Briber

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

“Why am I here?” I harshly inquired to the tightly crammed room full of chain-smoking Egyptian officials.

Ashes smudged their desktops, which were covered in a mess of documents—the unorganized details of bodies moving in, out, and around their borders. This private office, occupying the innards of the terminal authority in the Cairo International Airport, mimicked a boys’ club—a swamp of officers keen on flexing their might and taking full advantage of their positions within a regime bent on suppressing protestations and requiring lagniappe from whomever.

After Oliver was waved through the passport check, the official behind the counter ordered me to step aside and wait as other male travelers continued to be quickly examined. Holding on to my passport, my captor guided me across lines of travelers to a small airport staff room.

“150 pounds,” one stout man demanded flatly without explanation.

“For what, exactly?” I asked in search of a justification.

My passport was likely one of many that would be taken hostage over the course of the day for violations unnamed or imagined out of smoke-choked air. The serious man who brought me to this back room, after examining stamp laden pages of my passport, stood behind a table among his comrades and lit a cigarette. His momentary grin a break from character brought on by the relief of nicotine, the company of tired fellows, the satisfaction of power, or any combination of factors. Whatever brought on this brief baring of teeth scratched at my core sense of justice as my eyes glared at my passport gripped in his grasp.

“150 pounds.”

“I’m not paying you until you tell me what this payment is for,” I firmly stated to the impassive and bored looking official sitting before me, his affiliates staring in annoyance at the interaction already exceeding the allotment of time for this cash exchange.

“You overstay. 150 pounds,” he announced again with only the slightest detectable emotion beginning to show its presence.

Though from the moment I entered the room, I knew I would exit with a lighter wallet, I refused to do so without some show of resistance. Thinking, perhaps, that this man could be caught in a lie.

“No, I did not overstay. How long is a visa valid?”

This question gave him pause and, comically, he turned it back on me.

“What do you think?”

“How long is a visa valid?” I reiterated, in a display of cat and mouse.

The intense lethargy of his stare asserted that he would speak of nothing until I spoke and perhaps assumed a disproportion between our values of time in this current situation; I had a flight to catch and a seized passport; he had another day in the office.

“The visa is for 90 days, is it not?” I asked.

An admission of defeat, each male present witnessing another back and forth that would end in their favor. These days, and perhaps throughout their entire exhausting careers, the resulting outcome always went this way.

“Visa is for 45 days. You overstay. 150 pounds.”

He commanded this statement plainly without eye contact or feeling, but there was a familiarity in his voice as though only the numerical values changed from day to day in this default.

“Fine. I require a receipt for my boss,” I replied sharply, thrusting three 50 pound notes into the outstretched palm of my extorter.

This demand simultaneously irritated and entertained the men in the room. Their chests puffed out, heads held high, blazers emblazoned with medals of some sort of honor, stacks of cash aplenty on the table. The power belonged to them and we all knew it. And the power continues to belong to them and most of us, myself included, are powerless to cease any of it from them. At least not on our own.

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Five years and then some

I’ve traveled to many places in the recent past, but I haven’t been here.

Not in a long time.

I make no promises in regards to the content that will fill this space tomorrow and ever-onward though in this moment I’m biased towards action in resurrecting the writer.

In the five years and then some since my last post I became an educator, met and married the love of my life, and continued exploring our weird and wondrous world, meeting talented, passionate humans everywhere I’ve gone.

There are, and will always be, countless stories to weave into words. May I commit more of my waking life to their creation.

Signs of the South

Signs of  the South
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Breath hollowed, a southern suffocation,
the taste of tobacco and Tabasco filters into lungs,
chicory smoke signals sharpening senses,
attuned to the tunes dancing
through a sun bathed breeze in the afternoon.

The streets are covered in glass confetti,
remnants of last night’s debauchery
when stars glittered like spilt liquor on asphalt.

An entire city floods with freaks and foreigners,
sound-weavers, shaman,
the voodoo you can’t do
anywhere but here.

Train Daze


Train Daze
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Birches blaze by, leaves aflame,
a yellow fire fading to mulch beneath piles of snow.
The wailing horn, the steady pulse of clacking iron,
sounds the same in every language.

Lulling me towards dreams in motion,
lunar phases and time zones drift and shift past
without mention.
The daze of days spent riding rails,
a confusion, stinking bliss,
for feet cursed with a lust for less permanent ground.

Traveling Tales: Seven nights in Tokyo

For a week I set out to conquer the megalopolis that is Tokyo. Many coffees were consumed, cafes visited, sushi feasts devoured, neighborhoods weaved through, boozy beverages downed, friends made, totoros found, dreams realized, love matierialized. Tokyo wooed me with its sexy, crazy, coolness and she was a costly lover, my week-long tryst was an adventure well worth every yen spent. Below are some of my favorite images captured during my time in Tokyo.

Beat makers outside Meiji Shrine in Shibuya

Sake barrels outside Meiji Shrine in Shibuya

Guard and processional along the path to Meiji Shrine

The afternoon chaos of Shibuya crossing

Blue nights in Tokyo

Women in kimonos shuffling in Omotesando Hills

Traditional Japanese dance party

Doughnuts at Streamer Coffee in Shibuya

A Tanaka specialty, the Gibraltar, at Bear Pond Espresso in Setagaya

Pachinko neon

Shrine streams in Ueno Park

Tokyo Skytree

Neon geisha in Shinjuku

To Mecca, Malta, Malawi

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Smuggling daydreams in knapsacks,
we hop the border between imaginations
and some place we’re told is real.

Existing in this capsule, an aqueous membrane,
a speck, flake, drip drop amidst the mountains of our universe,
we spin without moving our feet, muscles in constant motion
despite our trusted illusion of stillness.

Craving fanciful moments formed in a daze,
the haze of waking life
separates drones from revolutionaries,
the weary from those chasing thrills.

Whenever will the morning unveil the unfamiliar?
Waves undulating at frequencies our senses suddenly render–
purples uncharted, seas unseen.

Following a dotted line,
my feet make a mess of the sands
that once provided directions.

To Mecca, Malta, Malawi,
westward leaning treetops billowing in the breeze,
nowhere is everywhere I’ve been before,
somewhere I’ll be, in between the fabric,
caught in the stitches of winding, wandering reveries.

Ash and Snow

This past winter was a dark one in my life, marked by periods of mourning over loved ones buried and a loneliness more severe than previous snowy seasons. A blessing and tragedy of living far from family is that when crises occurs, I benefit and suffer from a level of detachment due to the distance that separates; I’m no stranger to that sensation and have grown accustomed, perhaps even too comfortable, with my living in my self-prescribed exile. This particular piece was written shortly after my grandmother passed in December and though there isn’t anything especially revealing about the piece, I required some time before being able to share it. My grandmother was a woman bearing such a kind, generous, and warm spirit, and a woman of unshakeable faith; there’s no other person who has made me want to believe in the heavens more than her.

Ash and Snow
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Frailty failed her lungs,
breaths left dangling in the space above her bones,
the dissolved muscles and grey skin drained of its glow–
the absent sting of sunlight an illusion as bold as sunset.

Life rarely leaves lovely behind,
though caskets cling to the remnants
as if at war with soil’s desire to consume.

I’m told there was a mountain behind the funeral procession,
one which begs the imagination to blur colors of ash and snow,
as if they are not the same.

In earth her body lay buried,
wrapped with silk,
drenched in smooth faith.
Her soul in a distant ascension,
legs a reliquary latched to the stairway made of scripture.

Reverie Trails

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Reveries revealing winding trails to doors ajar,
in nights I waltz through forests
to find you in foliage, eyes shining,
the blue glow of our moon dancing
a train of shivers and sentiments across skin,
glazing with goosebumps.

The breeze whistles, beckoning our stride to the seaboard,
sand sprinkling its jagged glass spheres
over our imaginary fairytale.

When we wake, timezones stretched between us,
our nostrils fill with the scent of sea foam
from the shores of where we always meet,
a place we’ve never been before.

These haunting daydreams grip to all hours,
minds lost–wandering through
the thicket of reverie trails.

Sleep

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Sometimes I dream of burning metal,
an aneurism smelling stains, staining smells into the nostrils of my nightmares,
places daydreams go to visit, rare to return.
This is a place speckled blue and bright,
dark matter, rays of fire, swirling in a phosphorescent haze.
Our mind’s made up of galaxies, battling and bending,
breaking when we fall out of