by Margot Durfee

a brown leaf drifts lazily through the air, pirouetting and fluttering until it softly lands on the cobblestone
only to be crushed
under the sole of a dirty white sneaker. the air is crisp, every sound, from the hollering of children, to the music drifting through kitchen windows, to the ringing of bike bells is
clear, bright
trees rustle as their remaining leaves depart. small, grey sparrows hop along the street in search of scraps to feed their babies.

Mei-Lin walks down a narrow, winding road lined with hutongs: traditional one-floor Chinese courtyard homes that have large wooden doors, chipped red paint, and brass handles, that have housed the same families for generations, that have been slowly bought out by the government
and reduced
to street blocks of waist-high rubble
and replaced
with flashy cafes and department stores.

Mei-Lin has lived in Beijing her whole life.
she has walked past the same buildings and people every day after school since she was little.
and yet,
when she passes by the children chasing one another, the elderly women peeling vegetables on their doorsteps, the men smoking and drinking tea and playing chess,
when she smiles at them, all she receives are
blank stares.
she feels
isolated, invisible, as if she is on one side of a tinted window and the rest of the world is on the other. she has been alive long enough, and experienced enough,
to know that she doesn’t fit in,
especially in a country as racially homogenous as China, where her biracial-ass sticks out starkly
her chestnut hair and hazel eyes
a constant reminder
that she isn’t “one of them,” even though she has similar features: a rounded, flatter nose; almond-shaped eyes; straight, thick hair.

she identifies as a (mixed) Chinese person. she celebrates the Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn festival with her family, she is near fluent in Mandarin,
but still Chinese students in her classes mock her pronunciation, even converse in front of her as if she cannot understand
restaurant waiters automatically hand her a fork,
give her an English menu
recommend westernized dishes,

one day, after a birthday party
her friends decided to do an
“Asian-only” photo and they asked her to

off she goes again
chasing a receding current
so close yet forever out of reach
she is confused when her very culture and city she calls home do not seem to want her
as if she is pretending to be something she is not
as if there is another life she should live, that she belongs in
except there isn’t

she feels stranded
like she’s jumped on a boat
and only too late
has she realized
everyone around her is on another

it didn’t help that her mother
her anchor
the one who taught her about her culture
how to make dumplings during Chinese festivals
and become an expert bargainer at markets
and muster the courage to compete
and fail miserably in
the weekly badminton contest at the local park
was diagnosed with lung cancer when she was fourteen
and passed two years later

her father tries
she knows he loves her
but he’ll never be able to understand
like her mother did
nor will she be able to go into a room
with any hope of passing
when her very tall, very white, very American father
walks in behind her.

a hot iron slab hisses as a dollop of silky batter is ladled
a wooden spatula deftly spreads the batter into a thin pancake on top of which
a whisked egg poured
a crispy wonton wrapper placed
fresh green scallions and toasted sesame seeds sprinkled
all swiftly folded into a neat rectangle
a jianbing
is handed in a crinkly paper wrapper to Mei-Lin,
who gratefully receives it with her wind-numbed fingertips, her rosy cheeks blissfully enveloped in a warm, fragrant cloud.

she used to go here with her mother
striding arm-in-arm down the road
strangers returning their beams
sun glinting off windows
on chilly days, they would stop at the little food cart on the street corner
and each buy one
and walk to a nearby park and sit on a bench overlooking a reflecting pond

her mother used to say min yi shi wei tian:
Chinese people value eating to the highest degree
that no matter how she looks, speaks, moves through life her love for Chinese food roots her identity
all the moments she has felt included have been around food
passing steaming stacks of dim sum across tables with her extended family who give her chopsticks and speak to her in rapid Mandarin with no mercy

at the jianbing stand
month after month
year after year
they greeted the same woman behind the stove
with her mother, she felt whole
she could practically see the connection in people’s heads, realizing she was Chinese
affectionately calling her “xiaomei”
xiaomei, what will you both order today?
aww, you are so sweet xiaomei
see you next week xiaomei
xiaomei, where is your mother?
when she went to the stand
for the first time
the woman smiled at her warmly and prepared her regular order

There are days when Mei-Lin fears forgetting
her culture, her language, her identity
but today, munching on her jianbing,
beneath a swaying willow tree
its dancing leaves a spectrum of green reflecting off the glassy pond
she feels her mother smiling with her
and she is whole.

Mercury’s Emperor

by James Himberger

Before him a desert
Crowned in glass
Scratching its life
From the dim beams
Of the Pleiades.
Of what little comes
Much is made of it.

The precipice beckons.
New modes and disorders
He contemplates.
A stone’s throw
Will break the feet of clay
And fell the colossus
Constructed against itself.

Behind the portico
Statesmen sigh, perplexed.
Sprawled on the arms of clocks.
When all veils are lifted
There is little that can be done.

Amid the shattering glass,
He smiles at the forms and shapes
That dance upon the hurtling shards,
Like a sunset fragmented
Across the horizon.

For a moment,
Arches, spires, columns
Arrange themselves
At speeds unholy
By arts unknown.
Kingdoms of the elsewhere,
Unimagined republics,
Crackling with strife,
Living and dying all at once.

But within this swirling basin,
No great chain reanimates
Of bodies corporate,
Glinting with incarnate crowns.
Their pastures do not throng into Heaven.
Nor do their phantasms stream into stone.
No, the vaults of those solemn architects
Do not mingle with the stars.

And yet, a far off country can be seen
In hazy outlines of possibility.
Memories of a future lost,
Their fragments recovered only
In cracks and hisses
Between transmissions:
“I will come. But not yet.”

Instead, powers undreamt of fill the air.
Managers of the sovereign void,
Mark divisions over the globe
Dripping circuits of gleaming slime.
Pulsating, but not breathing,
They restrain vast winds and waters,
With grim institutes,
Bringing forth a new desert
Its vitreous diadem restored.

All that was before,
And all that comes after
Are useless to him.
His life is spent
In those moments of collapse.
Each one a private Valhalla
Every shard enshrined.
And the hoary gods lead him
Up avenues, through gardens,
In the dying light,
To take his place
Among the statuary
In the final alcove.

Dead Fish

by Sarah Goldstein

this river, like all
rivers, has at last run dry
she no longer asks
if I thirst, if I wander
as she goes to fetch water

these questions that, so
long ago, my ears once heard
these crumbling words, flow—
sink and are swallowed
perhaps become fish




by Matthew McGovern

I in my reclaimed canoe
watch the man prepare to fish.
I’d be remiss not to mention
he looks and fidgets
like Elmer Fudd

Wearing a ruddy red sweat, bumbling
beside his Toyota Tundra, brimming
with every which implement
foremost among which
is his mechanical winch

He lowers the two-oared rowboat
saves himself excessive strain,
and he cannot contain
a wry smile aimed at me
seated low on a lichened stump

He returns to his trunk
to extract a tacklebox
of plexiglass, opaque
so I can see it’s complete
with line and flies
and pliers, weighted irons
hooks and lures, too.
He’s got a fat swagging walk
which is asking
how ‘bout you?

Loading it all smartly
in his personal craft
rounded like his belly
the worry and chagrin
of his Mrs., who tells him
go and row it off
up at Worden’s pond
as if it could be
rubbed away with ease
like with sandpaper
and some elbow grease

Then, at long last, the dinghy is packed
when he goes to make one last pass
in the Tundra’s cab,
he emerges, and in his grasp
a neat little motor
with which he putters off,
out onto the pond

thoughts of a cockroach

by Megan Amero

how easily i seem to let myself
harden in the mold
of an alien existence, not a drop
seeping through the cracks
in the fight to forget
this wasn’t always normal.

i was often told, in between memories
of childhood ease and clarity,
that if the world managed to end,
one might still find cockroaches
crawling among a landscape of
twisted iron and rusted skeletons
and stagnant pools of toxic water.

though i have the utmost faith
in their thick little shells, i wonder
if we are selling our hard heads short.

after all, each day
i pour myself out, carbon copies
in the cast again and again—
steadfastly ignoring the
million little ways the world has already ended.

Lying Crooked on the Bed

by Jess Kamin

Bitterly, lying crooked on the bed
I could kill a man by taking his sweet face in my hands and snapping his neck upwards,
I could kill a man while he’s on top of me, out of fear and insecurity,
Or watch him kiss my neck, wonder when the right time is for me to reach my hand down, fumble with the zipper
Now, or maybe now, or maybe…

Lonely on a saturday, lying still on the floor
Exhausting every weekend plan until they’re all faded and bubbling, ripping pathetically from the center outwards.
Dream so intensely there is no escape; in fact, never have a dream again,
Only sleep and its continuation, so murky pink, so unable to make split second decisions,
So worried about the dictionary and all of its contents…
Now. Definitely now.

Thinking in systems: the flu shot enters my bloodstream and spoils me rotten; the trash piles up for days and days until all there is left to do is throw it away; lose your earphones, release your earthly possessions, find them in the bed, rinse, repeat; communicate through noise and distraction, distract yourself with rambling thoughts of continuity and fried rice.
Now, I tape these fleeting things to the wall, first slowly then all at once.
This is all of it.

weaver’s nightmare

by Megan Amero

i heard you on the phone
the other night, whispering words
i used to dream of, held close to my chest
like the promise of spring, your voice
cutting through the static
slicing my nebulous mind into ribbons
with the cold steel of certainty.

i want you.

imagination made load-bearing,
substance inspires far more terror
than the airy wisps of thought i spin
into a tapestry of my own design.
life’s patterns do not mirror my
own mental loom, and i’ve discovered
i don’t much like to relinquish
my hold on arachne’s talents.

i am terrified that i might one day
consent to have my heart scooped out,
to be held all in one hand, to have
my blood read for filth.
or, worse yet—
that i might turn myself bare,
and that you might find the
calligraphy of my veins to be
utterly incomprehensible.

How to deprogram a person

by Emma Stout

Sometimes I want to have three kids but then I remember that Global Warming is a thing.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to do cocaine but then I remember that my nose has
faced enough from 19 years of seasonal allergies.
Sometimes I peel almost, just almost, the entire orange in one strip.
Sometimes I consider buying a ticket to Coachella but then I realize that I don’t have an outfit.
Sometimes I still think about that night in the stairwell.

Up here is fine. No, up here.

Sometimes I try to elaborate on the quesadilla. The quesadilla.
Sometimes I try to come up with a cool name for a company.
Sometimes something like “Gelzor” or “Malitite” but all I can think of is the word “Pastrami”.
Sometimes I try so hard to describe what’s in front of me but then I just end up writing a list of
what is in my pocket.
Sometimes I wonder how it took people so long to invent the wheel.
Sometimes I can hear the door closing.

I said no, thank you.

Sometimes, but not all the time, I drink cow milk when no one is watching.
Sometimes I think I’m going to vomit if I see the word “Minimalism” one more time.
Sometimes, in bed, I close my eyes and clench my teeth together because it takes me back to
falling asleep with my braces on.
Sometimes I remember the voices in the hallway.

Remember tomorrow.

Sometimes I question if my parents really did know that I would like brussel sprouts when I grew up.
Sometimes I worry that I’m the type of girl whose favorite color is mustard yellow.
Sometimes I still picture the railing.

Dig through the water.

Sometimes I tilt my head, trying to find the exact point where the horizon meets the windowsill.
Sometimes I know I was in the wrong.

It’s okay, I forgive you.

I forgive you.

Devonian – The Sting Ray

by Kyle Burton

Begin the deep dig: I knew you
In the dark.
I knew you hard.
I knew you wingless and submerged,
In the great sea.

You knew me willful and callous till
We dulled our teeth on each other,
We kneaded each other soft.
You knew me
Always with my eyes up,
Looking past your face.

The sun through the surface
Looked warm and felt cold.
It was all I had known.
I marched you to
The horizon, the coast, and I
Made the trade for you.
A new world, bright and dry, for you.
You stayed behind.

Have I been eons looking in? You
Have wings now, a spine. You fly
Up to the surface, take the sun
But never pass through.

I’m dry but I’m numb.
And the shale comes down.
I’m sun hardened clay
That won’t mold. I’m bloody,
Blunting my feet back to fins.
And I’ve been eons looking in.

Communion of the Coconut

by Emma Stout

You think that knowing
the velocity of the earth
will stop it from spinning.

And so, you write the formula
in your head
While hacking at the edges
While watching their heads
lift back a little too far

You hack and
you hack until
the knife is slippery with juice

Until even Orion notices
you’re not hacking
To find the center
To release the pressure

They stop laughing
when the spritz erupts
In a stunned silence,
they ignore the carnage

The bloodied skin.

They lift their arms in unison
Welcoming the mortal mess of earth
into their slow embrace

The bloodied skin
Communion of the Coconut