Learning to Love an Accident of a Hometown

by Juliette Wu

Modern Shenzhen, modern in a post-Deng,

Post-technological boom sense, is only a

Few years my elder. Growing up, I watched

The evisceration of a “fishing village” and its

Infantile self-sufficiency a Transcendentalist

Would think bucolic or picturesque, you know,

Despite the detritus of wars and wrongs and all that

And I watched not a snake shed its skin but 

A caterpillar deliquesce in its rancid cocoon

(Death as a prerequisite for rebirth.)

Perhaps the butterfly that emerged was iridescent

But these are violent foreign colors, haphazardly

Treated with the corporate-cosmopolitan odors 

And that globalist aesthetic of a concessioned Canton.

But the self-assured westernized snob in me objects,

Why eulogize? What does it matter? You misguided

Faux-nationalist, you’ve reaped your benefits, spoken

The kind of accentless (allow me to be anti-descriptivist)

Lingua franca English of the international pastiche,

When otherwise you’d have been a myopic rustic girl

Taxidermied, stuck performing for the ogling orientalist…

Now subsume this grotesque tableau—this Adidas bike 

Propped against steamed bun stall, this large glowing

Transnational fast food sign, this local toddler nudging

Mother asking about that gweilo and the ensuing offense

Of the man who overhears, this Asian-faced customer base

For this Western shopping mall, these great dilapidated

Amalgamated throngs of part-Cantonese | part-American

Part-Hakka | Part-British | part-Communist | All Chinese

City of a fumbling postmodern accident.

Futon

by Mathew Mcgovern

I see a deep forest

in the evergreen futon

whose wrinkles are brimming

with landscapes, little hills

written through wavering folds

shapes resembling eyes just closed

a brow arching in and a large crooked nose

indiscript visages won’t deign to define themselves

Perhaps these fissures ressemble glaciers

stacked, full and monumental

or veins and patches of flesh splayed out

on this awe-inspiring canvas,

laudable yet floppy futon

content in the corner of the room

the sag of whose own weight

makes a low wide smile.

Portrait of butterflies in bloom

by Isabella Urdahl

“Tous les amoureux ont-ils l’impression d’inventer quelque chose?”

                Portrait de la jeune fille en feu

In my chest there bloom butterflies with flower petal wings.

They need air so I give them the memory of the breath leaving my lungs, 

         quand tes lèvres

        turned up at the corners, une intrigue

        a soft lighthouse from across the room.

They take all my oxygen and I surrender

         it like the body surrenders

         to a song, to the touch of tes

         doigts qui jouent on my skin. 

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t need more oxygen, 

       but you leave me so breathless my body might have just found itself again –  

       Je voudrais courir et fling my watercolor limbs 

       off this cliff and plummet. Wingless, 

        bouleversée, and wanton.

Who knew le coup de foudre could make you feel so electric.

Take it all and breathe it back 

         into me with your tongue, 

         which is ta question et 

         ma réponse in one. 

Take these butterflies. 

         My ribcage a mere canvas house 

         for their explosion of hues and 

         les-mots-ne-peuvent-pas-rendre-justice 

that your eyes painted into me like a rayon de lune 

          pirouetting off glass and into a room that was waiting for le soleil.

I knew nothing of music until your color-bathed fingers

        traveled the trembling paper of my chest.

        Flower petal wings string a symphony in my stomach, 

        orchestrated by the brushstrokes your lips coat onto mine.

Would Camus think me in love? 

          “. . . tout donner, tout sacrifier sans espoir de retour”

Perhaps, although 

         I think Madame Desbordes-Valmore’s powdered nose would turn 

         at the way 

je laisse tes paroles danser dans mes artères.

         And your words honey-stick to me but I’d make a welcome sign for bee stings.

         And I’d carry all les crèves-coeur,

         for one mouthful of your syllables ambering my vision.

I think Balzac knew what he was saying when he named Love — poetry of the senses.

Que tu es belle.

           The shape of your laugh is my favorite line break.

           The life raft of your smile hidden behind your hand, la syllabe qui interrompt mon mètre.

The curve where ta joue rencontre ton cou, a liaison more imaginative

           than tout ce que la langue française pourrait rêver.

And I a — ,

          en train de prier,

          pour tu, que tu complètes la phrase, la peinture

          that you began in my body.

discount silky conditioning lotion for oily skin

by Nasrin Lin 

*TW: contains queer slurs

golden immigrant child

watches the Sunday football game

plays pong with his friends

in letters and track pants

drops a “faggot” at each plop

a prepackaged narrative arc

golden immigrant child

lands jobs at fancy acronyms

a bona fide entrepreneur seeks

a bitch that cooks and free

reign on the n-word

using the friend card that doubles

as business card coded handshake

golden immigrant child

aims for that penthouse

with three pools and immigrant maids

collectively known as the ah-yis

because one saves too little face

and two is just the Congratulations

paper cutout on the cake

three is the cake you stick your dick into

after everybody leaves        

   

golden immigrant child

gets a wedding invitation

from his disowned sister

the estranged daughter  

that dirty dyke   cancerous

rot in this great family name 

golden immigrant child

pure golden bred reminiscing

on brighter days

yellow news

by Elli Sol Strich

When she called the sky was a yellow-cold

static spewing over the line 

hollow voice cracking

I held my breath and

traced thin wavering pavement cracks

slender summer rain that started slowly

was now thunder crying 

a heaving silence- 

I tried listening to her sliver voice

words plunging into my ear, 

nestling into crevasses, throbbing, itching 

Tried explaining to the worms writhing past

the too-clean-sky morning, her once bursting laugh 

that marinated words in saffron-

no longer listening now only watching.

empty shadows on sun-stained cement, 

frail dandelions wilting; 

their heads bowing, bowing as if praying, 

that metallic after-taste of sour yellow,

swallowing the bitterness.

情爱的你

By Nuha Shaikh 

情爱的你 —

Fall is the season of goodbyes, of turning over new leaves and pressing the most brightly colored memories in between the pages of the few books I brought with me to college. I’ve been compulsively picking up the leaves that catch my eye, I feel guilty otherwise. There’s a stack of at least eleven of them now. I don’t want to forget any of these days.

                 O Allah, there is nothing made easy except what you make easy, 

                 and You make difficulty easy, if You wish

                                                                             اللَّهُمَّ لَا سَهْلَ إِلَّا مَا جَعَلْتَهُ سَهْلًا، وَأَنْتَ تَجْعَلُ الْحَزْنَ سَهْلًا إِذَا شِئْتَ

It’s 2020, I’m now 20, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so clearly. How desperately I wish my reflexes were right, so that I could hold on to you forever, curled fingers around your own, and we could be young and eternal, friendship and love perfectly balanced as we found a home in each other, growing up together.

                Find, find, find a friend, 

                I found a good friend, 

                salute to them and hold their hand, 

                You are my good friend, 

               Goodbye!

                                                                                                                           找啊找啊找朋友,

                                                                                                                           找到一个好朋友,

                                                                                                                           敬个礼啊握握手,

                                                                                                                           你是我的好朋友,

                                                                                                                                    再见!

I left home, finally, after dreaming about it for years, escape was such a tantalizing flight, as I headed East into the Sunrise. I left a space for you, honored who we used to be, and gave us room to grow. But giving you room and board only left me lonely and alone, dusty beds and cracked mirrors, open windows restless in the wind.

                  I don’t think anything will happen but I still hope, God willing.

                                                                                                                            إن شاء الله.

I’ve now latched the windows and closed the doors. You still have the key but the path to me is quite different than when you left me, and then I left you. If you make your way back to me, I welcome you with open hands, as always. And if you don’t, that’s okay too. I’ve said my goodbyes and made my peace with the ghost of you that lingers in me. 

                    Please take care of yourself. 

                                                                                                                          请多保重。

                                                                                                      w/love,

                                                                                                           N

Catalogue of Searching

by Isabella Urdahl

        modeled after Rebecca Lindenberg’s Catalogue of Ephemera

I’ve been given soft maple lighting threaded with pieces of piano.

I’ve been given un coup de foudre, bouleverser, and tu me manques.

I’ve been given caramels of his language to coat my tongue with.

I’ve been given her playlists that stick like gum in my brain.

I’ve been given a stress ball made of shards of broken glass. I used to like that photo.

I’ve been given sound bites on Tokyo, PhDs, Arcadia, and Paradise Lost.

I’ve been given little electric text bubbles on the best way to drown in knowledge.

I’ve been given a needle full of serotonin.

I’ve been given the pages of Possession and the melody of Honeybee.

I’ve been given lyrics of Luck Pusher and I’ve been given bad odds.

I’ve been given a heavy sweater that swallows me whole in defenseless cashmere. 

I’ve been given soft folds of pleading, delicate cream cotton.

I’ve been given the souls of Europe’s lonely, hopeful cobblestone streets, New York’s 

ambitious hum, and a forest lake dripping in sunshine.

I’ve been given midnight November runs.

I’ve been given ice-cube ears, snowflaked hair, a face full of moonlight and 

cheeks of poppy petals.

I’ve been given humid August nights, shirts kissing skin, clinging tight 

through sweat and a heartbeat. 

I’ve been given gasping for air.

I’ve been given hands faltering over a keyboard, stumbling syllables. 

I’ve been given awkward teenager poems.

I’ve been given a cramp in my cardiac muscle, 

a corkscrew exploding open a pomegranate into pebbles. 

I’ve been given the plum slosh of mellow red merlot.

I’ve been given an absinthe-burned tongue.

I’ve been given the dehydrating warm beige of the Sahara.

I’ve been given the fresh laundry and dried basil aroma of a well-loved studio 

in a city held together by aching plaster stones and cracking plywood wishes.

I’ve been given a bookshelf to hold the overflowing pile on my bedside table.

I’ve been given Christmas decorations in May.

I’ve been given About Time and melting bronze clocks that stain my hands sunset.

I’ve been given a pulled tooth and the raw, fleshy gap 

that it leaves behind.

One I can’t help but touch, 

despite the blood.

I’ve been given Murakami’s On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful 

April Morning and I’ve been given wondering if 75% Perfect means a best 

friend or a glass ¼ empty.

I’ve been given the amnesia of Iceland’s Northern Lights.

I’ve been given accidentally blue fingers.

I’ve been given the thing that feathers.

I’ve been given a fresh page and the first drop of ink.

jump

by Lauren Daukaus

you are not safe 

and I am not safe.

you may, however, 

be tempted to believe 

otherwise, as many fools 

before you have done, and as 

many fools after you will do. you

may be so inclined to fall subject to 

promises of the forever, the certain, the 

damned. and you may find yourself wishing

that the existentialist within you dies as you crawl

into bed with a naive smile and a mind shut so tight it

forgets how to inhale. I, of course, do not wish you this fate. 

I pray that you live knowing every step you take may lead 

you off a cliff, that you understand this impossible, 

fragile, random existence. and that you use this 

knowledge to be grateful, brave, loving every

chance you get. we fleeting humans tend to

long for security. and with that dream

we discard our sacred vitality. if 

you’d like, we can hold hands

and just freefall, tumbling

into uncertainty. please, 

darling, please leap 

before you look.

Dào

by Nasrin Lin 

Think about / the allure in being vulgar

this walking banyan freak

flooded to the brim / a barbiturate-assemblage

self-tentacled / goddess of the swamp

call me Nüwa / so I can sing myself a song

and mold a choir out of recurring dreams / a pillar

from the five elements / in my own image

transmembering into a song

this procreant urge of the world / out

of order, right order / breathe into me a composition

not pensées but processes / revisited via turning pages

in and out and in between / then call me Hart Crane

and meet me at the bottom of the sea / the cruel and the free