You pin your faith to the levity of feeling, and like dawn ushered in by the iridescence of the rusted roof, the belief that, at times, not all suffering comes from sorrow; but the truth is I often want to say that this holiness too can gash, that the connections these things share are fragile—that even the wind drowns in the waves, that it is not only the changing season the flock of wild ducks flee from, that even the most constant star can lead astray. Look for the breeding grounds of locusts and find the nest of primordial fears. While, out in the open sea, the dorado’s agile darting—repetitive, thrashing against the line—changing its color at the brink of death: blue, green, yellow. It is often for beauty that our violence is concealed. All I want to say is, magnificence does not lie at such throes. Here, the newly mown grass can abrade. Here is a handful of salt and tell me the pain of being stung in the eye.
Translated from Filipino
She was again seized by wonder. She saw
Two long braids of cloudscape; white threads
In the sky’s forehead. She knew the seagull and pelicans
That pecked at the barnacles which had drifted, clinging
To her body but it was not the wings that unfurled what so
Astonished her. She longed to introduce herself.
She suddenly let out a geyser from her blowhole,
Taking chances at the abrupt turn. But further it went.
Before submerging herself again, she felt the sprinkling
Water coming back and while looking up, it was as if
The cloudscape itself had unleashed the rain.
Translated from Filipino
At the end of it all only your eyelids shall remain. Here
By the coast. Flies examine the map you have left
From your journey. Its moss gradually fading.
There is no sadness in going on one’s own. You are
Like an unexpected pilgrim succumbed to a town’s mysterious
Plague. A bag clings on your shoulders and the burden
To heal your wounds, you bring nothing else but
Five petals of jasmine, four strands
Of cat fur, two bands of broken
Rosaries and a pair of clouded goggles.
One by one you erase them from yourself while the language
Of those you meet changes, oaths erased
In the name of countries. Until you forget
Where you have come from. How many times have you shed off
Your scabs and scattered islands remain by your body before
Having told yourself you’ve toiled enough. So you disrobe yourself.
At the first instant you realize that the horizon
Was within reach, you say never have I left.
Translated from Filipino
“We are attracted to every aspect of life that represents a last illusion yet unshattered…” —Barbara Cully
Watch, the catfish are crawling on their knees, crossing the newly soaked asphalt, the weather herding them to the unknown, and at a glance, they are like heirlooms handed down and lost: tickets from a departure and a homecoming, a bottle filled with sand, a dried stingray whip. The clouds’ reflections are still shadows in the field that had been flooded. In other words, this is what remains. Later, by the wick still unlit, the grandchildren will sit around their grandfather, begging for stories. Before, they used to pass the days harvesting and cooking spinach. From the mire, they dug out a helmet, after a while, a boot and later, a bayonet. The old man decides not to tell what else they’ve seen. And after, he will shift to his dazzling romance with their grandmother. Their storytelling will be interrupted by the gargling of the transistor radio: tomorrow will be clearer. Tomorrow as though a promise.
Translated from Filipino
This is how large we know
Of death: like a galley
Subsumed by hunger or war.
As it beached by the shore,
We became pirates in search
For whatever we could exploit.
But what might we find beneath
The scales of which we know not of?
The unease caught us in a net,
That a curse might befall anyone
Who tasted its flesh. The sea held
Countless secrets and here, one lay.
Someone said, this one swallows up
Those who have disappeared and drowned
Whenever a storm reaches the sea.
It is but a child, he said,
Compared to Jonah’s whale.
Many nodded at his words.
Another added, this beast
Is the sea spirit’s mystical steed.
It might be its horse or if not, its elephant.
Like a superstition in cooking,
Some were convinced we might end up
Finished like the fishes once we ate it.
So it was with a picture taken
That we were content
To share this one memento.
Enrique S. Villasis is a poet and a scriptwriter. His first book of poems Agua was published by Librong Lira and a finalist for the National Book Awards. He worked for ABS-CBN as a television writer before the Philippine government politically harassed and denied the franchise of the network.
Bernard Capinpin is a poet and translator. He is currently working on a translation of Ramon Guillermo’s Ang Makina ni Mang Turing. He resides in Quezon City.
No one can be cruel or too shy
for you, blooming hedgehog,
sea urchin on dry land.
You are a living relic, a myth
with all the colors, one with
a tarsier of a flower.
Globose or tubular you
are nothing short of cosmic
with posies this spectral.
Prickly, yes, but what isn’t,
when only you can unclench
secrets from radials of corolla
whether or not anyone’s ready
for your many fanged edges.
Equal parts rhythm and spikes,
you deserve ceremony, eyes.
We will hold you up high
like a trophy or sundial
even if our fingers hurt. For
everything that captivates must
require sacrifice, a little danger.
In 1989, pushing at around 170 miles per hour, the Shinkansen speeds out of a tunnel as if announced with an explosion. Its exit carries a sound so thick and full that crowns of trees quiver like a thousand boneless fingers. The Japanese then turn to birds to perfect the train: owl feathers for rigs, penguin belly for pantograph, kingfisher beak for frontispiece. Machines continue to stir quieter as man move swifter, as if possessed by the impetus of wind. So what do birds turn to us for? What does kindness owe us when we name our conveniences with violence, comforts with terror, like bullets out of something graceful, alive?
* * *
I still wish we are kinder, even in a world poorly designed.
Statement of the Problem
Is it worth pursuing those that evade us?
Current State of Technology
Off the coast that could be any other coasts in the world—the Atlantic, maybe, or Bantayan—scientists mimic shark skins to create antibacterial plastic and study patterns of schools of fish to ascertain wind turbine compositions. Meanwhile, the glaciers have lost another monument, and like the death of a star, no one could hear a sound.
The devil is in the details. As well as in everything we want.
We know too well this deep and subterraneous urge to uncover: this breaking, this peeking beyond the clam’s lips.
Some pearls must be worth more than the others.
* * *
Sometime in the future, we see cars that are becoming more cars than jaguars or horses or beetles, disbanded across streets like alien urchins. The din takes a different octave all around us. We’ve been here before: Gears and bolts taking over elegant muscle. The symmetry of thoraxes giving way to shellacked hoods. Antennae going wireless. Keyholes becoming the last semblance of mouths to be fed. Listen now. The highways are no longer breathing.
F. Jordan Carnice holds a BA in creative writing from Silliman University and a BSc in information technology from STI. His works are published in Philippines Free Press, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, among other places. He has released two poetry chapbooks—Weights & Cushions (2018) and How to Make an Accident (2019). He is also visual artist who is currently based in Bohol with his three cats.
ON FROGS AND ORCHESTRAS: INTERVIEW WITH LEVI MASULI
In an interview, Levi Masuli of Pedantic Pedestrians talked about his project of recording frog sounds across the metro, the sonic dimension of ecosystems and how the pandemic might have changed soundscapes.
Ivan Emil A. Labayne and Levi Masuli are part of Pedantic Pedestrians (PP), a laboratory for experimenting with modes of cultural production. PP has launched four folios online, held a book launch without a book, released an Oncept Series and helped organize a small press expo in Baguio City.
Ivan Emil A. Labayne: Early this year, you mentioned your plan to volunteer as a research assistant to record frog sounds in Southern Luzon. Is it correct—Southern Luzon? The task is part of a research of an office based in Los Baños, Laguna where you also planned to relocate from Quezon City. What drove you to make this decision—both the recording of frog sounds and the relocation to a city outside Metro Manila?
Levi Masuli: Recently, I became interested in frog sounds. I was reading something about acoustic ecology when I came across a hypothesis that when animals share the same habitat, they tend to exploit vacant spectrums to avoid spectral or temporal overlaps. For instance, flycatchers (Empidonax minimus) insert their short songs between the longer songs of the red-eyed vireos (Vireo olivaceus). In short, animals and insects don’t sing over each other, and they don’t just sing whenever they want. They make space for others, either through leaving lulls for others or by vocalizing in a particular spectrum range.
This explains why when a certain frog species creates a bass-y croak, you won’t find another species in the vicinity with a similar croak. You’ll more likely find another species or creature with a higher-pitched vocalization. Thus, nature is literally a self-orchestrated orchestra, or a well-balanced surround mix – in high definition!
This hypothesis also posits that more established ecosystems have more complex interspecies coordination. Newer ecosystems or those recently disturbed have less complex soundscapes. This is because the species need time to figure out how to organize their vocalizations and make everything harmonious.
Following this hypothesis, I wanted to move away from the metro to look for more complex soundscapes where there is more interspecies coordination. Nonetheless, I recently realized that it would also be interesting to listen to the changes in the soundscapes in the urban areas, given that the dramatic change in human mobility (due to the lockdown) may have led to the flourishing of certain urban ecosystems. To be honest, I don’t want to put too much emphasis between urban and rural ecosystems, as it implies one is more ‘pure’ or complex than the other. Nature changes may it be in the city or the countryside. Ecological disturbances happen everywhere. It’s just a matter of paying attention to the details.
Ivan: I find nice the point you made about animals “avoid[ing] spectral or temporal overlaps,” as if making way for each other; it’s opposite sense in Filipino, hindi sila nagsasapawan; they do not try to top each other, as if competing. This rhymes with your later point about nature being “a well-balanced surround mix” and perhaps also to your quest for “more complex soundscapes where there is more interspecie coordination.”
Speaking of coordination and balance, I’d like to ask you about “disciplines” or “fields”—words that tend to smack of connotations of segregation. Your academic background is on literature, language, the arts and now you are transitioning—if you approve of that term—to this new field, this new undertaking.
How was it like: what do you think helped in redirecting your interest from the arts to the natural environment? Or, to follow a different premise: how do you think your literary and arts background relate to your current interests in the natural environment and sound?
Levi: The segregation of disciplines is a recent phenomenon. After all, the firsts naturalists in the Philippines were priests. I don’t see it as a transition. Scientists also write, and poets live in the same natural and sonic world as everybody else does. The only difference is the training, the technical knowledges, things that can be bridged by collaborating with others and doing your own research.
Ivan: I want to know more about your familiarity with, and deployment of the scientific names of species. You evinced this in your first response, in relation to flycatchers and the red-eyed vireos. In a video you uploaded weeks ago, I noticed how you gave the scientific name of the frog whose croak you recorded. Is this deliberate on your part—becoming familiar with scientific names, and using them, where possible? If so, what significance do you attribute to these?
Levi: It’s deliberate simply because it is practical to know them. It also helps to know the local names.
Ivan: Are you currently pursuing other projects that relate to, or inspired by your interest in the natural environment, or the natural sciences in general?
Levi: I am looking to record as much frog sounds as I can during the rainy season as this is when they are most active.
Levi Masuli, currently based in the Philippines, works primarily with sound and text. He is part of the writing group, Pedantic Pedestrians. His work can be viewed at https://levimasuli.com/.
Ivan Emil A. Labayne is a researcher, teacher and freelance writer, maintaining columns in local weeklies Northern Dispatch and Baguio Chronicle. His creative and critical works are published in journals Kritika Kultura, The Cordillera Review, Entrada, Hasaan and Katipunan and in online platforms Cha, Jacket2 and New Mandala. He blogs here.
FROM HUNYANGO MAN ANG TAO (EVEN IF HUMANS ARE CHAMELEONS)
Translated from Filipino
A tiny bottle was born in a sweltering factory. He was wrapped in a package, given a name, then placed in a box with his fellow newborns. All of them were brought to stores all over the city, arranged in a cold room where they await being purchased. The bottle wonders why his parents would just abandon him, and withhold their care and affection. They pushed him toward a clear glass that contained a strange world. The refrigerator door opens and a hand reaches for the bottle. Placed in front of a cashier who weighed its value. The man takes out ten pesos. He takes the bottle and outside quickly gulps down its contents. The man then throws him onto the open sea where he floats not knowing where the current would take him the next moment or the next day. Noon came and exposed the bottle to its scorching light. The bottle tried to weep but his mouth had already begun to dissolve, to disintegrate into tiny pieces. Then his body. Finally his head. His tiny parts dispersed into the water. So tiny that fish failed to see him. A tiny one came by. Opened its mouth and ingested him. The fish didn’t know. It just went on to eat whatever bit it could from the sea. A day into playing with his fish friends a huge net descended upon them. They were all hauled unto a ship. Brought to a factory where they were unloaded, moved around, and rolled over again and again. After going through a number of hands, its head wad removed, the rest of him canned. Wrapped in a package, too, and given a name. The cans were brought to the grocery store, then picked up by someone cooking sautéed sardines for some workers’ lunch. But that day no one wanted the dish so the cook took it home for their kids. The kids didn’t want sardines, too, it was always fish day in and day out. This kid got a good scolding. The rest of the brood cried. The sardines were put in a plastic bag and thrown outside. Another group of kids was waiting by the garbage bin. By now they knew what time the cook would throw something out. They opened the discarded plastic bag. Sardines—what a lucky day. Quickly they dug in but the eldest seized the fish and moved away from the frenzy. He devoured the fish he held in his hands. It remained in his stomach for years until he felt hunger anew. His companions had been frolicking by the shore when he, now a young man, felt a pang in his midsection. A sharp pain where he put the sardines. The others, swimming farther away from him, didn’t notice. He tried to come closer to them so they’d hear his cries for help. But that day the waves had been heavy, leaden. They dislodged his feet from the seafloor. He stumbled. Set adrift beyond what was visible from the shore. In this state the sun found him. The sun saw how his body began to disintegrate, broken apart by the water into tiny pieces. Broken apart until it was as small as drizzle. From the tiny breaks in the flesh emerged the plastic and their siblings.
Janssen Cunanan lives in Makati City, Philippines. He is currently a member of AUX (Artists in BPO Unite for Social Change), a cultural organization that utilizes art in fighting for labor rights and advancing national democracy. His works appeared in Plural: Online Prose Journal, ALPAS Journal, and SmokeLong Quarterly.
Glenn Diaz‘s first book The Quiet Ones (Ateneo Press, 2017) is set in the Philippine call center industry. He lives in Manila.
Esoterica/Ethos: Critique; for personal use when editing the work of others-
my experiences are complex and alien, and thus my voice is complex and alien;
i am excruciatingly aware that many contexts cannot support the weight of that alienness, and thus i often shave off my idiosyncratic edges to accommodate the access of others, as necessary.
in my personal writing, i do not make this sacrifice. my personal writing is complex and alien.
Thus, my personal writing is hard is hard to read.
i have allowed it to remain hard to read.
i am *not* a prescriptivist;
i am more of a descriptivist, but i am not *really* one of those either.
i believe that the technical aspects of writing, such as grammar, are tools intended to do the work of conveying meaning to a reader;
i believe that there are multiple kinds of reader, and that all of them will bring different needs and experiences and interests to their practice of readership;
i believe that the technical aspects of writing are growing and flexible things, that they are never static, and that recorded strictures of their use are necessary, but that such strictures are also ossifications, always a step behind the alive-things as they move between the spaces of our interactions, and so that to replace the living entities with ossified strictures is to remove the source and potential of their continued vitality;
i believe that language and grammar, and the control of one's voice more broadly, have long been tools of violence and oppression, and that to address that brutal history, we must actively make room for multiple ways of being and writing and speaking;
i believe that 'universal' and 'singular' have limited applications, and that there is no one 'true' or correct form of writing –– rather, there are multiple ways of writing, and vastly different contexts may require vastly different modes and styles to adequately address their needs;
i believe that specific technical and conceptual features of writing, from vocabulary and grammar to the use of literary devices and rhetoric, are tools and *only* tools –– they are deployed to make the thing happen, they are neither the thing itself nor the appropriate universal goal –– they are invoked to call the thing to fruition, and if they do not meet that need, then either old forms need to be uncovered/reinvented, or what exists need to be changed/added to;
i believe there are both different levels of need and different kinds of taste, and that there is no form of writing that is universally accessible to every reader, and that what one reader finds unbelievably dense and opaque, another might find as vital and refreshing as air, and further that neither of these readers are *correct* and that they both deserve to be served;
i believe that other approaches to the technicalities of writing are *as valid as mine* and *do not supercede mine*, and thus i recognize that my style of writing and editing is not appropriate for every audience –– should the person seeking guidance [from me] be one of those i cannot serve, i *actively* encourage them to pursue the guidance they need from a more conventional practitioner;
i believe that the way i can best serve the writer i am critiquing, their readers, and social justice as a whole, is to *preserve and bolster that writer's voice* as best i can;
i believe that words mean vastly different things according to context, and that synonymous words are *not* identical in definition;
i believe that to encourage someone to file off their idiosyncratic edges in the name of an idealized archetype of Generic Audience is to create a caricature that represents no one accurately and thus serves no one effectively;
i believe that it is important to be generous to one's audience, but that there is a difference between generosity and self-erasure, and that audience members are often smarter than they're given credit for, if one takes the time to be careful and patient and, indeed, generous –– that it is generous to write honestly and to honestly share one's experiences –– and that it is *okay* if the only audience a writer seeks to address is themself;
i believe that precision, accuracy, and clarity are very important, and that sometimes those things are *not* at odds with simplicity and can be conveyed simply, but that the resolution of conflicts between those standards involve the prioritization of the former (accuracy, precision, clarity,) because the removal of information in the name of simplicity is *neither* neutral nor more clear, and tends to create distortions and erasures, particularly over many generations of data processing and the subsequent collation of that data into text.
i am trained as an artist, which significantly structures my approach to the technicalities of writing: these are to me the same as color and line and paint: tools to be arranged to achieve a specific purpose or goal, and for which the approach will be different according to the specifics of those purposes or goals;
they are also tools whose appropriate use has been governed by very different strictures according to temporal and cultural contexts, and whose governing strictures often have far more to do with the advertisement of social position on the part of those enforcing them, than they do with any intrinsic characteristics of either the tools or the works generated by those tools.
i believe in, and admire, complex and/or ornate writing.
i also believe in and admire many other kinds of writing, including simple ones.
i do not believe that all writing needs to be complex and/or ornate, but rather that these kinds of writing have a place, at all. i have a theoretical grounding for this (and many of my other) position(s); many thanks to José Esteban Muñoz specifically, for the queer possibilities of the ornamental.1
it is my intention to advocate that more room be made at our tables, not that any who operate under more conventional constraints be excluded in our stead.
if this seems impossible, then it is our job to be more creative, with regards to our approach.
and possibly to get a bigger table.
i am a disabled reader, whose disability often necessitates *more* complexity in writing for things to be accessible to me –– not a terribly common state of affairs, and thus not a well-served one, either;
i also often need more grammatical/syntactical cues, not less –– it is inelegant, but commas as pause-notations *really make a difference* in my ability to read something coherently; this appears to be unusual enough i try to actively ignore this need in my role as provider-of-critique, but i think it is good for people to keep in mind, as an illustration of the way that syntax and grammar differently address different needs for different readers;
i am exquisitely aware of accessibility conflicts, and that often the only solution is mitigation. My job as provider-of-critique is to partially mitigate that mitigation, as much as is possible.
i do not demand that it be read by anyone but me –– only that it be allowed to exist, so that i, too, may know what it is to reach for/into a cultural repository and to hear the echo of a voice like mine, even if that echo is only actually *my* voice preserved in boolean amber.
i am selfish; i am ravenous; i am starving; i have been hungry for so long; this is a source of food.
; THAT SAID
critique is something different; critique is not about me; the approach i take to critique is not governed by the specific approaches i take when recording my own voice in boolean.
critique is about the person i am advising.
my writing and my voice exist independently to critique, as much as i can make that so; my job as someone who is critiquing someone else is *not* to impose my voice on them, but to listen for their voice, and to help them make that voice more resonant.
if i can prevent them from starving, i have done a good job.
if i can help them to feed themselves, i have done a good job.
These are the same tactics i employ when critiquing artwork,
casually and professionally.
My decision both to eschew caps in reference to myself and to use the lowercase 'i'
is intended to pay homage to a line of scholars who i deeply admire and from whom many of my thoughts are descended.2
1 Muñoz, Cruising Utopia, 1–3, 6-7. 104, 132-139
2 i am here referencing scholars such as bell hooks, danah boyd, and micha cárdenas. This presentation is both homage and strong agreement with their work and their reasoning.
Additionally, in fine art, we are visual authors, and we are authors who are very much not dead-- the discipline broadly leaves no room for an empowered reader to argue for the validity of their own interpretations, there is only room for the meaning we meant to impose on the world through the work, which is understood to be intrinsic to the work itself, and which must always be obvious and universal and available for public consumption.
But to argue that there is one universal interpretation to anything is to exclude anyone whose context does not grant them the intuitive access necessary to ‘read it correctly’, and to further mark them implicitly as catastrophically deviant as the work’s meaning is thought to be intrinsic. That argument-- that the meaning of a work can be universally understood (that there is one/one set of correct interpretations)-- would also deny the means by which i survived for decades, by ravenously devouring every piece of media that i thought interesting and intuitively altering it as necessary to see myself in it, regardless of the author’s preference. (No apologies to Ms. Rowling, whose magical school will *always* be full of trans kids for me.)
bell hooks says that she eschews capitalization “to emphasize the substance of her writing as opposed to who she is.” i cross-apply the same convention, making a slight deviation: i am operating within a discipline that only makes room for who i am, and that also thinks it understands what that means, that demands my who-ness be instantly legible on normative, neurotypical, cishet terms.
But my work is my a personal mythology, developed privately for decades with a rich and idiosyncratic iconography, put to pictures: i do not need to sign it to be present in it, and its legitimacy is not determined by a stranger’s ability to read it accurately.
or at all.
So, in homage to-- and in the spirit of-- bell hooks, i am visibly removing myself from the work by means of non-capitalization, and i am doing so to strengthen the function of my work and the theories behind it. In the context of my discipline, that means making room for other people.The work is already of me; it is not conventionally *for* an audience, in the sense that it was not made to serve them and it will not be altered for their comfort, *but* they are welcome to it - to engage with it-- on its own terms and their own.
For similar reasons, i try to remove myself from the process of critique-- because critique is not about me, and it’s not for me-- it’s about and for the person i’m critiquing, and whatever they’re trying to do with their work.
boyd, “What’s in a Name?”
“bell hooks: Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies.”
nessi alexander-barnes is an interdisciplinary artist who draws its thoughts in allegory so as to make sense of the world. It is anxious, neurodivergent, transmasculine nonbinary (yes, simultaneously; yes, that is possible; gender is not math and is thus under no obligation to follow linear logic), genderqueer, and generally queer. It accepts many pronouns (xe, they, he), but the one it uses –– and has always used –– internally is the one used here.
I could not hear the other side / the other side could not hear me
The body runs its applets
as apples shyly glow thunking
through the dusk beneath the trees
so, too, there is a gear in us nimbly clicking
in foreshortened air
I hear the arc and whirr of it ratcheting the nil
the empty shaft—
meantime, the river stretches out the single silver fiber that it is
and the body with its silver threads
halflit in the armchair (lavender or avocado green)
flickers, intermittent attempting to connect
with something it could wish for
arcsine ─── archive
secant ─── e-cig
tangent ─── grassquit
as the river snarking past the house fidgets with its lake
its dirty bank—
If only I had been some other kind of self
if / then would you skype me
until I sky myself
because this dark is a variant of every other dark
a spindle of intent that I must nightly choose to wind
Alix Anne Shaw is the author of three poetry collections: Rough Ground (Etruscan, 2018), Dido in Winter (Persea, 2014), and Undertow (Persea, 2007), winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize. Her work appears in Harvard Review, Fence, Denver Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, New American Writing, and online at www.alixanneshaw.com. She is also a sculptor.
You were looking for different
words to say good team player. I
suggested you use more verbs. I
suggested you say you over saw the team. I suggested you
call me. Together, we practiced
for the part of the interview
where they ask if you have any
questions. I have a question. My
question is, what team do we play
for. My question is, what did you
do, did you manage or over see, my question is, what did you
oversee, my question is why do we keep
using the same words and how would
a wolf talk and what would it say.
THE WOLF EMAILED ME ITS RÉSUMÉ
works well with others magna
no, summa no, magna cum laude
feels at home in competitive
fast-paced work environments no,
thrives in highly-structured, close-knit
work environments should i say
team, community or should i
say environment should i say
highly specialized harder than
bone the one who went in first when
it heard the herd-lost calf call out
certificate program master
of business administration
highly motivated who went
in second when it smelled the coat
dyed red words per minute
experience with excel and
java executed special
projects stumbled home the morning
after wearing someone else’s
clothes went in first and never
once fell behind not ever
THE ANIMALS IN THE ROOM
You drank too much. The animals came into the room. They saw your path to the exit blocked. Their herd-sense calculated one or two escape routes, attuned tick-bitten ears on your behalf to the exact moment when you could have spoken up, turned an art appraiser’s eye to silence, threw themselves into the painting on the wall, the deer with hard black eyes with one bright painful spot of blue in them. They came into the room. Your terror wanted them to watch what happened and your terror saw the blue spot and your terror got a lichen-eating audience to your bullseye focus on that blue-stained motel deerseye, your terror drank too much, your eyes summoned them, they saw your story shrink into a fist.
THE WOLF MAKES AN APPOINTMENT AT THE O.B-G.Y.N.
I just had some quick questions. I was just calling for a routine checkup. My first question is whatare you saying. My next question is what do you mean by contraindication. What do you mean by sexual preference. What exactly are you offering me and can I avoid eye contact and can I say no thank you and
Look, is this one of those things where the story’s author finds itself complicit because I was just asking questions I was not following orders I was just writing things down and I didn’t ask for any of this. It’s not my fault if the cattle don’t keep track of their numbers, it’s not up to me whose clothes I’m wearing and if fawns go missing. What I am asking is,
Look, it was just body language. It doesn’t mean anything. I’m just saying I was hungry, it was just a hotel room I paid for. I was only baring my teeth for show.
THE WOLF RETURNS YOUR CALL
It has a question.
It wants to know what
you mean when you say
Seem. For example,
when they say that You don’t seem like yourself,
it does not know what
Seeming is, so it
can’t tell. You tell it
this is a question
This is a question,
this is not a pet.
This is a question,
a wild animal.
Do not touch the bars.
Keep your hands to your
self. Come home wearing
someone else’s clothes.
Don’t be mistaken.
What do they mean by
Do not feed. Do you
understand what that
means. Do you find it
confusing for some
reason, when it licks
your face and asks you
questions. What happened,
it asks. You’re crying.
What does crying mean.
Meghan Kemp-Gee was born in Vancouver BC and writes poetry, comics, and scripts in Los Angeles. She won the Poetry Society of America 2014 Lyric Poetry Award. Her work has also appeared in Copper Nickel, Helen: A Literary Magazine, The Rush, Switchback, and Skyd Magazine. She teaches written inquiry and composition at Chapman University.
Here is my brain. It is writing this. For you. In Times New Roman. To make us both feel. Better. We feel even. Here is my brain. Here is my brain on drugs. No eggs this time. Only the good ones. The doctor ones. Perfectly legal. I feel fine. Perfectly regal. I don’t feel pain. The earth is. Rotating on its axis and so. Is this room. And so are you. We are. Fine. Welcome to my book.
Here is the world. We are in this together. The body pulls. In towards itself and towards all of us. That is all we need. Am I doing this right. Where was I again.
Here is the body. Of water. That you were looking for. Take a drink. Kiss the mirror. It will last longer. Don’t forget. To call the pharmacy again.
Here is the state. Of things. We are in this together and the room is moving with us. How nice. How orderly. How together we are. I love you for being here with me. We think about hop scotch and that’s fine enough for now. I offer us a cold beverage. We love cold beverages especially when it’s hot out. How nice.
Here is the fire. Place. It’s warming us up. We needed it. We feel safe now. We breathe it in. The smoke that’s good. We’re saw dust. We love this stuff. We’re so happy we’re here. Did you see the moon. Landing.
Here we go again. It’s hurling towards us. Look out. That was close. Let’s take a bath. Let’s promise each other we’ll never bathe again. That will make us proud. That will make us eat peaches. It doesn’t
matter what we think. We forgot to call the pharmacy again.
Here is your brain on. Music. I’ll give it to you Einstein. I’ll take you on a boat and make you watch it sink. Do you believe me now. Is anybody alive out there. Can anybody hear me.
Here it is. We’ve been looking for you and here you were all along. That’s the nature of it we figure. Hide and we’ll seek. Do you think we can find it by smell. Should we bake cookies. Can we find our way home from
Here is an orange. Let me show you how to slice it. First you take an orange. Then you stick your thumb in it. Then you hold it up to the moon. This step is important. Don’t think about it. Think about orange juice. Think about swallowing. Spin it like it’s the earth. Now you can eat it.
Here is that memory I wasn’t looking for. You brought it back all of a sudden in a little tote bag. I had forgotten all about it and now here it is. What a surprise. Did you bring a gift receipt.
Here is the new one.
Here is my dusty balloon. I unpacked it just for you. It will stay put if you let it. Give it a kiss.
Here is my note. I am writing to you. To express my gratitude for your prompt response. It is nice to be thought of so quickly. I’ve been thinking about what you said about jam. I am with you for the most part. Have you given any thought to peaches. That is the only hole.
Here. I said here. A little to the left. A little more. A bit higher. Not that high. But a little higher. Yes.
Here’s your hat. What’s your hurry.
Here I’m giving you an out. I’m giving you an out. Well if you don’t want to take it. That’s not on me.
Here I am. Surprise. I got you this time. You should have seen your face. You looked like an icicle. You hardly knew you were dangerous. You keep dripping in my eye. I shouldn’t keep looking up. Let me know when you spot the moon.
Here we go again.
Here I will read it back to you. So do you love it. You can be honest. It won’t hurt. My feelings. Well you could have been nicer about it.
Here are my keys. Now get lost.
Here is my urine. Sample. I made it just for you. I hope you like it. I wiped the outside with toilet paper. I even signed it. I packed this silver tray just to deliver it to you. I hope you don’t mind the garnish. I couldn’t decide between turnips and peaches.
Here comes trouble.
Here you went. I let you die without asking. I could have done it. I could have made it easier for all of us. But here you were and I couldn’t say a thing besides no I am not my mother. It was too late for talks about The Great Depression. Our great depression. I don’t know why but I knew. I will save them for us forever. We will live on forever.
Olivia Muenz is an MFA candidate in creative writing at Louisiana State University. She received her BA from NYU and is currently the Nonfiction Editor for New Delta Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, The Boiler, Pidgeonholes, Heavy Feather Review, Timber Journal, Peach Magazine, Stone of Madness Press, and ctrl+v. @oliviamuenz
our greatest ambition, to be met somewhere other than the middle
passage—just a shadow but sometimes
it’s hard to walk around in your own
worn shoes like an old truth, grotesquely
retrospect of addressed flesh & grit
teeth. across a sea that is big & was
already old, what survives may not be
pretty: what color could shadows
be once this present is subsumed?
answered in that familiar hush,
saved for spaces where your life is
the one game in town. so many bodies
find predicaments, but it’s rare
to worry over naming
blame while they are still
only named bodies, haunting
us like a ghost that isn’t quite
friendly yet carries along with you
knowing you need the company
for the habit of horror.
a habitat teaches you to remain
resilient or alive. most times
that is enough to be and joy
is safely ignored, but when they demand
to hear mourning you can remain
enough, be made sacred by silence &
leave them to listen & listen & listen
for the stillness of no
sound at all, running head
long for your brilliant, elated pause.
in the absence of a parrot
a nature curated in the obverse
self we have always craved as conquerors
airbrushed past all recognition
of our predation, a shadow at the whole
which word alone cannot erase
from the geologic record
expanding as we are into time measured
in strata, the historical record keeps
the familiar shapes of our noses, the color
on our backs and our shoulders, the voices
trapped as legacies of legacy invested in ornaments
like truth, molded into anachronistic
oddities waiting for their day to be
sold at market literate in the value of remains
grown small with time, even our oak shriveled, softened
for the hands of children elastic as they wiggle
the rods, rattle bladeless sabers, able to imagine
they never sought blood, never drained color from any face
recognizable as man; how inviting these artifacts
as they approach dissolution. even waves turn
static waiting for break, distance decays, even
the sand slows itself from melting as glass resting
between you and drowning, an imagined protection
expanding as we are into time measured
in strata, the historical record keeps
a hilly cemetery nearby in the tall weightless grass, an old
barn melting into ground across the bay, a good place
to share with a cat or something else to outlive, accessories
to remember instead of leaving behind. the world at my back,
exposed to nothing but the humming drone of nothing, the rest of
the world all in process. become this thing we tell ourselves we are
expanding as we are into time measured
in strata, the historical record keeps
the grief which your cat lacks when it fails
to miss you, or your own
nostalgia, an evolutionary wedge which found a way
to process loss as promise, holding on
to every one of our mistakes, until mirrors
fade back into sand and we drown
under the weight of it all
the historical record keeps
for its sheer number of things
expanding as we are, the time
to answer question is past.
for all the broken things unfixed with nothing left but time to fix them
we’ve discovered whole vocabularies
of disappointment; maybe I am
as old as we all feel, detached
as we all think. what if all this talk
of new normal is nothing more
than old rumor finally hitting the fan
& we all see the very same thing
in the inkblot splatters on separate walls
& can’t chalk it up to happenstance, again.
what if all this distance is is
a really big mirror facing
the wrong way. what if the universe was not
such an unspeakable terror
for its endlessness & my hands,
pale palms unburned & open,
tumbled each and every one of you
I could ever imagine loving, breathing
& petrified, into the inert
vision at the ends of my own
go-go-gadget arms, finally enough
to fold each and every one
within a single shared thought and not
recognizing the universe in deference
to its scale we always mistranslate
as endless difference. will each and every
or even just one of you
please pity me with this simple kindness:
tell me it’s okay that the universe is so big
that it must be ignored.
Isaac Pickell is a passing poet & PhD student at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he lives & studies the borderlands of blackness & black literature. His work’s found in Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Fence, Protean Magazine, and Sixth Finch, and his debut chapbook everything saved will be last is available now from Black Lawrence Press.
crisp crimson that twirl and turn
to flakes of ice
as they fall
become pink petals
settle on shoulders
that know nothing
Who are you
who can bear
suffer these changes and stand
solid on the Kamo River
where rock and weed and fish
and refuse to cling
even as its waters
hesitate to set
settle at feet
that know nothing
Who are you
ever above flow
head toward the mountain
searching for source
WEIGHT WITHOUT GRAVITY
There is no weight without gravity.
But matter and weight have come
To mean the same things:
What keeps our feet on the ground, what pulls
At clouds to return to sea, why we fear
We have assigned them, too
To other things: meaning
Weight no longer belongs to the body.
My mother's weight keeps her pinned
To this hospital bed, chained
By our fears, by all she has to fight.
She is her body now more than ever.
The pressure of her hand in mine
A collection of mere molecules—
Matter acted upon by gravity.
And I waver at the edge of You and
This is not you, I tell her.
The weight of our worry pulls the water from her eyes.
I do not fear the words dead, weight.
The part of my mother I wait to waken
Weighs nothing and means all.
Andrea Teran is a climate change adaptation specialist, currently working on climate change-induced (human) migration. Her writing is mostly an expression of her fascination with the natural world, and finding our place in it.