M A G A Z I N E
A Literary Magazine of the United Nations SRC Society of Writers
We welcome you and the return of Reflections magazine in a new on-line format. We look forward to reconnecting with friends and colleagues of the United Nations community and the opportunity to share your unique voices and vision with a larger audience.
Through the pandemic we have learned that we cannot live in isolation and though for many, a time of tragedy, it has strengthened us individually, as communities and together as a oneness-world-family. It has revealed our vulnerabilities as well as our strengths, and though our physical space may have diminished, we have expanded our heart-space in countless ways and acts of self-giving.
We have been surprised by our resiliency and creativity and have held onto and moved forward with hope, the theme of our upcoming seminal issue.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Wishing you good health, with gratitude,
Bhikshuni Weisbrot, President
UNSRC SOCIETY OF WRITERS
REFLECTIONS EDITORIAL STAFF
Bhikshuni Weisbrot Editor-in-Chief
Nilpushpi White Assistant Editor
Manjusha Shandler Content Manager
Pratibha Agdern Cover Painting
Reflections is a literary magazine of the UNSRC Society of Writers that publishes fiction, nonfiction, prose, poetry, photography and original artwork of the United Nations community* and invited guests.
Submissions are now being accepted for consideration for our debut on-line issue!
The theme of this issue is Hope.
Please submit up to four poems or reasonable length prose pieces. Artwork may be submitted independently or along with a written submission.
We can accept Word files or any plain text file. The author’s name and email address should appear in the header of the attachment. Please submit your work along with a brief bio and personal photo here ↓
Submissions accepted through October 31st, 2021
Ambassador Davidson L. Hepburn
Excerpt from “terribly Well"
My favourite early morning rounds consisted of raiding the sapodilla and sugar apple trees for ripe fruits. Oftentimes we would have fruits for breakfast together with Johnny cake, Braziletto, muckle bush and fever grass tea with condensed milk. We also ate grits with avocado, butter made from peanuts and benne (sesame). We would drink from white enamel cups from which glaze could be easily chipped. After much use, the glaze would disappear and we were left with dented tin plates and cups.
One of the tasks that I disliked was cutting sisal (hemp) soaking them in the pond and later stripping them to prepare bales to be sent to Nassau for sale. The sap from the sisal would cause an itch and I would be covered with salty brine from the pond. In the evenings I would be plagued by the ubiquitous mosquitoes biting me and buzzing in my ear. Birds known as piddymidick, based on the sounds they made would swoop around swallowing varmints and then releasing them with a loud swishing sound. Nevertheless, I preferred mosquitoes to the sand flies, whose presence could only be felt by the sting but not seen. To get rid of them, we would have to make a fire from green branches which would cause a dense smoke that drove the pests away.
Another chore for me was that of toting water very early in the morning to fill up big tubs for boiling hot water to scrape off the hair from slaughtered pigs. The meat would be shared with family and portions cured with salt for making delicious stews with lima beans and okra. Sometimes the meat and conch hanging out in the sun would attract flies that produced maggots. No one seemed to be bothered by that, as the meat was cooked over intense heat to kill any bacteria that may be lurking. In fact nothing was wasted. The intestines and other parts of the slaughtered animal were meticulously cleaned in the salt water for making souse. One of the interesting things to me is that we seldom got ill from eating so many different kinds of meals, but if we did, parents had every sort of remedy from the many natural herbs. In fact, children got daily morning doses of worm medicine, castor oil and bitters and numerous other kinds of elixirs ⎯ all bad-tasting, but effective cures.
My mother was an excellent cook and always prepared delicious meals of peas and grits with tasty stews of mutton or chicken. She never ate pork and to this day, it is not a favourite meat of mine. I used to watch in amazement how deftly my mother used to fan the grits. After grinding the corn, the grits would be put in a fanner made of the ribs of the straw. She would toss the contents into the air a couple of times and, in the end, the husks would appear on the top, the grits in the middle and the corn flour at the bottom. It was certainly an art and young children never ventured to perform that task.
I would always remember another after school chore. We would go to the creeks in the marshes and collect gold shells (the home of a type of mollusk). They were very popular in Nassau for making earrings, bracelets and other native jewellery items. We had to wait for low tide when the shells were “walking”. We would gather them in marmalade jars or soda water bottles. We had to move against the current because the water would get muddy and we would have to wait for it to settle in order to see the shells. We would also bait them with pieces of conch, soldier crab and any other stuff. Sometimes we would be very successful and fill up our jars. We always knew the favourite creeks to go to. At home we would put the shells into fresh water and the mollusk would die emitting the most horrible smell imaginable. We would shake them until they were clean and then put them into the sun to dry. The next step would be to get them to the market in Nassau. Gold shells were quite popular and brought a good price. We also used to collect the cones form the casuarina trees. They were plentiful but not as lucrative as the gold shells. This is one of the ways that youngsters earned money to buy school material and other things.
I remember, very well, two other interesting adventures. All of my grandparents’ children were responsible for preparing evening meals for them. Once, when it was my mother’s turn, she asked me to deliver the meal. Our home was not far away but in order to get there, I would have to pass Ma Sue’s big fig tree, which was in a deep hole, as well as the church’s graveyard. I knew that I could not go by myself, so I asked my older brother to go with me. He was just as scared as I was, so we sat on the wall and ate the food instead. When we went into the house, we answered all of the questions concerning her parents’ condition. She learned the next day that the food never arrived. My mother did not ask any questions, she simply grabbed me by the ear and gave me a sound beating with the famous tamarind switch. I cannot ever remember doing that again. I was more afraid of the beating than the “sperrits.”
The bane of my existence was my turn to “break in” a young colt. My brothers before me had to do it as well. When my turn came i panicked. The task was to ride the horse into the sea with only a halter over his nose. There was no bit in his mouth or rein for control. To make matters worse, I had to ride a barebacked animal into the water and walk him around until he got a bit tired. My father, afterwards, would slap the horse on the rear end and he would begin to gallop at full speed along the shore. I was bouncing up and down. I believe that my hollering caused him to slow down and enabled me to jump from his back, very sore to say the least. I never had a great love for horses. He reared up and kicked me in the chest. I guess that my chest would have been smashed were it not for the fact that I was too far away to get the full force of the kick.
Another was to accompany my father on a raft to search for conchs, which normally were plentiful along the beach. My dad would carry a crude water glass. Once we found the bed I had to jump in and dive to get the conch. I did not know how to dive or swim. I was an utter failure on those outings. My father was not very understanding and I believe that these were the factors that caused my oldest brother and sister to leave home at an early age.
School was my haven. At the age of eleven years I was made a monitor and supervised classes in spelling, math (rudimentary) and reading. I was nver good at math. On the other hand, I received many prizes for English, history and reading from the British inspectors who came to the island to test students. I remember winning a dancing toy for spelling the word “Popocatepetl” I spelled it according to the sound. I added an “a” between the “t” and the “l” but received the prize anyway. I later learned that it is the name of a volcano in Mexico.
Dr. Davidson L. Hepburn of the Bahamas is a distinguished member of the international community, well known at New York UN Headquarters as Ambassador to the Bahamas for 10 years as well as in Paris at the headquarters of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one of the lead agencies mandated to promote a Culture of Peace. His many diplomatic roles included over a decade of service as the Permanent Representative of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas to the United Nations and most recently two years as President of the UNESCO General Conference from 2009-2011.
Patricia Lynne Duffy
Excerpt from book "Blue Cats and chartreuse Kittens: how synesthetes color their worlds"
‘Colors hide within everything, including the night.’ -Katherine Vaz, Saudade
As far back as I can remember, letters of the alphabet, numbers and words have been in color. But I also remember that in my pre-literate days, before I knew how to read or write, each word evoked, in my mind’s eye, its own unique and unchanging colorful design. Sometimes I drew pictures of the word-designs I ‘saw’ and showed them, as I did all my pictures, to my father.
At that time, my father was home a lot. First, he took off from work to look after his own father who had fallen into a depression born of old age and illness. Later, when his father died, my father fell into a depression, himself. My mother told me that I cheered my father up. I think our experiments with color helped.
I remember my father sitting in the big, sagging green living room chair, his elbow on its arm, his chin in his hand. I would tug at that hand with my four-year old insistence, bent on asking him questions about my crayons. I needed a color that was not in my crayon box. What could I do? When I was little, I drew a lot of pictures and crayons played a big role in my life. At my insistence, my father let himself be pulled up out of his drab green overstuffed chair and over to my bright, shiny little red table where, every day, I drew all kinds of pictures. The little child’s table was always overflowing with drawing paper and crayons of all different colors, sizes and shapes. ‘But I don’t have pink,’ I told my father, ‘ and I need pink.’ The color pink was important that day. I was drawing a picture of a word - I don’t remember now which word it was - but I remember it had a lot pink in its word-design.
I liked drawing the different word-designs that appeared in my mind’s eye when I heard words spoken. I never thought to tell anyone that these drawings were pictures of words. They were just my ‘designs’. The designs were very consistent, each incorporating a whole array of shapes and colors, like patterns in a kaleidoscope. The word I was drawing that day had a lot of pink in its pattern.
‘If you don’t have pink,’ my father said, ‘maybe you can use your red crayon,’ my father said. ‘And just color very lightly with it so it’s almost like pink.’
“No,’ I said. “I need pink.’
My father looked fatigued. At that time, he didn’t always sleep well at night and often looked tired all day. For a moment, I thought he was going to leave me to go back to his chair in the living room. But I needed help with colors, so I knew he would stay.
‘I need pink, Daddy,’ I said again.
‘Well,’ my father said, ‘Maybe we can make pink with your red crayon and your white crayon.’
‘Make pink?’ I asked.
‘’Yes,’ my father said. “Putting two colors together makes a whole new color.’
‘A whole new color?’ I repeated in wonder. ‘We can make pink?” It sounded magical. My child’s awe held my father there by my little red table and kept him from returning to his gray-green chair. He even proposed we go into the kitchen to do a color experiment, making new crayons with new colors by melting down and recombining the colored crayons in my crayon box.
In the kitchen, sunlight streamed in through the window that looked out on the backyard cherry tree where birds perched and pecked on tiny red cherries. I watched with great excitement as my father grated crayons on my mother’s vegetable grater. Vivid red and white crayon flakes fell from the grater into the pot on the stove as sparrows chirped and shadows from the backyard cherry tree fluttered around us on the walls of the kitchen. My father turned on the stove jet flame, and I watched in wonder as crayon flakes became crayon liquid, which he poured into an empty metal ballpoint pen holder and put into the oven. When it had ‘incubated’ in the oven long enough, he removed it, opened up the pen holder, and, like a chick hatching, a new pink crayon was born - a bit awkward in its shape, but a usable pink crayon, nonetheless.
I was thrilled. I danced in the kitchen sunlight with my new pink crayon.
‘Can we make more colors?’ I asked, wanting my father to stay with me in the sunlit kitchen.
We repeated the experiment, combining different crayon colors to make new colors. Sometimes, while waiting for this or that crayon to bake, I noticed my father looking sad, staring into the depths of something I couldn’t see. But then I tugged at his hand and insisted it was time to ‘see more rainbow colors’ and make more crayons. My father got up and melted a Crayola yellow and an evergreen together to bake a chartruese, then melted a yellow and a red to bake a sunshine orange.
An idea came to me: if we could make such wonderful new colors by melting just two crayons together, imagine the magnificent color we could make if we combined all the different colored crayons. I asked my father if we could make a crayon composed of all the colors in my crayon box.
He hesitated for a moment, and said, ‘Well, we’ll do an experiment. We’ll see what happens,’ . Then he grated and melted together all the rest of my crayons, making multi-colored crayon confetti, which then became swirls of colored liquid in the pot. After pouring this liquid into a pen holder we waited, because, my father said, ‘This one will take longer to bake.’ He went into the living room and sat in his chair.‘Daddy, Daddy, come and see the rainbow colors, come and see the rainbow colors!’ I kept chanting as I ran back and forth between the living room and the kitchen.
After some time, my father let me tug him back to the kitchen stove. He took the penholder out of the oven and opened it; to my amazed disappointment, what hatched was not the one, magnificent ‘rainbow color’ I had expected, but simply a plain black crayon.
‘Daddy why?’ I asked him. ‘Why just black?’
‘ When you put all the different colors together,’ my father said, gently, seeing my disappointment, ‘you get black..’
My child’s mind connected the promising swirls of color turning black to my father’s sadness.
For the rest of the day, I sat at my little red table, furiously coloring with my black crayon, filling drawing paper with black backgrounds on which I drew my brightly colored word designs. Actually, this was how the word-designs appeared in my mind’s eye: luminous, colorful patterns, appearing out of blackness, evoked by the sounds of words.
It took me a very long time to draw the letter ’R’. I tried again and again, but just couldn’t get the hang of it. My father, seeing my frustration, patiently demonstrated and re-demonstrated the way to draw it, but I just couldn’t seem to imitate it. Then one day, staring for a long time at ’R’, I noticed how similar in form it was to ‘P’. The only difference between the two letters was that a slanted line came down from P’s ‘head’. This meant that if I could make a ‘P’, I could make an ‘R’! Excited, I held my breath as I picked up my pencil and made a ‘P’, then drew a slanted line down from its loop. And my theory worked - I had drawn an ‘R’! And unlike the light yellow of ‘P’, its color was orange. I marveled that a yellow letter could become an orange letter just by drawing a line!
‘Daddy, Daddy, come and look, I made ‘R’!’ My father hurried over to my little red table. There amidst the piles of ‘word-design’ drawings and pages of penciled alphabet letters was my ‘R’: a little wobbly-looking, perhaps, with lines that were more crooked than straight, but indisputably, an ‘R’. My father broke into a big smile, and happy for me, happy that his instruction had taken effect, he lifted me onto his shoulders to celebrate the success with a piggy-back ride.
And as we pranced around the little red table, my eyes fell on our home-made black crayon, no longer the disappointing eraser of all colors, but simply their hiding place.
Patricia Lynne Duffy is the author of Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: how synesthetes color their worlds (Henry Holt & Company, 2001) and of a chapter, “Synesthesia and Literature” in the Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia (Oxford University Press, 2013). Duffy has written essays and stories, including her award-winning “Dining in French” and has contributed to the anthology, They Only Laughed: Tales of Women on the Move (Europublic Press). For a number of years, Duffy has taught in the United Nations Language and Communications Programme for staff and diplomats at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and also at UN offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and in Haiti. Duffy is also the originator and organizer of the “Authors-for-Literacy” reading series to benefit literacy projects of the UN Staff One Percent for Development Fund.For her original research into the field of synesthesia and efforts to promote literacy, Duffy received the 2009 “Distinguished Alumni Award” from her alma mater, Columbia University, Teachers College.
Queen of the Night
For Ana Selman
from my bed
as the sky
fades to black
grip the mud
below the pond’s
until my crown
center and I
bless the night –
Praise the Lord!
I woke up this morning
in the cool cradle
of tropical mists
and said to myself,
today I will write
a poem, and rain
burst from the clouds,
the streets gave birth
to lakes and streams,
newborn eyes to drink
the falling drops.
With their broad green
hands, the palm trees
embraced the day.
I dreamed my life a diamond, full faceted and far
from its mother mine. Around it I closed my fist,
warm palm against cold stone, lodestar
dreaming the life a diamond sees, full faceted and far.
How lucky to be a sister to the sun, no simple feldspar
under the cutter’s tool, but fiery face of xenocryst.
I dreamed my life was a diamond. Full faceted. Far
from the mother mantle around it. Warming in my fist.
Blows through your life
Take in your hand the weapons
Abandoned in the killing fields
Hammer them into bells
Elizabeth Lara holds a Masters Degree in teaching English as a Second Language from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has worked in the United States and overseas as a language teacher and as an editor for the United Nations. Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals (print and online), including The Mom Egg Review; Edna; Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words; Truck; The Vine Leaves Literary Journal; Ex Tempore; and The Wide Shore: A Journal of Global Women’s Poetry. In 2011 she was awarded a residency at the Millay Colony in Austerlitz, NY. She has read her work at festivals and conferences in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, and at numerous venues in New York, Washington, D.C., and Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Copyright: Reflections routinely reassigns all rights to contributors. If your work is published, you are free to resubmit it to any other publication anywhere in the world.
Reflections is not an official United Nations publication and responsibility for its contents rests with the Editors. Final choice is made on the basis of literary merit and appropriateness to the theme and a publication of this kind.
*Membership in the UNSRC Society of Writers is open to UN staff members, members of NGOs and the diplomatic community and their families. Submissions by children are warmly welcome.