sasha-eskelund-with-students
Creative. Writing.

A selection of works from our latest Creative Writing class, taught by Sasha Eskelund ’92

Dinner time

By Ava Rahman ’23

I sit in the dining room and listen to the sound of sputtering oil.
Behind my mathematical equations, my Shakespeare revelations, is a hum:
The mouth of the fridge has opened, devouring silence,
Droning like a car engine in the driveway.
The cast-iron pan settles beneath a weak flame,
Flecked with salt and crescents of an onion,
Flooded with the mellowness of coconut milk, the sharpness of cumin,
The chili that floats on top when the lid clatters shut.
I hear the lisp of the stove as it sleeps,
Bathing in aromatics that reach its way to me. 
I am shuffling through papers when footsteps fill the kitchen,
Echoing from the stairwell; I listen to them all the way down.
The surface breaks when the lid is lifted,
bubbling and effervescent.
The smell wraps me in its arms with its curry powder breath,
Its tomato sauce embrace. 
When the chairs draw out, I put away my French conjugations.
Food is ladled into bowls in the kitchen,
Spattering over the edges like a laugh at a bad joke.
The heat warms my palm as I bring mine over. 
With a nudge against my shoulder, a smile across the kitchen.
I bring the first spoonful to my mouth:
Full-bodied as a thank you,
Sharp as a reprimand to clear the table,
Rich with reassuring presence.
 


 

떡 (Rice Cake)**

By Soomin Lee ’23

Sticky mush on hands
I watch as 아빠 grinds up more of the sweet sweet rice      아빠: dad
Tastes so good
I ask him when we can put it in the pot to steam and simmer
The steam from the water boiling in our pot rises into the air
Nice warm hug
Safe and sound

My friend asked if me if the world looked narrow,
And pointed to my eyes.
I didn’t laugh back.
I don’t like it when people do that.
엄마 is very very pretty.      엄마: mom
She was very very angry when I explained to her that my world was not narrow.
I am confused.

아빠 rolls each mound of rice into little sticks
 Puts each one very very very carefully onto the paper
He opens the lid and the steam comes rushing out
It fills me with warm hugs and kisses
Hides the pot from sight with puffs of clouds
I watch as they disappear into the air
I don’t want my eyes to disappear when they close

The pot closes
And the steam is trapped
I open my mouth to speak, but there is no noise
Just clouds.
 


 

Fishmonger*

By David Wang ’23

Out of the arched windows of his 1950s apartment, he sees the street come to life. From the furrowed frames of his weary eyes, he sees something teeming with youthful bliss. Almost from a different world, yet he can almost touch it. Just a few decades ago, he was still a fine young man, and a fishmonger. How dazzling were those days! He remembers his shop, an unduly clean place, and his “operation deck,” a stage where knives and hands danced to his mind’s desire. He was a popular fishmonger, and throngs gathered daily to buy his fish. How skillful was he! To him, a fish, oh, more like an unpainted canvas. One cut, slice the fish open. A squirt of red, oh, those were like accented, prolonged notes, elegant! Rip out the organs, vivid colors, a sudden 16th note run jumped wildly across octaves. The performance speeding on, accelerating, and abruptly decelerating, the knives, the hands moved faster. More, more of everything came gushing out! Suddenly, with stunning gentleness, they stopped, they ceased to flail. Back in his apartment, tensing up his wrinkled brow he ceases to flounder. Oh time! How miserly time ravages your house: it comes and rips away blessed youth which it so generously bestowed upon you just a few years before! Frowning even harder now, concentrating, he strenuously manages to pull out from the increasingly murky pond of his memory the puniest trout. Yet, as the fish convulses in his hand, light gradually begins to expand in this mellow-dark nothingness—he can see it again. How suddenly it returns! As the intermission ended, the drapes were lifted, and suddenly a barrage of frantic movements pounded down on the fish—dull chops resounding through the afternoon heat. What a splendid mixture of colors! On the operation deck, the fish was skinned, a desperate thing awaiting its dissection shouted its last rhapsody: a helpless cry, a somber low note resounding through the air! Then, a pause in everything. It was so still that you could catch the sound of freshly exuded liquids sizzling. Outside, as a bus loaded with people returning from work whistles by, the old man sighs, gets up, and limps deeper into the suffocating stillness.
 


 

We Have Not Gone to Lunch in Months***

By Adeline Moore Gerety ’22

We have not gone to lunch in months, or
Out to the mountains, or home to that green-trimmed kitchen, 
With a banker’s lamp still lit above your chair
I think about leaving. I think about going, back to some salty wharf or
Between the flower aisles in late June-
I think about being, and the black raccoons on the doorstep, 
Creatures of the night too cold to bear it
I think about a lot of things, at least until I’ve forgotten to get home early. 

When you got around to calling I could not answer the phone, could I easily tell you that 
You had eaten me whole? When we had not even spoken yet.
When your breath was still hot over my ears, words spread plainly on my toast,
Jam spilled into the couch cushions, memorabilia
Of jealousy, and yearning, of things long past and old grown.
Coming closer into myself I realized you were still quite as young as I had remembered,
younger even. I picked up the phone to ask you to come with me.

I spent a lot of time watching your face after that,
And we did go to the mountains, or at least to the edge of the lake, and 
We didn’t really eat, but smelled the smell of good cooking,
Orange peels and maple leaves off the dock. 
It was daily, then, that I thought about leaving,
Packing up the old bag that smelled like
Baked lemons and burning, 
And finding somewhere to be.
 



Homebound**

By Markus Tran ’21

When I unwrapped my father’s present on my eighteenth
Christmas, what I got was a taxidermied deer head.
I understood what he meant when he said to let it
Be a fierce reminder of his warm presence in my life. 
The best kind of warmth, he told me, comes at the cost of 
My ability to gun down does, lug logs of firewood,
Press half my face into the snow and feel the primitive
Fires coursing through from the rage of many autumns
Living beneath it. He taught me that so much of
A man’s finest currency is earned with blood or 
Fire, or if possible, both at once. But somewhere in

The world, two men are immolated in their own home. 
What my father didn’t teach me is that salvation doesn’t
Come after little housefires. I want neither their cries
Nor the canticle of their ribs breaking be a plea for 
Forgiveness but make of it an ode to the numbness
Of winter’s frost, singing to each limb’s synapses before
They forget their purpose. But it must be a relief that
There are only loving portraits hung on their bedroom walls
And not deer heads eager to gnaw at their charred 
Bones, reminding the corpses that they failed nature’s
Demands. In their backyard, warblers flit about the sorority 

Of morning glories steeped in a blanket of snow, 
Barely an inch tall and as white as a flock of unsheared
Lambs. What fire runs through this eden but the 
One man put there. What rage exists amid the sisterhood
Of jasmines. What survives but an archaeology
Of red in hues of cinder and dried blood, the husk 
And flesh of their bodies ashed into the color of man’s
Economy, becoming the very thing they wanted to desaturate 
Themselves of. But I suspect, in those last hours, the yellows 
Of a luminescent landscape rescued them from the
Fate of red and tore apart the tapestry of
Cottonwhite cumulus, reaching its hand through the
Pre-ravaged windows to signal the dawn of their
Homecoming. I am afraid to press my face against 

The snow once more and feel nothing but cold
And be reminded of my betrayal. Tell me,
Father, how I am supposed to look for signs of red 
Across acres of winter’s bluest veins. Tell me, 
My St. Anthony of the Lost Arctic, of Lost Causes, of 
The deciduous Northern Oaks smoldered into flaming
Foliage, into nothing by the hour of winter, tell me,
About the spring, about new fathers, about the gravity of
My treason, about the trajectory of the flock of migrating
Geese that lost their faith in winter’s warmth. Tell me 
What home there is to come to. 
 



To lover boy

By Amalya Labell ’21 (from Capstone Project)

She cuts his hair in their living room
wedding venue
with scissors her mother swallowed leaving
puddles of blood that did not want her
like a knight he carried her over
blood that she did not want
stopped for nine months
eighteen
twenty-seven
twenty-nine years
four courting
twenty-five and eight months
married time
thinning out
losing that Italian build
not that Italian spirit
she goes to talk to every day
her not blood blood all flows through the same ground
she walks over now
she sleeps with now
this red is her favorite color.
 


First page of the PDF file: 167987_CS_Mag_R1p133_1
 

By Kendall Brainin ’23

* Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Honorable Mention

** Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Silver Key

*** Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Key


This feature appears in the Summer 2021 issue of Commonwealth Magazine (CM).