2022 - Winter

Roxane’s Poems

Image: ©️ beauty_of_nature – Image modified by Roxane Kokka – Pixabay License. Source.

Author: Roxane Kokka

An eruptive feeling invades my chest
As my head grows feverish
And my cheeks warmer than the sun’s kiss.
My pale skin turns into a scarlet shade
And I can feel the blood pumping twice as fast into my veins
All the way to my fingertips.
My jaws are sore from laughing
And my cheeks from smiling
My eyes are on the brink of tears
And each breath struggles to escape my lips.
How funny this feeling is,
This strange feeling of falling in love.

Woodpecker kisses
It all still feels surreal to me, like a dream
With your face bathing in the dim light’s gleam
And your eyes shimmering between your curls
While all of my senses rejoiced in twirls.
My entire body reminisces
All your electric woodpecker kisses,
While the lasting fragrance of your perfume
Makes my chest and memory feel in bloom.
And I can still taste your lips on my own,
As I can still hear the sound of your moan.
My skin keeps record of every inch
Your fingertips touched; not once did I flinch
For your presence restored much peace in me,
Erased feelings of fear from my memory,
And brought back to me a sense of harmony.

Kiss me
Kiss me ’til I can feel my lips no longer
Kiss me like you’ve kissed none other
Kiss me ’til my whole body is shaking
Kiss me ’til my lips are aching
Kiss me ’til the sun rises
Kiss me in all your disguises
Kiss me as though it were the last time you could
Kiss me the way you would in the deepest, darkest wood
Kiss me ’til my mouth bruises
Kiss me as though you were pulling ruses
Kiss me ’til my southern lips are wet
Kiss me ’til our souls have met.

2022 - Winter

Wonderful Mess

Image: ©️ René Magritte, Les Amants, 1928, oil on canvas, 54×73,4 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York – Image modified by Roxane Kokka – Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International License. Source.

Author: Roxane Kokka

It is the strangest of feelings. My chest feels as light as a bird soaring through the wind and at the same time, as heavy as an anchor trapped between the most scarring of stones.

I wish last night never ended. The touch of your fingertips alone on my skin stirred up the deepest and most dormant senses of mine. And your tender lips on my forehead, cheeks, and fingers reminded me of a feeling I had long forgotten. Every second spent with you, every smile, every laugh, every word, and every embrace, one by one, enabled me to fall in love with you over and over again. Your eyes sinking into mine, your heartbeat against my ear, your deepest breaths warming up my neck.

Every touch of yours is inked into my skin. Your tender words have eternalized in my memory the loveliness of your existence. And my hair is lighter since you ran your fingers through it. Your arms squeezing me with the most delicate gentleness increased my body’s desire to melt into yours.

I now sit amidst the chaos deafened to it by my body’s yearning for yours. I yearn for your lips and your body’s kiss. You have touched and moved my soul like none other. And all I am left to do is sit here and wonder of the wonderful mess we found each other in.

2022 - Winter

The Vaguest Hint of Hope

Image: © Christelle-S, Pixabay License. Source

Author: Anonymous

I don’t like the preachers that walk along the city streets, talking about tomorrow. They know as well as I do that it just isn’t going to come, and I really think that should satisfy them. They draw huge crowds of people, flooding the gaps between the tall, bone white buildings, and they sing, and they scream about how tomorrow will come, how there will be dawn and there will be dusk, and all of this will be beautiful and lovely. Well, I don’t need dawn nor dusk, and I can live perfectly contented knowing that when it is dark, I can wander empty streets, contemplating the inky black spaces between the buildings, and when it is light, I can wander crowded streets, wondering when it is going to be night again. This seems to me to be a sufficient existence. 

There is one preacher in particular, one who goes about dressed in great colourful robes that conceal almost their whole figure but the flash of their bare feet and their face, broad cheekbones and golden eyes. I don’t know if they have hair or not, I don’t even know their name, but they talk to me every time I pass them by. They’re here now in fact. I duck my head, avoiding their gaze, but they look straight through me, and put out their hand, blocking my path. I look at them. Their face is inscrutable, but for the vaguest hint of hope in the upturned corners of their eyes. 

“Will you not listen?”
Their voice is smooth and melodious, but there is somehow a sharpness there, something like a rebuke.
“I would rather be home,” I reply.  
“I would rather be heard, but we cannot have everything we want.”
“Have you anything interesting to say? Something other than ‘pray for dusk and it shall come’?”
They smile, their eyes softening, and they come up beside me.
“Well, I have something today, if you would let me walk with you.”
They seem hopeful in a way I don’t quite know how to understand, so I begin walking, gesturing them to follow.

We walk silently through the crowded street, people are moving every direction, seemingly everywhere all at once. I thought I heard them start a sentence, but they are drowned in the noise of the many thousands of people that are gathered together, the pressure of the city on us. I was meant to be going home, but there is such a weight of human bodies here that I pass my door without so much as a glance, and we walk on. Later, although how much later I couldn’t say, the people thin out, and the buildings begin to shrink and spread apart. It is as though there is more air to breathe. I stop moving to sit down, and rest my legs, but the preacher doesn’t stop. I jump to my feet, though they’re still sore, and break into a run to catch up with them. They are easy to see in this emptier place, and although I was not still long, they have gone far ahead, nearly out of my sight. 

I run quickly, almost desperately, to close the distance between us. If they turn down the wrong alley, they will be lost forever. But they don’t turn, they carry on straight as the arrow until I reach them, panting heavily. They regard me for a second, then a second more, then they turn heel, and carry on. They do not speak then, and neither do I. Silence suits them, and I have spent much of my life in it, and it is not uncomfortable. So we walk. 

I cannot tell how long we walked thereafter, only that first it was light, then it was dark, and the dark seemed to stretch out the more we walked in it. The buildings dwindled, as they had been since first we came from out of the crush of the centre of the city, and then they were gone, and the road we had been following was gone, and in their places were wet grasses and briar as far as the eye could see. 

The preacher is picking through this new landscape, with the purpose of a hunter stalking their prey. Their robes, so strange but fitting within the city, are still stranger now, and when they glance back at me, their golden eyes seem to catch lights that I cannot see. The only sounds are our feet crushing the leaves, and the occasional rustle of the heath. It is as though we are walking through a shallow, but endless grassy sea, stretching out to the dark edge of the horizon. And with each footstep, I feel myself come unmoored a little more from time, until all there is, is the present. It does not get light, and for lifetimes untold we walk. 

I assume we’re walking blindly, waiting to reach the horizon, or the end of the earth, but before we come to either, the preacher seems to stumble very suddenly, falling to the ground with a dull thud. When I reach them, they are kneeling. “Are you hurt?” I ask them. They laugh, and gesture at the place they fell. It looks like a simple flat stone at first, but when I lean closer to the preacher and touch it, it isn’t smooth like the stones of the city. There are lines carved into it, forming intricate, interlocking patterns of diamonds and five pointed stars. “How long has this been here?” I wonder. The preacher murmurs something below their breath, and the patterns I felt in the stone light up, a pale blue light trickling from their hands down the length of it, slowly at first but gaining momentum. The light extends well past the place where I thought the stone ends, into the plants beyond. They stand, take my hand and lead me to the centre of the emerging square of light. 

“It’s been here since time ran straight,” they say, “as far as I know. I don’t know if it was made by people, or if some other force made it into being.” Their eyes are shimmering like they were before, but now I can see the light they’re reflecting. It bounces off the planes of their face, and makes them look alive, and real and solid in a way that no one looked real and solid in the city. They are purposeful here, purposeful and powerful, and they can conjure light to them and bring ancient wonders back. I wonder, as I contemplate it, whether I even need to leave here. It is quiet and calm, and the wind that blows carries with it the soft smells of grass and flowers, scents from softer times. It had been so long since I had smelt anything that was the bony dust and sweat of the crush of the city’s crowds. There is such peace here. 

The preacher looks at me, breathes in sharply and asks, “have you ever seen dawn?”. I laugh. “Of course not. Dawn is like dusk, it’s a story your lot made up.” 
“You would think that,” they answer. “You don’t remember a time when there was a sun.”
“Well, was there? Is there one now? Light and dark, yes, and I’ve seen shadows, but have you seen the sun? Have you seen a dawn or a dusk?”
“Would you believe me if I had?”
I pause at this, taken aback. They continue, “You don’t think the world is wrong now, then. You don’t think it’s strange you have a house, but you never spend any time in it? That you don’t sleep, and you spend your whole time wandering, but you never actually go anywhere? Have you ever thought about it? Have you felt anything about it?”
The lights shining around us flicker and dim a little.
“Is it any worse than how you spend your day, talking to people who don’t listen, pretending there’s such a thing as the sun? If you opened your eyes, you would see it doesn’t exist, it could never exist. Things change, but the sun doesn’t rise nor set. Light comes and goes, and we come and go with it. And that is all.”

“I heard of a story, a very old one, about a couple. There were two people who loved each other very dearly, but one of them died. Of a snakebite, I think. A snake was a small creature with sharp teeth and a poisonous bite. But the other couldn’t quite bear their loss, so they went down into the underworld, to get their lover back, and when they got there, they found everyone as shades, mostly bodiless, and all they did was wander, nameless and faceless. When they found their lover, the dead one couldn’t remember their name, or anyone else’s name. So the live one began to sing, and the song was so beautiful that all the shades wept what tears were left in them, and the couple was allowed one attempt to escape from the world of the dead. They had to make the journey back, the living one leading the way and never looking back. But their courage faltered, and they stole a glance back as they reached the world of the living, and the dead one was dragged all the way back to the underworld.”

I don’t answer. 

“When I watch you, or anyone else in the city walking, that’s what I see. A sea of people who aren’t even really alive, who’ve forgotten their names, and worse, don’t even remember that they ever were alive. The sun is gone, the moon and stars are disappeared, and you stopped living, and didn’t notice your soul was being stolen away. You didn’t notice as you dissolved out of being.” They started very calmly, but began speaking with more and more passion until I am on the verge of tears from the weight of the words they’re casting at me. And they aren’t wrong, time is come undone and I don’t think I am alive in any real sense of the word. “Do you think I am dead?” I ask.

“I don’t think that,” they say. They are very pale now, and I can hear their breath shaking. Their eyes are closed, but I can still see the lights glowing beneath them. They turn their back to me, but I can see them trembling, poorly concealing their sobs. “I think the world is.” 
“But then, why bring me here? Why bring me to this place that still seems alive? What is the point ?”
“It’s a good place, is it not?”
“It is. But why here?”
“This is the edge of it. The edge of time. It exists on the other side.”
As they say this, I realise the sky was lighting, from the deep end of the horizon, lighter shades of reddish blue creeping up from the grasses.
“This place, it’s where time turns, it’s where you can find tomorrow.”
Like a dam bursting, the sky illuminates itself in shocking colours, a bright sphere tinting the space above it pinks and oranges, and then it’s there, the sun.
“Dawn,” I whisper, and smile.


2022 - Winter


Author: RKC

The legs of a woman shouldn’t be pretty
How could they?
With all the burden of immoral and evil acts they have encountered and suffered?
With what they’ve seen and lived?
They shouldn’t have to carry all the weight they do
Their smiles shouldn’t still burn white
They have seen the worst of us and still take us to their heavens
They still believe in us
They shouldn’t make us better
They shouldn’t have to
They shouldn’t

And yet they do,

2022 - Winter

The Lines

Author: RKC

Tomorrow I will write the lines
Write the lines that are perfect like a bullet in the afternoon
Lines to feed the air and keep me sane
To burn like a cigarette at the end of the day

Old lines have lost their taste
Been lost in my longings along with my memories

It’s only normal then,
That I should save myself
and pour me whole,
In empty scotch bottles and blank sheets of paper

Read my soul in these old lines
As I find my enemies
In these old bones

2022 - Winter

Société Anonyme

Author: Andres Stadelmann

There are many bridges in Paris
Rive gauche
Rive droite
But once you’re on them
On which side do you fall?
Towards the muck and towards the grass
Where they write out your name
Or perhaps to the decks
Where they punch the ground below
And to all those sleepers
Without pillows
Without dreams
Did you spill your old bottle caps
Did you use them as your dirt?

On the river two boats joust
While in the capital their anthem is screamed
And we looked as they streamed
Sometimes blue
Only green
But the little girl watched
As I took down their flag
And her uncles waddled away with their teeth all in flaps
Those old men know not to trust shady cameras
Yet for fame
Yet for glory
We could not keep our coats
But for love

The bridges in Paris cradle cars and lights
From the cold
From the rain
And in a small pint bar
We sit and rehearse
How to stumble and be still
But never to cry

I’m sad again
But that’s ok

2022 - Winter

from The Truth

Image: © by Andres Stadelmann

Author: Andres Stadelmann

It was late August when I realized my Nonno was going to die
He had relapsed heavily
Never left unattended
And although we had not seen him for weeks
It was there, at the beach, that I crawled into my parents’ bed and cried with them
I was 11.
A week later we were back home with him
He barely inched out of his room
Limping towards the bathroom
And I, stuck, watching from the hallway
An image framed from a movie
(I’m still stuck there to this day)
The day he felt better we were told it was time to say goodbye
And we did
But the next day
Standing up on the toilet bowl
(My father had lifted me up
To hug me while he cried)
I started to imagine something special had happened during that last farewell
A final stroke on the cheek
A soft smile

It was only years later
When I saw him holding his own father’s hand
while we each took our turns in that room
He looked at me knowingly while I sobbed
And held the old man while he died
(He didn’t cry at the funeral)
It was there that I realized that it wasn’t a physical sign,
something we could hold on to
But that the dead always call out for us before they’ve died
They know nothing will fill that void
So they just tell us

Every day that passes I look more like my father
This thing, I have struggled against it a lot
I’ve wanted to tear it away from me
Yet it’s always there
It comes out in spurts
Fierce and without warning
And then it stays
It marks me forever
And this thing consumes me
It erases years
Or rather it adds them
I think of that middle-aged man
Of all that he lived through
Of the sweat he shed
The blood
The semen
But for what?
And for whom?
I feel like I’ve already lived enough to be able to understand it
But not even cigarettes
Or fucking beer
Don’t change the facts
We have the same body
Made to renounce everything
To vent without regard
An anger that makes you sweat
And that child
I erased his name

But it’s always children who know how to speak the truth
Like those clouds suspended in bursts in the blue sky
While the lightning behind thunders in silence

2022 - Winter

Emails, General Assemblies and Unlimited Cappuccino – An Interview with the Department Secretary, Patricia Mascia

Image: © Patricia Mascia

Author: Katharina Schwarck

On a sunny Tuesday morning, I meet Patricia Mascia. You may not know who she is but she is one of the most important gears of the English department, without whom it certainly would not work as well as it does. 
Maybe you know her under a different name.
Ever gotten an email from “secrétariat-anglais”? Yupp, that’s her.

So, on that sunny Tuesday morning, she welcomes me in the English department’s common room and offers me something to drink. I am excited to have a chat, get to know her better and ask her all the questions that the MUSE team has prepared for this day.

We sit down.

“Hi! Are you ready?” I ask her. “Could you introduce yourself to our readers in a few words?” She gives me a warm smile. “My name is Patricia Mascia, I’m 36. I grew up near Morges. I did quite a lot of gymnastics until I was 20 and I like sports and reading.” We discover that we grew up in the same village and get excited about it for a few seconds. After I’ve told her very specifically in which house I grew up, I ask her to tell me about her work and responsibilities. She explains that her “tasks here are mostly helping with administrative matters, both in the English and the Italian section. The preparation of exam sessions is a big part of my job, too.”

“What would you say is the best part about your work?” I ask her in response. “I would say it’s the multilingual aspect of the job. I really like speaking English, Italian and French every day. It’s cool. Also because I think here people are just really kind and it’s a nice environment to work in.”

“So you speak English, Italian and French!” I get excited about her multilingualism. “Could you tell me a little more about your linguistic background?”

“My mother tongue is French, I learnt Italian and English at school. I wanted to become a translator so I’ve always liked foreign languages. It’s like a passion. After high school I entered the university of Geneva in Translation Studies. I finished my BA in 2010. After that I got married and had children so I had kind of a break there. I was my husband’s company’s secretary until last year but I missed speaking foreign languages so I began doing substitute teaching in schools in both English and Italian and I liked it! Because of that I tried to enroll in the HEP in Lausanne. As my background was mainly linguistics, I was asked to do literature classes here at UNIL. So I did crédits complémentaires in English and Italian, 40 ECTS credits. I finished in 2019. I thought it was so cool so I did one year of master’s classes in English until I saw the job advert for my current job last year. So my parcours isn’t very straight-forward!” She chuckles. We shake our heads at all the stories we’ve heard from people having to retake credits to enroll in certain schools. I realize that she knows the department both as a student and as a staff member! “Yeah!” she laughs. “I knew the teachers from a different point of view.” 

Not being able to let go of the topic of languages, I ask her a follow-up question: “If you could learn any language instantly without having to learn it, what language would that be?” “Chinese,” she tells me. “I’m not sure why. Maybe because I find the signs, the way it’s written, fascinating.” I nod with approval, but before I go even more astray asking her even more questions about languages that I was not sent here to ask, I ask her if her secretary job at her husband’s company was her first job. She tells me that was indeed her first full-time job but that she had had a few small jobs while studying. When I ask her what she did more specifically, she lists working at Coop and in a bakery on the weekends. A quite typical student experience.

For my last work-related question I ask how she prefers to work, independently? Or as a team? “Independently,” she tells me honestly. “I’m a very independent person. I think it’s partly because I’m not able to delegate and I like to organize my time.” I tell her how relatable she is and that it’s hard to delegate when asking someone else to do something takes as much time as doing it ourselves. She strongly agrees. She adds “it’s problematic though because sometimes you feel like you would need help but you’re not able to ask.” Very understandable. We conclude that we do our best to learn how to delegate and, who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to do it!

“Let’s move onto my less work-related and weirder and funnier questions,” I suggest. “What’s your favorite thing about Lausanne?” “I think I like its dynamism,” she decides. “A lot of events take place here. I like the energy of the place.”

Picking up on the fact that she said she liked to read and, well, works for the faculty of Arts, I ask her what she likes to read more exactly. “Life stories and biographies,” she lists as her favorite genres. She elaborates “You can learn from someone’s experience, so I really like that.” “Do you read in several languages?” I ask her. “I would say English and French and a little less in Italian.” At this point I tell her how impressive I find it that she works in not one but two of her foreign languages. She modestly tells me that she finds English to be her weakest language and that she wants to improve. “You know,” she recounts. “In Translation Studies, it’s always written, you never have to speak. It’s quite different skills that are required and you always translate from the foreign language into your mother tongue.” “Did you translate into both English and Italian?” “Yes, and Spanish. I did Spanish as well.” One more language! I am impressed.

“Are you watching any TV shows at the moment?” She tells me that TV shows aren’t really her thing but movies are. Romantic movies, to be specific. As the holidays are approaching and many of my friends are already suffering from (or enjoying) Christmas-movie-fever, I ask her if she’s a fan of them too. And yes, she watches Christmas movies, indeed!

I warn her that I’m about to ask her a very, very specific question. “What is your favorite seasoning or spice? Fitting with the whole Christmas theme she tells me “I love cinnamon and cinnamon-scented candles!” That sounds lovely and I now crave cinnamon. “Are you a dog or a cat person? Or perhaps a bird person?” I continue with my rather specific questions. “I’m more of a dog person,” she first says. “Even though we have a rabbit at home! I could be a rabbit person?” We agree that we don’t really talk about “rabbit” people and that we love dogs but that they are a big commitment so we don’t have any at the moment. 

I ask her a question that I am very excited about: “If you could have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose?” I give her some time to think. “Maybe cappuccino!” she laughs. How very relatable. (Is anyone else craving cappuccino with cinnamon right now?) “I really like your answer!” I reply. “If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?” I enquire. “If you’re talking about a public figure, I would say Nelson Mandela. I admire him for his courage.” “And if you could teleport anywhere right now, where would you go?” Her eyes light up: “On a sunny island!” “You’re not a winter person?” I ask her. “No, not at all!” We laugh together about how nice it would be to be in a really sunny place right now and get our vitamin D. We complain about daylight savings: “It’s only one hour but it’s so difficult”, Patricia tells me. “It’s 6 pm and I want to sleep! It’s frustrating.”

For my last question in this interview, I ask her what’s an easy way to do something nice for someone. “I think the simplest things are sometimes the most appreciated: a kind word, a little attention. Sometimes I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes to try to think of something that could be helpful.” Following that sweet answer, I thank her a lot for the lovely chat and the laughs and I let her go back to her work.

2022 - Winter

Excuses, Excuses

Excuses, excuses…

Over one’s life as a student, it is clearly difficult to attend 100% of one’s classes. Yet, sometimes the reasons why we skip class or at least the reason that we give may be more or less justified…

This semester, MUSE asked UNIL’s students for their anecdotes and craziest excuses they or their friends have ever given to explain missing a class. Has something like this ever happened to you?


I once read that a student in the high school I went to didn’t come to class because their pet rat had passed away and they buried it in the yard and conducted a funeral and everything. I don’t think I ever laughed about a dead animal before this. It was so unexpected! May that cute rat rest in peace :)

I’m too good a student to miss class but once, my best friends only wrote “anthrax” on his excuse which kind of made his teacher panic for a moment (the real reason was a concert from the group Anthrax and not actually anthrax, the infectious disease…)

Having spent all night writing and not getting a single hour of sleep.

Me: So, how was your class this morning?
Them: I didn’t go. I had to cut my beard.

My friend forgot their book at their parents’ place in another canton. Instead of coming to class and following with us and sharing a book, they decided to take the train all the way back to their parents’ to retrieve the book, obviously missing the entire class they would have needed the book for…

My friend forgot their computer charging cable. Instead of coming to class and taking notes on paper, they decided to go back home to retrieve their charging cable, obviously missing the whole class they would have needed their computer for…

Me: Why didn’t you come to class?
Them: Well, I wanted to come but as I was leaving my apartment, I saw how dusty it was so I had to stay to “passer la panosse”.

One of my friends missed uni at least twice because their apartment was flooded.

In winter, I went skiing with my family and family friends. We were in a chalet for the weekend and it snowed quite a lot during that time. So we were trapped in there because the cars couldn’t move. At least it’s what we said because if we had really wanted to leave, it would have been possible but it was so great and cosy in the chalet that we decided to stay one more evening ? And so the excuse that I wrote for my chemistry teacher was that there was too much solid h2O on the road and that we were trapped.

Cut class in half because of a “work meeting” that was really a hangout between friends to a famous coffee shop brand…

It’s pretty depressing, but, I sometimes skip classes because I have too much work to do for other classes. So, I skip class in order to study for class. Sounds counter-productive, I know o_o

His grandma died over 6 times.

I had just had a baby (and it was true).

I had been run over by a bus.

When I was in gymnase, I skipped a maths class because, and I mean this literally, the dog ate my homework (and my textbook, and my pencil case).

When I was in gymnase, I once used an excuse that was actually the truth and I wrote on the note that I had gone out partying until 5am so I wanted to sleep in. The excuse was obviously rejected and I got detention :)

My sister’s friend is really scared of this cat in her neighborhood, so she once told my sister she’d arrive late in class because while leaving, she opened the door, saw the cat, closed it and went and sat on the couch anxiously waiting for the cat to leave so she could leave her house too.

*responses have been edited for clarity and length