arrived at the plateau to a pristine blue sky and hard ground flickered with icy drops of dew. The sun glistened as it illuminated the brittle air. The men began their solemn task by burning sticks of juniper to attract the birds making circles high overhead, inviting them to come down.

The rogyapa now worked quickly and deliberately but not without levity, talking of their wives and children, of newborn calves and their fond memories of the man they now took to with sharp blades. They turned him face down and separated his hair from his scalp and cut the limbs from his body. They then flayed him to the bone and threw the meat into the flock of birds now surrounding them in a thick black circle. They came alive in a frenzied flurry as they fought over morsels of food and ate ravenously. One of the men took an axe and hacked open the head, prying apart the bone. He scooped out the brain with his hands, mixed it with tsampa and set it aside until they had pulverized the skeleton. That done, they mixed the bone and brain with more tsampa and some ghee and tossed it to the feeding vultures while hawks and smaller birds waited to collect what was left over.

The sun was high in the sky and the air still chill with cold, but the men worked themselves into a sweat and finally sat to take water and a bit of yak meat. It is a bad omen when there is anything left over, and so they sat patiently, watching to make sure all was eaten. Birds circled in and out again as some took their fill and left while others arrived late and scrambled for loose pieces of meat and bits of the sweet ghee mixture. Jamyang felt a whoosh pass his head and looked up into the glittering golden orb sitting in the center of the noon sky. He laughed, knowing his old friend was playing a game with him, showing him how fast he could fly.

About the Author:

Miles White holds a PhD from the University of Washington, where he studied ethnomusicology and Tibetan Buddhist monastic music. He has published a book on hip-hop music and culture in the United States and four volumes of flash fiction. His writing has appeared in Medium, Tahoma Literary Review, Bookends Review, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He lives in Central Europe.

Eva’s Comments:

Imaged credit: The Spiritual Master Padmasambhava, Copper Alloy, H 60.3 cm x W 47.6cm x D 33 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art (public domain)

This 14th century sculpture in copper alloy is of the spiritual master, Guru Padmasambhava. His name means ‘lotus born’; you can see him seated on a lotus throne, signified by the tongue-shaped petals of the lotus flower. In Buddhist tradition, the lotus symbolises purity. Below the lotus seat, is a faceted plinth depicting several images, probably related to Tibetan Buddhism.

The man who became Guru Padmasambhava originated in India, the birthplace of Buddhism. It is said that he was invited to Tibet in the 8th century (747 C.E.) by King Trisong Detsen where he founded the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism – Nying-ma. He is also known as Guru Rinpoche, greatly revered in Tibet for his mysticism and magical powers.

Tibetan Buddhism has other names: Esoteric Buddhism and Tantric Buddhism being the two most common. It is a strand of Buddhism, much like Presbyterianism or Methodism are in Christianity. Suffice it to say, not all Buddhists are Tibetan Buddhists and not all Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, although it is the predominant Buddhist strand in Tibet. This strand of Buddhism is also practised in Nepal.

In Buddhist art, it is always enlightening to find the emblems that are associated with the various forms of existing Buddhas that help identify them. (Guru Rinpoche is a Buddha in the Tibetan tradition.) Padmasambhava has eight spiritual forms which devotees pray to depending on where they are in their spiritual meditation or life journey. You may see other depictions of Padmasambhava in his wrathful state/s, making him look very fearsome.

Here, we see the Guru holding a double-vajra in his right hand, signifying universal wisdom. His right hand is also depicted in the abhaya mudra, a hand gesture symbolising ‘fear not’. His left palm is opened in which he holds a kapala (skull-bowl). In the kapala, one will mostly find the Water of Immortality, an elixir symbolising the wisdom gained from rebirth, the wisdom gained from the conscious knowledge and experience of death. In Buddhism, one believes in the ‘Greater Life’ that comes with each cycle of death, finally bringing Nirvana, which ends all cycles of rebirth. Typically, Padmasambhava would be holding a khatvanga, a staff which is missing in this sculpture, that rests on the left side of his body, reaching towards his left shoulder and extending beyond it. The staff is similar to a totem in form: the khatvanga consists (at its base) of a vessel containing the Water of Immortality, two human heads and a skull which symbolises greed, hatred and ignorance that would have been overcome by the knowledge of the Three Worlds and the Three Times which is symbolised by the trident (trisula) at the end of the totem khatvanga.

These emblems and in this case the seated figure are visualising tools for meditation used by Tibetan Buddhists practicing all over the world.

Miles’ story made me think of the statue of Padmasambhava which I saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, some time back.

I love Miles’s story for its eloquence; the story remained in my dream-space for some time. The story is replete with elements from ethnology, anthropology, history and magic-realism and also a sense of realism for a certain branch of Buddhists. He told me that during his doctorate in ethnomusicology, he studied Tibetan Buddhist monastic music which would have brought him knowledge of The Book of the Dead and the various guiding rituals of celebrating death and the afterlife which consists of the rebirthing of souls.

The Book of The Dead (Bardo Thodol) is a guidebook, guiding the deceased’s unconscious through the in-between space, the interval, between death and the next cycle of life/rebirth. The book contains chapters telling readers of the signs of death and the rituals that need to be followed when death is nearing or has occured.

Ancient Tibetans have been practising a funerary ritual known as Sky Burials for centuries. This ritual which is so accurately and succinctly described in Miles’s fiction may sound brutal and cruel but it is important to note that the person being buried is not alive but dead at the point when his spine is being broken. Sky Burials are still being practised today because it is a spiritual way of life for a population of people who still live steeped in tradition.


Recently, some people are saying that rice contains arsenic, so be careful when eating rice, especially white rice. At least, this was what an article that was shared on Facebook had advised. Then, there are other people who say that brown rice becomes poisonous when not washed properly before being cooked and that one should avoid consuming brown rice in large quantities. Dang! I thought when I read this. I had just managed to convince the family that brown rice, being of a higher glycemic index is better than polished white rice, staving off hunger pangs more efficiently and is better for losing weight with. Diabetics are better off eating brown rice than white, so the author writes. Since my mother’s mother was a diabetic and died from blood sugar poisoning, I thought it wise to heed this latest advice on brown rice. My younger daughter shed some genuine tears when I told her that we are no longer eating white rice at home.

The very first time I saw my mother crying was the day that Grandmother died. Mother never cries. She shouts and curses, hits and smacks, but cries, never! It was a hot night, I remember; the air was stifling and my bedroom still warm from facing the afternoon sun made sleep difficult; the electric fan did not bring much respite, only the desperation to fall asleep. I got up to take a pee and that was when I spied a crack of light escaping from my parents’ room. I pushed the door open and saw Mother, dressed in preparation to go out; she was wiping away tears while putting on some green eyeshadow.

“What happened?” I asked, concerned. It’s strange to see her crying. She wasn’t sobbing nor were her shoulders heaving in grief like how someone cries in the movies. There was no sound to her crying, only tears forming in her eyes and spilling down her cheeks as she went through the motions of putting on her face. I could hear the shower running as Father was getting washed. It is very late at night. I know this because the curtains were drawn and the street outside was quiet.

“My mother died tonight,” she answered softly without looking at me, her voice strained but not giving away much emotions. She was wiping away tears with the back of her left hand and trying to apply make up with her right at the same time, one eye was shut voluntarily as if winking so that she can smear the green powder on its lid.

It’s funny how she didn’t say ‘your grandmother died tonight’. After all, this is how she always refers to Grandmother. The possessive ‘my’ next to ‘mother’ added a new layer of meaning to grandmother: she is my mother’s mother and belongs to her. But she is my grandmother and belongs to me but she is not my mother, yet somehow, we are all joined in unity: ‘My mother’ connects me, Mother and Grandmother in one unbreakable blood chain that goes backwards beyond life and forwards beyond death.

Grandmother was a stranger to me for most of my life. As far as I can remember, she was ill throughout my childhood and then she died. When I was eight years old, she became paralysed from a stroke caused by ingesting a glass of glucose which someone in the family had made her drink in the belief that glucose water would cure diabetes. Cure like with like was the advice that Grandfather’s third wife proffered, the advice that he heeded. Mother seldom spoke of her mother but this was the only story she would tell. Without saying much, Mother did the dutiful thing of visiting her ailing mother once a week to check that everything was as it should be: her mother was being fed, washed and kept comfortable by the rest of the family and that nobody was giving her any more glucose water. Grandfather’s third wife never visited again. My mother is the eldest of sixteen children by Grandmother, wife number one, and it was her duty to see that things ran smoothly in the house, even though she had stopped belonging to her mother’s household as soon as she got married, as dictated by Chinese customs. Still, duty-bound, she went on looking after her mother until the day she passed on. The Chinese call this duty filial piety. Not even death can terminate this obligation. Filial piety ensures that the dead continue to exist amongst the living and that life carries on into eternity. Ancestor worship is a traditional Taoist custom combining a sense of magic realism keeping the dead alive through veneration by the living: every human soul can become divine but only in death.

Grandmother was fond of rice. She loved the watery rice porridge that was eaten with pickled mustard greens and salted duck’s egg; this was a typical Teochew diet. The salted egg was a luxury in poverty stricken Malaya during the Japanese Occupation and continued to be so many decades after liberation. When eggs were scarce and money insufficient, Grandmother would fry pieces of pork lard until they became brown and crispy. She would drain the oil from the crispy pieces and use it for stir frying vegetables later. These morsels-of-heart-attack would accompany her daily gruel of rice porridge; there would always be enough to feed her children and husband when he felt like coming home for a meal. Sometimes, she would drizzle some oil from the lard onto her gruel to take away the blandness. My fourth aunt never tires of telling me this story for she loved the crispy pork crackling that Grandmother made often.

The priest whom the family consulted had advised a ritual of feeding the deceased during the funeral. The extended family was a mix of Buddhists, Taoists, Christians and Atheists but all were willing to go through the ritual for none knew what to do for the better.

Some people came to set up a marquee in Grandmother’s front porch a day before her coffin arrived home. A wooden table, covered with a piece of cloth that had the Eight Immortals embroidered on it, held a ceramic incense jar filled with sand and was placed in front of the opened coffin which lay in wake under the marquee right outside the front door. On the same table, someone had put a fruit bowl, dishes filled with food, and a bowl of rice; there was a dish filled with crispy pork crackling next to the bowl of rice. As soon as Grandmother came home, Mother and her siblings had to light a joss-stick each while calling their mother. The priest explained that her spirit needs to know where to come home to and the joss-sticks and her children calling for her would show it the way. I asked Grandmother if she minded sleeping outside. She never answered which was normal because even when she was alive, she never spoke to me. She had given up speech the day she discovered that Grandfather’s third wife wanted her dead.

I watched from the living room window as my aunts and uncles busied themselves over where things should be set and what they should be doing during the funeral. There were many people on Grandmother’s front porch in constant motion. The day’s events seemed very chaotic to my child’s eyes. It seemed that the adults didn’t know quite what to do and we were left to our own devices since the adults were too busy to supervise us. I sat under the dining table covered by a white table cloth too big for it. The overhanging material made for a good hiding place where I could read and sketch; I had my own little marquee.

The scent of cooked rice filled the air. Mother was calling for me. I popped my head out from under the round dining table with a marble top and heavy rosewood legs. Mother took my hand and led me towards the coffin. I resisted, afraid of the body lying within, afraid that her spirit would wake her up. Mother pinched me hard on my right thigh and dragged me where she wanted me to go. The priest was chanting a prayer in a language I didn’t understand and my uncle Philip, the eldest son, was at the head of a line that had formed at the top of the coffin where Grandmother’s head was placed. The adults had formed a line and the grandchildren, ten in all, had to form another, behind my youngest aunt. I was at the head of the line for the grandchildren because I was the first grandchild.

The priest handed my uncle Philip a blue and white ceramic bowl filled to the brim with rice rounded at the top to resemble a mound. A pair of chopsticks was subsequently handed to him too. On the priest’s instructions, starting with uncle Philip, all of Grandmother’s children and grandchildren had to feed her a chopstick full of rice and say this: “In life, you fed me, in death I am now feeding you” as they stuffed her mouth with some rice.

Grandmother’s eyes were pressed shut with a silver coin on each lid, a Taoist ritual. By the time it came to my turn to feed her her chopstick of rice, grains of white rice had already spilled from her stuffed mouth, sticking to her chin and collar. She was dressed in her favourite samfoo, a blouse and trouser suit worn by many Chinese women in Malaya. Although this was not the traditional way to bury the dead in Taoist customs, it was all the family could do as Grandmother did not have a funeral outfit made during her lifetime. If she had one, it was lost during the war when many homes and villages were looted by Japanese soldiers.

I looked in wonder at Grandmother’s ashen face and her mouth that was filled with rice. There’s nothing as macabre and fascinating as the death mask of a loved one, especially from the point of view of a child. Some people would say that this was a gruesome ritual to put a child through. Others would defend the ritual’s tradition and heritage.

Rice is an important staple to billions of people in the world. Rice is a measurement of wealth, of success and of life because in life we are fed as in death with this grain that some other people have said contains arsenic.

Eva’s comments:

This artwork entitled Clockwork Moons (time waits for no migrant man), 2017, (48 cm x 48 cm) is part of a series of eight kinetic artwork by British contemporary artist, Nicola Anthony, who is based in Singapore. It is made with light, ink, incense, embroidery loops and Korean paper. Anthony has a unique method of working with paper, using an incense stick to perforate the paper stretched out in a frame made of embroidery loops. In this piece, she has written a Chinese character symbolising the word ‘grain’. The image is then illuminated from behind by a light source, lifting the character from the parchment, stimulating the viewer’s visual senses. This work was commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum in 2017. You can read more about Nicola Anthony and her projects here:


Anthony was inspired by a migrant worker, Mr Wang Jixing, from China, who had been laid off due to a stroke that paralysed him and rendered him unable to work. He was earning S$500 a month as a cleaner at one of Singapore’s many outdoor food courts. The meagre amount of money he was earning ensured that he could ‘put rice on the table’ for his family in China. Being disabled meant that his job was no longer tenable and because of Singapore’s strict immigration and working regulations, he was repatriated to China, paralysed and unable to work. The burden of his care is borne by his children, the youngest of which is 12 years old. You can follow Mr Wang’s story and help him on:


The Chinese character burnt onto the paper is the symbol for ‘Grain’ and when cooked becomes ‘Rice’ which is written with another character and pronounced as ‘fan4’ (fourth intonation of the sound ‘fun’). The Chinese differentiate cooked rice from uncooked grains with a different character and sound because both are different entities and each represents different energy values.

In order to understand the importance of rice as a staple in Asia, one must understand the significance of its symbol which is made up of the characters eight and ten. It takes 88 days to grow rice from start to harvest and much respect has to be given to this number and to the farmers whose back bending work puts rice on the table for more than a billion people throughout Asia.

‘To Put Rice on The Table’ is a phrase used frequently in many parts of Asia as one would use ‘to put bread on the table’ in Europe and the English speaking world. ‘To Break One’s Rice Bowl’ is synonymous to stealing someone’s job or to cause someone to lose their job. ‘To Stack up Rice Bowls’ means to increase one’s worries because the sound for ‘rice’ is homophonous to the sound for ‘worry’ in the Cantonese language. Hence, it is bad form to stack one rice bowl on top of another when clearing the table. Because rice is such a necessary food crop in Asia, proverbs using the character has become part of its people’s linguistic references for communication.

Rice was inspired by Anthony’s artwork which triggered a childhood memory of loss and enlightenment.



Yellow Fever

Amy’s new friend Geraldine is a peroxide blonde.  It allows her to be ditzy, she says.  Geraldine is never shy although she calls herself an introvert.  “I’m a social introvert”, she says.  One day, as they were finishing off their second bottle of Chardonnay, Geraldine started talking about yellow fever.  At first, Amy thought it was something that Geraldine had caught because when she was little, the Tamil mid-wife had told her mother that Amy had yellow fever.  You see, to Amy, yellow fever is a malady.  Amy’s yellow fever lasted a few months, her mother would remember.  Eventually, it was discovered that Amy had jaundice and because she also had an infection, the jaundice was accompanied by a low grade fever.  When Amy had her little girl, her daughter had yellow fever too; the paediatrician said that it was breast milk induced jaundice, a condition that some ethnic types are prone to.

Geraldine’s husband had recently developed a penchant for black hair and slanted eyes, she said to Amy over coffee one morning.  In a drunken stupor, he had brought a lap dancer home; she was Indonesian, it turned out.  The Indonesian was a college student who was dancing part time to pay off college fees.  Geraldine took to the Indonesian immediately.  There was a particular neediness in the girl that Geraldine felt needed to be attended to.  Gilbert, Geraldine’s husband, thought he’d died and gone to heaven.  He loved his wife dearly then.

Geraldine says she has many Asian friends.  When she was at boarding school in England, her BFF was a girl from Hong Kong, called Gwendoline Chong: “a very lovely girl with such small hands”; then there was Emilie Taguchi from Tokyo whom she met while working in New York: “so cute, when she laughs, her eyes turn into slits”.  She’s very privileged to feel their love and their hospitality, Geraldine told Amy.  When Geraldine was little, her mother told her that Asian girls have w-shaped vaginas.  Geraldine draws a W in the air when she tells Amy this; squiggly, you know, she affirms.  Amy laughs because that is all she can do; Geraldine laughs too because she now knows it’s not true: the Indonesian has a normal shaped vagina, she tells Amy swearing her to secrecy.

Geraldine knows Gilbert has a bad relationship with alcohol and women.  They’ve been married 10 years and she’s seen Gilbert change from drunk and horny to drunker and hornier.  “What can I do?” she asks.  Amy knows it’s a rhetorical question.  But she’s so tempted to say “leave, you’re in a toxic marriage!”  But she bites her tongue and allows herself to get hooked into Geraldine’s story, her pain and her confusion.  Why do I do this, Amy asks herself constantly.  She lives in a rhetorical nightmare too.

Last Tuesday, Amy found Geraldine busy cleaning.  She’d invited Amy over for coffee and when she’d arrived, Geraldine was in the middle of cleaning out the kitchen.

“My OCD kicked in this morning.  I have to clean.  I just can’t sit around either, I feel fidgety, must be my ADHD,’ Geraldine says over the din of cupboard doors banging and bottles crashing down the rubbish chute, without looking over at Amy’s way once.  There was a raw vulnerability in Geraldine’s voice that morning.

The condominium has rules about not throwing glass bottles down the chute.  Amy worries about the cleaners getting cut by broken glass.

“Who cares! I don’t give a damn if people get cut!” Geraldine shouts out as if reading Amy’s thoughts.  “I pay these people enough to make sure that the place is cleaned out.”

Amy thinks about a girl in primary school who was always fidgeting and couldn’t sit still.  When she was growing up, kids like these were labeled “naughty”, “insolent” and “mentally retarded”.  ADHD hadn’t floated to Asia’s shores yet; after all, it was the early 70s in Malaysia.  Amy starts to wonder if ADHD is a condition that Geraldine really has or one that she hides behind — another rhetorical question.

Amy remembers that the girl’s parents — Mr and Mrs Chen — were health educators who came into school to talk about sex.  “Pre-marital sex spreads disease.  Babies are meant to be born healthily within a marriage blessed by God,” they told the students during assembly when Amy was 14 years old.  Meanwhile, the Chen’s daughter was spinning on her bottom in the corner where she usually sits when the whole school gathered in the hall.  “God keeps the family together, so extra-marital sex is WRONG!” their voices boomed through the microphone as husband and wife took turns to repeat the same phrase, as if emphasising the sentiment through a male and then female voice made what was said gender equal.  Mr and Mrs Chen lived rhetorically too.

Geraldine says that she is against divorce.  Her religion doesn’t allow for the family unit to be separated.  The Indonesian will have to be part of her family make up now because she loves Jesus and will obey his Word.  Geraldine tells Amy that Jesus is all about love and that people complicate things too much; life is meant to be simple — LOVE, she shouts out.

Amy was pondering on what it meant to love Jesus when the dog walks by and lays down by Geraldine’s feet.  She was emptying out the spice cabinet then.  The dog yelps as Geraldine kicks him in its groin, “get out of my way, you stupid dog!”  Amy remembers the fidgety girl kicking her in the shins when she tried to help her with tidying up her desk before the school inspector arrived.  The class teacher had paired Amy up with the fidgety girl because Amy was the loyal and helpful sort.

The Image:

Image credit: The Journey of the Yellow Man No.11: Multiculturalism — Lee Wen.  National Gallery Singapore.

Lee Wen is performance artist who is remembered for his performance of The Journey of the Yellow Man.  This image — an inkjet print on archival paper — is a documentation of his performance and can be found in the National Gallery of Singapore.  Through performance, Lee Wen interrogates the meaning of what it means to be an overseas Chinese from Singapore.  He lived in London for some years and it was while living there that he started to feel anxious about his identity.  He was particularly anxious for being mistaken to be a Chinese from mainland China.  Lee Wen says in an essay: “[…] there is a greater sensitivity of prevalent racism when living in a predominantly “white” society. To the West, “the other” is often seen not only as exotic, erotic or primitive but also inferior and subject to colonization.”  Inspired by Edward Said’s notion of ‘the Other’ and his own realisation of his position as a post-colonial person living in the West, Lee embarked on a personal research on stereotypical images of the Asian from a western perspective.  He discovered a Swedish botanist by the name of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) who had categorised people into four types with “The Asiatic (Homo sapiens asiaticus)” being described as “yellow, melancholy, and greedy” juxtaposed against the “(Homo Sapiens europeaeus)” as “white, serious and strong”  It seems that western notions of the Oriental as “yellow” have deep roots.

Eva’s notes:

This story is the result of Eva’s processing of conversations that she had with other women who are intrigued by the white man’s penchant for Asian women.  “Yellow Fever” is a term used by many non-Asian women to refer to non-Asian men living in Asia who are married to or dating Asian girls.  It is an unfortunate phrase replete with undertones of racism reflecting a sense of anxiety and alienation first established by Linnaeus in the 18th century.  This story is Eva’s way of expressing her utter disappointment with the insidious and unconscious forms of racism that still exist within societies in the 21st century and especially amongst many Europeans who have chosen to make Asia their home.  She asks a couple of rhetorical questions: Is “white fever” an appropriate term to describe Asian men married to or dating “white” women?; on the flip side, when a “white” woman is married to or dating an Asian man, does she have a type of malady, like her “white” male counterpart, referred to as “yellow fever” too?

When Eva discovered Lee Wen’s The Journey of the Yellow Man, she became interested in understanding the perception of the Asian through a western lens as “exotic, erotic or primitive”.  Much like Lee Wen who seeks to break the bonds of categorisation through his performance, Eva would like her writing to challenge and break the bonds of intrigue caused by a great deal of misunderstanding amongst certain people about the condition of human attraction.  Love is colourblind.

To read more about Lee Wen, go to:


The Reviewer by Niles Reddick

Exasperated from cleaning up after her teens and her husband Ron, Jennie settled in the den in a used mocha leather chair from Pottery Barn a writer had offered her after she’d written a glowing review for his fantastic sports melodrama published by one of the medium houses in the northeast. A plot-driven narrative, the novel had lots of potential in sales, and while there had been lots of alcohol and sex swaps, it was the use of steroids that had driven the story to a happy ending with a positive finding from a review board. For many, the story might have even been classified as a fantasy because of the positive finding and because the media had sided with the football player.

Jennie sipped her wine and glanced at her bookcase, full of free novels and story collections from big houses to self-published authors, and she had long since quit counting the reviews she’d churned out. She’d actually written enough reviews that she could have written a novel herself, but that wasn’t going to happen.  She wouldn’t know where to start and didn’t have a creative bone in her body. If it weren’t for the dictionary and thesaurus, she couldn’t have even written a review.  She’d circle names and underline parts she thought were particularly good. Jennie had the formula, the same format she used for all her reviews, down pat, and she mostly plugged in basic info about the narrative, characters, and if she really liked the author, she’d throw in a comparison to a historical figure or maybe a big name. She had to run google searches, so no one would know she hadn’t read the historical writers, especially if it was a literary writer she couldn’t understand if she tried.

“What’re you doing?” Ron asked.

“Sipping some wine and getting in the mood for another read,” Jennie said.

“What’s next?”

“Chick lit novel by a writer named Marianne I met at a festival in the mountains.”

“She a lesbian?”

“I don’t know,” Jennie said. “What does that matter?”

“There was something on the news about some lesbian writer whose book was going to be a movie.”

“What book? Who was the author?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t pay attention.”

“If they replay, let me know. I doubt it’s Marianne. That doesn’t sound like her or her writing.”

“How many people read those reviews you write?”

“I don’t know, but the writers like them. I like to think it helps them with their sales, too.”

“But can’t anyone write a review for those book sites? You don’t have to be a reviewer, right?”

“Well, that’s true. You could post one on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook or even Twitter. Probably other places, too.”

“Couldn’t I post something even if I hadn’t read the book? Just make it up?”

“Well, I guess you could.”

“What do you get out of it? You don’t get paid.”

“Well, I guess I enjoy the friendships I make.”

“Friends? The only time you see or hear from these people is when you’re writing a review, except for that woman who gave you the chair, or you meet up with them at one of those festivals you’re always going to and what do they do? Sit around and talk about what they’ve done to a group of people who either want to be like them or rub elbows with them? They don’t even pay your way there.”

“Why are you being negative? Are you jealous, Ron?”

“I’m not being negative. I’m being realistic. I’m certainly not jealous of pretend, but I would like to understand it better. It’s like kids I knew who had imaginary friends. I thought that was crazy even as a kid. Maybe I’ll go with you to the next one.”

“Okay, that would be awkward, but yeah, you can go, if you want to hang with the women writers.”

“Would I have to read those books?”

“It might be helpful, unless you want to just sit at a gathering or dinner like a bump on a log.”

“How do you think they would react to me? Think they’d pal up to me, hoping I might influence you to do more. I’ll bet they wouldn’t be mean to me even if I was ugly to them for fear you might write a bad review.”

“Oh for goodness sakes, Ron. That’s nuts.”

“Is it? You’ve got a power that you buy. It takes you out of our house, away from me and the kids, and it makes you feel more special than you do in your job as a customer service agent in your cube for the auto parts company, and have you ever written a negative review?”

Ron walked away and under her breath, Jennie mumbled, “That son of a bitch.”  She knocked the wine back, emptying the glass, and got up to go to the kitchen for another. She looked around–the scarred Formica counter tops she wanted to replace with granite when they had the money, the grinding refrigerator with rust around the bottom, the popcorn ceiling sporting a wagon wheel light with orange glass. Jennie poured another glass full, walked back to the chair, plopped, and picked up the preview copy of Marianne’s newest. She sipped the wine and found herself at the beach next to a life guard sporting red shorts. She imagined she might attempt a drowning, so she could be saved.

Author Bio:

Niles Reddick is author of a novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in many literary magazines including The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta StudiesSouthern ReaderLike the DewThe Dead Mule School of Southern LiteratureThe Pomanok Review,Corner Club PressSlice of LifeFaircloth Review, among others. His website is www.nilesreddick.com

Eva’s Notes: 

This image by Edward Collier, painted in 1696, is an example of a category of still life artworks known as Vanitas Paintings. The word ‘vanitas’ comes from the Latin adjective vanus which means empty.  In Collier’s painting, we see an open book with a poem emphasising mortality.  In the Old Testament of the Bible, in The Book of Ecclesiastes, is a verse: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ which has come to give meaning to the this type of image.  The underlying message of Vanitas Paintings is its reminder to humankind of our mortality, for all is naught, all is in vanity, because the only fact in life is Death.  Death is symbolised by the skull in the darkened left hand corner. Can you find other symbols of death?

Edward Collier was born in the Netherlands and came to England in 1693 to paint still life.  He died in London in 1708.

Image: Edward Collier, Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’, 1696, oil on canvas, 838 x 1079 mm.  Collection of Tate Britain, purchased in 1949.