Skyler Ilenstine earned his BA in English Lit and Media Studies from UC Berkeley and currently works in education. Recently, he’s attempted to craft video art, pairing music with video and poetry. In his spare time, when not reading books by Mark Leyner, Tom McCarthy and Ben Marcus, he likes to get lost in the woods of Joaquin Miller Park.
English 10A at College of Alameda was Skyler’s first class in Creative Writing.
In this poem, “Excuses,” Skyler wanted “to explore all the ways we try to pass off blame for behaviors we notice in ourselves that we dislike... [the] knee-jerk reaction when something goes wrong or we don’t react well… to try and understand the situation as something that we had no power over and thus no responsibility for.”
See more of Skyler's work at medium.com/@skylerilenstine.
A dog barked at my pregnant mom
I’m told it shows in the way I hold myself
Love me or hate me, blame it on the pit bull
My dad got blamed for a forest fire
Now my last name burns on the tongue
Generational trauma, and no one’s dead
I slip on orange lenses at sunset
maybe I’ll sleep soundly tonight
All they do is reflect
I cut my hand opening a pill bottle
My ghost drains out with each fresh drop of blood
My shadow no longer trembles
As a kid, I wanted no part in the world
Magic words would melt reality
Now I do the same with pens and metaphors
Berkeley City College’s ESOL 50 class (taught by Beth Wadell) and KGPC collaborated to bring you stories, experiences, and perspectives that represent the diversity of our ESOL program.
1. Tips on living
In this segment, Torano, Eunmin, Risa, Yang, and Guide offer advice and suggestions for a variety of situations, ranging from managing time to preparing from natural disasters, managing your time, and even telling your child you won’t take her to the zoo.
Torano Ichikawa: Be prepared (0:00)
Eunmin Park: My Biggest Enemy (3:00)
Risa Suzuki: How to Reject Something (5:52)
Yang Wang: Truth is Sometimes Far From Truth (8:16)
Danaipol (Guide) Wattanaromchut: The Day I’ve Never Forgotten (10:30)
2. Lessons learned
In tales ranging from the airport to the world of fencing, Shinji, Mas, and Sam teach us some lessons from their experiences. Shinji inspires us to dream big, Mas advises us about passing through customs, and Sam reminds us that winning isn’t everything.
Shinji Morita: Your True Dream (0:00)
Bolun (Mas) Xu: How to Avoid the Secondary Room (2:25)
Sangmock (Sam) Lee: Be a Cool Loser (4:13)
3. Uncomfortable situations
What do you do when you don’t know what to do or say? Yuko, Hayden, Dong, and Yuki tackle that question from four different angles as they talk about relationships between strangers, parents and children, employers and employees, and cancer patients.
Yuko Yamasaki: Excuse Me (0:00)
Dong Yang: Selling on the Mango Farm (3:13)
Gang (Hayden) Zhang: My Father (6:32)
Yukihiro Fushima: Helping Families Cope (9:45)
4. The unpredictability of life
Life takes some unexpected turns. Yumi, Claire, and Angie share some of them in stories that take us from Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta to a pet clinic in Berkeley. Together, they ponder the meaning of these experiences.
Yumi Kinase Rudner: The Third Time’s the Charm (0:00)
Xiangyue (Claire) Zhang: What I learned from my volunteer job (3:30)
Sadaf (Angie) Fatehi: A Crazy Old Lady (5:37)
5. Fear? What fear?
Is fear holding you back? Gigi, Sirius, and Houra explore fear and how to overcome it.
Gigi Yoslui: What Would You Like to Be? (0:00)
Lingjun (Sirius) Zhou: Fear (3:31)
Houra Golsorkhi: Dream High (6:30)
6. Education in a new country
What is it like to study in a new country? What do you do if you can’t speak the language? This segment explores these questions through the stories of Xiomy, who moved from Peru to Japan as a young child; Alex, who came to the US from El Salvador as a teenager; Tumur, who made the decision to study abroad; and Russ, who left Turkey to study in Poland.
Xiomara Mendez de la Cruz: Your Effort Will Be Rewarded (0:00)
Alex Zavala: Returning to School (3:20)
Tumur Bazarragchaa: What is your Greatest Weakness? (6:35)
Rasit (Russ) Ilhan: Traveling and Studying are not Mutually Exclusive (8:54)
7. That wasn’t so bad!
Sometimes the worst experiences can yield unexpectedly good results. Chaewon and Kevin share how a broken water pipe and required army service turned out not to be the disasters they expected.
Chaewon Park: Open Your Mind (0:00)
Yeonsik (Kevin) Ryu: Positive Thoughts (1:58)
When does a crowd of individuals become “the people”? Farhad explores that moment at Iran’s 2009 Green Movement protests, and discovers his best self through the experience.
Farhad Moradi: 5:00 in the Afternoon (0:00)
9. Overcoming Middle School
Middle school is always hard, but it got even harder for Cristina when she moved to a new country and was told by teachers and classmates that she wasn’t good enough. In this segment, she shares how she defied them and found success.
Cristina Candido: Believe in Yourself (0:00)