Welcome to NCC’s Journal of the Arts!

Featured Pieces

We and Our Thoughts, Hana Perekhodko

My Native Village, Outoume Sebastian  

My father taught me to be brave. He used to tell his children in the evenings, after he had a cup of local drink: “If you leave your hoe at one place on the farm, the next morning, you will find it at the same place where you left.” This literally means you must keep using the hoe or working with the hoe in order to grow your farm.  My father did not only teach me through his words, he also taught me through his actions. I am the son of a farmer who was named Manabourou, Pkonteme, and was born and raised in the district side of Anandana, Benin, in West Africa. I was raised in a district side where everybody was doing farm work, alongside my five brothers and three sisters. I had some difficulties at an early age, and people expected that I would become a farmer like my parents; however, with my father’s words of advice and my determination, I now inspire the whole village.

My mother passed away when I was very young. I don’t really know how old I was when she passed away. From what people had told me and from what I can guess, I was around two or three years old when my mother passed away. I missed my mother at my early age. I missed my mother for a different reason. My childhood friends had their mothers who could give them advice, but in my case, I could not. My childhood friends’ mothers could do laundry for them, but in my case, I did not have my mother who could do my laundry. My friends could spend the night sleeping next to their mother, but I could not sleep next to, nor spend a single night with my mother. The only thing I could do was think about my mother at night and pray. The worst thing was that I could not find any pictures of my mother.

I grew up in a village of eleven houses where all the inhabitants were farmers. In the village, if a boy or a girl is still in school by a certain age, that means he or she is lazy. In the village, at some age, a boy is considered to be old enough to do farm work, and a girl housework.  I was born in a village where the farmers’ children become farmers themselves. Thus, I was born to become a farmer. All my siblings went to school, except our elder brother and sister. They did not go to school because my father needed someone who could help him with his farm work. I have to say that I was very lucky to have nice sisters and brothers who were able to help me buy clothes, soap, and to give me some advice when I really needed it.

 I felt lonely at an early age because my mother passed away, and it was challenging. By some people, I was pitied, and others thought I was not going to succeed in my life. However, I chose to have a breakthrough in the village, and I was the only person to get my high school diploma among my childhood friends I grew up with. My breakthrough is not only to honor my parents, but also, I think it shows that their relationship was strong, and they really loved each other.

 My father and mother went through a lot of difficulties before they got married. My grandmother did not want my mother to marry my father. However, my mother insisted on marrying my father. My grandmother took clothes, shoes, and kitchen utensils from my mother when she was going to marry my father. With all these pressures, my mother did not cede, and she did not have a good relationship with her mother before she passed away. I witnessed a shocking event when I grew up. I qualified it as a shocking event because I could not find any reason for my grandmother to return the bag of yams from my brother. One day, in the afternoon, I came from school. I changed out of my school clothes, then I went outside. Suddenly, a guy came home with a bag of yams on his bicycle. He told my father and older brother that our grandmother gave him this bag of yams to give them back. The bag of yams was the yams that my older brother brought to my grandmother as a gift. Unfortunately, she refused the bag of yams and returned it because my mother did not follow her instructions.

The good news I can tell, is my mother gave me the name Pkonteme. Pkonteme literally means “it will finish.” As I grew up, many questions came into my mind. Why did she give me that name meaning “it will finish”? I have tried to give different answers to that question. For me, it means the situation between my grandmother and mother would finish. It can also mean the poverty would finish. I don’t have the right answer, so if my mother were alive, I would have asked her why she named me Pkonteme.

With my father’s, sister’s, and brother’s advice, and my determination, I’m happy to motivate the whole village. I’m sure that an important part of my success is from my parents’ love. I learned from my father not to give up. I learned from him that to get a better result or to have goodwill, I needed to work hard. I did not only learn from his words, but I also learned from his actions. My father used to do everything he could to let me get an education. I tried to follow what my father taught me. I studied hard, and I worked hard. This helped me get my high school diploma in 2012. I attended university after high school.  I was in my second year at the University of Abomey Calavi studying Chemistry, Biology, and Geology when I got my green card to come to the United States. Coming to the United States is an honor for my village, especially to my parents, as I’m the first person from the village living in the United States. Now all eyes are turned toward me like I’m an important person.

Zealot’s Plea, Jake Nannariello

Harken to me, sons and daughters
Of our high and mighty lord!
Cleanse our holy home of heathens.
Let them feel His burning scorn.
Snag them, drag them from their hovels.
Let them face His holy gaze.
Stack the pyre, light the fire.
Set the heretics ablaze.
Cinder, tinder, singe the sinners.
Bind and tie them, raise them high.
Char and torch them, sear and scorch them.
Watch the blaze intensify.
Flailing, wailing, flames assailing.
Fire laps and licks their skin.
Hear the faithless cry for mercy,
Blind to their own dire sins.
Flames are scathing, bodies bathing,
In the conflagration’s grasp.
They have spurned Him. Now we burn them.
Roast the pagans ‘till they’re black.
Bodies wither with the wicker
Into soot upon the ground.
Blaze is fading, naught remaining,
But a smoking, ashen mound.
Joy! Elation! Celebration!
His will has been done this day.
Sin has burgeoned in God’s kingdom,
So we’ll burn it all away!

NCC Journal of the Arts