Danielle P. Williams


I come from families where men don’t understand how to
love me I’ve seen their eyes I’ve lied to myself and everyone
else and still can’t seem to get it out of my thick skull It’s not
anybody’s job to love me I don’t think it’s a job at all I’ve seen
more women scarred than I’d like to I hate compliments as
threats Threats as men who should have been protecting me
Don’t you know what love means I come from families who
carry their secrets to the grave And we’ve all just been
endangering ourselves Lives whispering tomorrow away And
I can’t say that any of them know me Though I’ve cried and
stared dead in their eyes Open and shut I shout when I’m
alone and call it thick skin All these familiar hauntings I have
trauma and pain and knots that grind Sometimes I think
about men like fictional characters People who know what
love means Not the men I know God only knows the lives
they’ve lived and buried What other women hurt of them
And everyday I carry them in my worry like sling-stones to
my back I never know who to throw back I never know who
I’ll weep for first                                                    


Danielle is shown before dense green foliage. Danielle has medium dark skin and dark hair in long braids. Danielle wears roundrimmed eyeglasses, large earings of brightblue or silver, a black tanktop, and bluegreen skirt or pants.

Danielle P. Williams is a poet, essayist and spoken-word artist from Columbia, South Carolina. She is a MFA candidate at George Mason University. Danielle strives to give voice to unrepresented cultures, making it a point to expand on the narratives and experiences of her Black and Chamorro cultures. Her poems were selected for the 2020 Literary Award in Poetry from Ninth Letter. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, The Pinch, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere. For more, visit daniellepwilliams.com.




Mihee Kim

sun choke

The Korean American is a prideful sunflower
Twisting to its own image, rebellious as a
Mottled pear. Chartreuse hums juicy promises
Olive pigments lose to the cool and warm
Shades of skin flash dance in an ad for girls 12-14
Our colors baffle biological discourse
The pantone wheel shows no shade can be marketed
To all of us. At recess, I’m tired of identity so I
Sign up for sports. I dog the ball and shoot to
Shatter. Barely miss the goalie who withers thin before
A basket mouth of redwood limbs. As the ball connects
The goal shivers, grows tumescently above the field
I am frozen in my leap and kick. I blink
Darkness and collapse.


The Korean American disintegrates
Twisted nettle. Proud armor for a lunchtime
Game. The goal shivers, ruptures grass in the field
Unctuous earth bubbles loam and in the
Turnover, a pear hums to keep its
Juices. Baffling biological discourse
Olive pigments army crawl in the
Skin towards each other
The pantone wheel shows no shade can be sold
To all of us. At recess, I’m tired of identity so I
Become a worm. I dig in the earth for
Shatters of dirt. Barely register the basket
Mouth of redwood limbs creeping above
I normally feel everything around me.

a beating

we tongue our losses
we weave songs from pulsing
and nothing else
a jubilee of blood butting
tenderest wrist
we      beat       the air in C-major
until our shoulders shake
center keys lightning eye between eyes
central root ruptures
earth-made filia fray down
a red-centered plume
takes the belliest cake
we        tongue        our     losses
we weave stories
from what’s happening
and nothing else
it happens now
everyone I’ve ever scared is
already scared
everyone I’ve lied to is here now
all the music of my youth
has gone to bed
fifth chakra        stutters
as I swallow kumquat
my neck reads : a debilitating mass lives here
trust no neck no wrist
no frail parts of you
hidden in pits
we tongue-sing a happening
and nothing else
we beat ourselves pink
we bust down
we bus it downtown
we ride our crowns to after home
we take the drum in our skin to mean
our bodies live
we        tongue        our     losses
we        weave ourselves into cilia
until the room is warm


Mihee is shown, before the trunk of a tree. Mihee has light skin, long bright blond hair, and black eyebrows. Mihee wears a light grey turtleneck.

Mihee Kim (she/they) is a Queer, Korean-American artist and poet. Her work has been nominated for a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize. Recent publications include: Asian American Writer’s Workshop, Foglifter, JetFuel Review, Apogee Journal, and poems are forthcoming in Anomaly. She earned a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an MFA at California College of the Arts. She lives, organizes and creates on Chochenyo Ohlone land, also known as beloved Oakland, California. Mihee is also Managing Director of Kearny Street Workshop, a longstanding arts nonprofit for Asian Pacific Americans.




Leslie Contreras Schwartz

Echolocation with Self and Body Parts

It’s the eyes slit into walls, half open lids
that tricks. The lips beneath the eyes blue & frost-bitten. 
Corpse pose. But a crowbar jams against cut and quartered,

clicking tongues to find the jigsaw of other parts.
A foot in the door, a silent wrenching turning beneath the ground.
Nearing exhaustion, slit eyes with lids half closing. Half breathing.

Feeling for the one other body part, a hand, a rib, a foot, 
a labia at a time. Where are you, the inner thigh calls to vastus lateralis.
Furrows of corpse flower, quartered and twinned yet firm against cuts & crowbar.

A jaw’s gotten free and is having dinner with the dandelions. 
Behind the supper party, a knee and a femur knock on the door
with cracked walls, shutters half open. Let us back in.

Outside loose limbs make cacophony with their reaching 
and clacking, hitting elbows into table corners, crowns into leg bones.
Knocked out into corpse pose. Waiting vultures in fours opening beaks like crowbars.

The unpeopled people make slits into walls, can see half 
dissolving selves in parts, whole, or half-rendered.
The crowbar useless to the coffin. 

But it’s corpse that feeds the fauna, forests the tree its crowns.
& only the mouth drops into the earth, only voice textured in fur, 
velvet in fissure and sediment. It can never be lost without its tether. 

From under the earth, waiting to hear what I’m doing 
just yet and what mercy opens its eye.

 Muscle Memory (2020)

A sculpture made of various cloths, spattered with red paint that looks like blood.

Illness and Origami

Inside ourselves, we 
are folded:

lines for future folds, reference
points, hidden or interior lines. 

An old recipe of heart songs
and nightmares.

Folds get unfolded: the blood, the veins,
the cells, the bones. 

Collapsed, secreted, warped.
A traveling purse that takes a virus whole
and lets it burrow into the spirit-matter.

This is how a year of illness 
sheds leafs from a fever-tree.

The in-and-out sight of your last love, his dark lashes.


Bloody coughing, half-sleeping, breathing cut 
and rough,

do the body and the mind exist in the mirror images, 
combined with double squash, swivel fold? Everything hazes as they 

exist side-by-side, in this common valley of sick.
Points are brought together at a single spot of destruction

to believe that we are so irreducibly complex—all it takes is one blow.

Folds get unfolded, in any case. The inside reverse fold, used to change
direction of a flap, and inside the body’s well sits mountain, 
valley, rabbit-ear folds creased along the walls: 

birthing flaps that wave like tattered flags
the white flutter of surrender
or the triumph of a woman’s skirt in spring.

I’m going to die like this.


Winter had ended and still I could not sit up.
Leave me here, I tell my husband.


The mind the body the mind the body
I am the object combined in three easy steps:

pre-crease forever, then collapse and collapse.


Leslie is shown, before the trunk of a tree, grass, and a wooden closedslat fence. Leslie has light brown skin and shoulderlength dark hair. Leslie wears eyeglasses or sunglasses pushed up above the hairline, a necklace of variegated metal or stained glass plates, and a short-sleeved shirt or blouse, with a scoop collar and black trim and patterning on khaki ground, the pattern of mammal- or reptile-skin.

Leslie Contreras Schwartz is the 2019-2021 Houston Poet Laureate. Her fourth book, Black Dove / Paloma Negra (FlowerSong Press, 2020), is a finalist for the 2020 Best Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her work has appeared in Missouri Review, Iowa Review, [PANK], Verse Daily, Pleiades, Zocalo Public Square, and Xicanx: 21 Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century (University of Arizona, 2022), edited by ire’ne lara silva, among other publications. She is a member of the Macondo Writers’ Collective, and is a proud disabled Mexican American poet with roots in Texas and Houston going back several generations. She teaches writing workshops in the community. She is also currently a faculty member at the new  Alma College’s MFA low-residency program in creative writing.




Reil Benedict Obinque


I was alone and old and it was a sweltering Monday afternoon. Sleepy, I was lying on my rattan hammock outside of my home when a girl, around nine years old, came to me because she had gotten so pale she thought she needed a physician. 

“But I am no physician, young girl. I’m a physicist,” I said, not getting out of my hammock. 

“But aren’t you a doctor?” she asked, gripping the edge of the hammock. She was so small and so close to me I needed to get up to avoid the smell of moss stuck on her hair.

“I am a doctor in physics, not a medical doctor, so if you could please go back to your parents now, for they may be looking for you.”

I stood up and she tugged the hem of my shirt, still pleading.

“But I have travelled so long with my dog, Champ, just to reach you. We’ve crossed seven rivers and my dog died on the way here. I need your help.”

“What help?” I asked, trying to get her hands off my shirt.

“I’m getting so, so pale I’m afraid I’m becoming invisible.”

Then she extended her hands and indeed they were oddly pale her skin looked like layers of gossamers, that I could see through her if I just drew myself closer. Her face, I noticed, was as white as my balding hair. But I told her, “No. There is nothing I can do.”

I turned my back and she desperately ran after me.

“No, doctor! Please don’t turn your back on me! Look! Look what’s happening!”

And when I turned around, I noticed how one of her fingers had turned translucent. 

“Have you got no daughter, doctor?” she asked, a voice of a six-your-old articulating the thought of a middle-aged lady.

“Don’t call me doctor,” I said, taken aback still by her partial invisibility, “and I did have a daughter, but she died a long time ago.”

“Then you should know how it feels to lose a daughter, sir,” she said, back to her pleading face.

I sighed and fixed my stare at the abandoned hammock. It somehow turned into an empty cradle. 


I looked at her and her hand was gone.

“Please don’t take your eyes off me. It makes me paler,” she said. “My dog had been looking after me during our journey and see what happened when he died.”

“So you just want me to look at you?”

“Please, sir.”


“I don’t know.”

I wanted to shoo her away and shut the door but I was afraid the moment I open it I would see only her orange headband and her orange dress floating over her orange sandals. I let her in and made sure my eyes were all on her, trying my best not to blink.  

She walked around the house dazzled by how large it was. 

“It’s only large because it’s empty,” I said, but she was no longer listening, for she was already taking her sandals off, heading toward the couch. As she was jumping on it, I stared at her, for I had to stare at her, and realized I had not seen a girl for a long time. I had not seen a hair so curly bouncing over tiny shoulders. She was flailing her hands as though there was music only she could hear. 

She fell from the couch and it shook me from my recollection. I ran toward her and pulled her up, asking if she was okay. She just giggled and said everything was fine, but she was getting hungry.

“Do you have biscuits, sir?” she asked. “Champ and I only ate moss on the way here I think they’re growing and greening inside my stomach.”

I lead her to the kitchen table and together we ate the cookies that had been untouched inside that tin box for weeks. As she ate biscuits after biscuits, leaving not even crumbs, my eyes were still on her, for I had to, but also because I was looking at how her hand was slowly going back to normal.

She yawned and slouched on her chair. 

“I’m tired,” she said just as I was about to remind her it was rude to yawn at the dining table. “Do you have storybooks, sir? Will you read me storybooks?”

“Isn’t it too early for bedtime stories?” I asked. 

“But I am sleepy.”

I took her to my daughter’s room upstairs, keeping an eye on her, telling her not to move too much for she might trip. We reached my daughter’s room I hadn’t opened for years. She walked around the room and ran her fingers along the edges of the unused cradle, poked the bobo penguin doll, traced the surface of the empty bookshelves, asking, “Sir, where are the storybooks?”

I did not know how to tell her there were none, for there was suddenly no one to read them to, that going there for the storybooks was just an excuse to go to the room I hadn’t visited for years. 

“I forgot I sold them a long time ago,” I said instead. “But I could tell you a story!”

The truth was that I knew no children’s story, that all my life I had been burying my head on my books I had forgotten stories that once filled me happiness when I was little. Having thought of the most childish story, I asked, “Do you want to hear the story of a young man and an apple?”

She seemed excited, not knowing that minutes afterward, she would be yawning as I lectured her about gravity. So this is how you make a young girl sleep, I told myself. Talk about gravity like it is a beautiful unicorn, when gravity is what’s responsible for a heart getting heavy, when gravity is what pulls a wife’s body down when she decides to hang herself, when gravity, too, pulls an infant out of its mother’s womb during a miscarriage.

I looked at the girl already sleeping on my lap as I was in the middle of grappling for an answer to her question: will I still have my gravity when I become invisible? You will not become invisible, young girl, I should have told her. I should have comforted her by saying I will never take my eyes off her, that this time I will pay more attention, for there are things more fascinating than my hunger for knowledge and validation. I should have read her stories about wizards and witches than talk to her about Newton. I should have come home when I knew they needed my affection. I did not notice I was already smoothing the girl’s curly hair, humming a lullaby I practiced a long time ago when she told me we were pregnant. 

But I was old and alone and it was a sweltering Monday afternoon when I was supposedly lying on my hammock. My own humming lulled me to sleep. I felt my eyes drooping and I tried to fight back, but something in my head told me there was no way I could do it, and that I had been like that always. I tried to pinch myself several times but my back always felt the comfortable couch. Humming and rubbing her hair, I did not notice my eyes were already closed as I lay back and started to snore.

When I awoke, I felt the weightlessness on my lap. She was no longer there. But I knew she was in the room somewhere. It was just that I could not see her. Feeling so sorry, feeling so angry at myself for having slept, I searched for a floating dress that could have been roaming around the house. Desperate, I was about to shout her name, but I remembered I never asked for her name in the first place. But I knew she was there. She must be hiding, furious at me and how I slept when I promised I would not take my eyes off her. There must be traces of her inside the house—some foot marks she had left or pieces of furniture slightly moved to tell me where she went. But the house felt so empty that my footsteps echoed inside it. 

I searched for her until sunset, until silence enveloped me like a suffocating bag to make me feel how I was so old and so alone and it was a cold Monday night and no one could look after me. I caught a glimpse of me on the window pane. I’m getting pale, I realized. I’m getting so, so pale.

Reil is shown, before a white wall and what may be a window onto a green room. Reil has light brown skin, and dark hair, shaved short at the sides and higher on top, and a thin mustache and goatee. Reil wears a crew neck shirt patterned with thin brown and white horizontal stripes.

Reil Benedict Obinque is a calculus and physics teacher in Ateneo de Davao Senior High School. Some of his works have appeared in Dagmay, Philippines Graphic, Manila Times, Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, and The Brown Orient.




Regine Cabato

Stranger Things Have Happened

These are true: In 2003, the circus came to Manila and an elephant
escaped. The eight-foot-tall mass of hide and ivory took a stroll

down EDSA, causing much traffic. In Olutanga Island,
there is a man who speaks to sea snakes. Their local nickname

is walo-walo, because their venom kills in eight days. They
do not harm him, but only live in his hut. Calamba

is native to a man who underwent 17 plastic surgeries
to look like Superman. Visit any karaoke joint in the country—

residents believe a certain Frank Sinatra single kills. My sister
has three moles precisely, which when aligned form Orion’s

Belt. When she first showed me this, I demanded: How
did that happen? North of my hometown a boy born paraplegic

stands up and walks at the age of ten. His mother says it was a gift
from a saint. Whenever I am kneeling to a Virgin of Miracles, I ask:

Is it you who writes this stuff? The devotees are a wave
of hands, reaching to grab your consecrations, the ironies

you have to offer. I’m at the back of the line, sick
of all these riddles. When I dig up all these bones, I’m sure

some femur or phalange will be missing. I’d stalk
a magician after the show, search his pockets

for rabbit holes. I am always waiting to be seized
by one more plot twist. God, just tell me how you did it.

2019 SPEAKS TO 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Capitalism finds a way to make you pay for things you can download for free. You’re okay with it.

Borat plays a dictator. Then he fights authoritarianism.

Friendster and MySpace are dead. Do not trust their successor.

You’ve spent over 70 hours on a TV show that will disappoint. But you’d do it all over again.

Spider-man is black. He’s also monochrome. He’s also a pig.

The Jonas Brothers break up. Don’t worry, they’re back.

Mexico’s drug war is coming to your street like gossip on the galleon from Acapulco.

Pigs are still getting sick. This time, humans can’t catch it.

Mulan supports a fascist regime.

You’ll stand for hours in a protest all because someone wants to bury a dictator and a hatchet.

My Chemical Romance breaks up. Don’t worry, they’re back.

The feud between Kanye West and Taylor Swift doesn’t end.

A Filipino hosts Blue’s Clues.

There are only 27 endemic hornbills left on the island of Sulu.

Everyone is sick of Harry Potter now, mostly due to J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account.

The Amazon is on fire.

The Philippines is the last country in the world where divorce isn’t legal, after the Vatican.

People will clap for Kim Jong Un and boo Aung Sun Suu Kyi.

So many people you do not know are dead. The two prevailing causes are dengue and hitmen.

Polio was eradicated. It’s back.

At the airport, before their flight home, your nephews—you have nephews—will cling to your side, and ask you for stories.

The world is coming together. The world is coming to shit.

In short, the period is so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


The excavation began in June. My companion
Billy is a scientist, so he only ever believes
in facts. I’d like to believe I’m a number one fan
of this artifact, so hard to come by since Pluto’s
on-and-off undeclaration as a planet cut short its
lifespan. Everyone on earth was minding their own
business when the Internet crashed into it
like an asteroid and jumpstarted the cretaceous
post-truth. Climate change makes for a good
deadline—what a great and terrible headline
that would be, if we ever get to release it.
But today we might as well be devotees
looking for their God. We had had many leads:
The space rover we cast gave us only rocks.
The Antarctic expedition was a bust.
The probes we sent to the Pacific came up
empty. We had heard that the Gobi Desert
was once a sea, so we pressed the shells
we found there to our ears: white noise.
Sometimes I worry: Have we been searching
for truth so long that we don’t recognize it?
What was the last thing it said before it left?
Do we even remember what it looked like—
a fossil? A papyrus? A voice? I’ve heard so many people
claim to hear him preaching in the Andes, his voice
bouncing off the back of a mountain. Only the other day
he was trapped at the bottom of a well in Egypt.
But you can believe no one nowadays. How could we,
since truth went missing? And once we found him,
how were we to present him? Would he resist
examination? Or was he lost somewhere, his leg trapped
in some canyon or cave, waiting to be found?
Some afternoons I’d tell Billy, he’s so close now
I could reach out and tug his sleeve. Or, can you hear
him? He’s laughing at us this very minute.
But at night when the tent is wrapped in the chirping
of crickets, I think of how afraid I am of chasing
the most sought after interview in the world.
When we find truth, would I be angry at him,
or relieved? Would I ask first how could you, or
do aliens really exist? or how many times
did you manifest in George Orwell’s 1984?
Sometimes I wonder if he’s off on a mission
to eat, pray, love in some Tibetan monastery
or Indian yoga camp. Sometimes I wonder
if he wants to be found. So many people
break their backs every day, waiting
for him to arrive: schoolteachers, private
eyes, criminals lined up on death rows.
One minute he is in a newsroom in New York,
the next in a birthing room in Kenya. Nowadays,
rarely ever in urban spaces, and almost never
in America. And what if I’ve been walking
on truth all along? What if truth had many surfaces?
What if truth was a sphere? Sometimes I doubt
even my companions, but trust is different from truth.
Billy is the most honest person I know, holding
the team’s shit all together. He tells us the earth
isn’t flat and we believe it. Once, on the way
to a campsite, our raw thanksgiving chicken
tumbled out of the icebox, exploding
on the mudtracked road. He told us the microbes
would kill us if we ate it. We were relieved
to have someone confirm our biases, but best believe
we’d have gobbled it up at the slightest pang
of hunger. So we roasted marshmallows
instead, on some forgotten backbone
of Canada, watching the ice melt.
He says when the truth finally occurs to us,
we’ll never believe what he has to say.
He says, we’ll probably think he’s a poem.
We’ll come up with all these adaptations of him.
We’ll cut him up into obscene lines.
No way, I tell him. Yes way, he says.
The truth can say whatever the fuck it wants,
and we’ll all still hear something else.


You would not believe how many people abandon
their pets. The pet store was clearing shelves, so I took a bone
and a dog and drove. The news delivers until it can’t—
a few hours before it happens, the last station broadcasts
its last goodbye: Thank you, and good night.
The end will be live tweeted, anyway.
At my office carpark, I call my parents
to tell them I love them. I hit the road
with an eighties playlist. But there’s a traffic jam
here, at the end of the world, so I get out and walk the dog
to nowhere. I thought that I would at least be busy
with paperwork, or sex. Instead, I am looking for my friends
in the last diners, the last gas stations, the last
Korean supermarkets. They are always in the last
place you look. I think of my bullies,
including the senile landlady who refused
to close the pipe when we blew off a tap by accident.
I think of my exes, even the one I never call my ex.
I think of the neighborhoods I have lived in, their flower pots
and stray kittens. I turn them over in my head,
empty their alleyways to walk my ghosts in them.
How must they be doing, I wonder, here at the end of all things?
I thought when it would arrive I would be angry; instead, I am
tired. But we have our afterlives for tiredness. Today
is for walking as far as you can. The orchestra played Autumn
right into the ocean as the Titanic sank. In the morning
we will all be frozen. I find my friends in our favorite picnic spot,
blanket spread, spreading strawberry jam on bread, overlooking
the end. I pull up a chair. The dog chases a butterfly.
Here at the end of all things, I am looking over the edge:
Everything is still. The world flickers, like a mirage—
or like a television channel, right before the static.

Regine is shown, before the pale blue frame of a door or window, with sunlit foliage shown without. Regine has light brown skin and brown hair, longer at least than shoulder length.

Regine Cabato is a journalist based in Manila. She is a recipient of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award and Loyola Schools Award for the Arts for poetry. Her poems have been published in Kritika Kultura, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and Rambutan Literary, among others. She hails from Zamboanga City.




Pedantic Pedestrians


Introduction: The Past in Ruins, a Future in Bloom

While there have been numerous studies on the margins of the Cordillera Protected Area (CPA), botanical explorations in the post-Quake ruins of the area formerly called the “Metro Baguio-La Trinidad” have been sparse. After a month of research in the said zone, we present to you the results of a series of field immersions by our botanical expeditionary group. 

After a 9.6-magnitude earthquake levelled what was once an overdeveloped mountain city in the year 2030, citizens received practically no support from the national government as the entire country at that time was experiencing a total societal collapse. With all government functions (including scientific agencies) paralyzed to a halt, populations left the ruins of Metro Baguio and migrated to larger cities. Thus, it was only after a full century that scientists were able to re-enter the now inhospitable Cordillera mountains. 

The Baguio-La Trinidad area specifically, is a fascinating field because it is one of the few places rife with opportunities for botanists to study post-civilization flora. Its relative ecological isolation also adds interest when it comes to biodiversity and unique ecosystems.

The undisturbed status of post-Quake Baguio-La Trinidad’s flora has been established by two factors. The first are the natural barriers that cropped up after the 2030 earthquake, effectively blocking major and minor entry points into the zone. The second is the government’s decision to mark the entire Cordillera highlands as a protected area after the Quake. Due to the persistent local beliefs about ‘ghosts’ of the victims of the 2030 earthquake still roaming the forests, public discussion on the famed city became a taboo topic (Miekle, 2116). 

Regarding the former: even up to now, geologists find it mysterious how the area’s landscape managed to change in such a dramatic manner. But while we cannot underestimate the role of “The Quake” in the area’s geological transformation, we know that the stage for the city’s ruin has already been set for quite some time before it happened. Decades before the earthquake struck, the city has been burdened by a host of urban problems, including relentless ‘development’ of vacant green areas, an uncontrollable urban sprawl brought by lack of housing options, and others. All of these led to geological hazards such as ground subsidence, erosion, etc. which were bound to exacerbate the effects of even the mildest seismic activities. 

Interestingly, we have evidence that in ingenious ways that only nature itself could design, pre-Quake urban flora has also adapted to the relentless urban scourge. For instance, according to records, the “septic lumot” (Leucobryum reynosum/ septic moss) which emerged in the city’s rusty water and sewage system in the late 2020s was considered as “public enemy number 1” by Baguio Midland Courier’s 2029 year-end list. Its resistance to herbicides of the time, its fast propagation, and its density were a major headache to residents and the Water District. But they failed to realize that their enemy was created in their own image: Leucobryum reynosum developed its most destructive traits in the city’s gentrified communities, when a certain group of residents cultivated the invasive moss species for their terrariums, unintentionally altering its traits (Dal-ew, 2115). A short-lived craze for terrariums gripped Baguio, and coupled with faulty water systems connecting the myriad high-rise developments all over the city, led to a city-wide moss invasion that clogged toilets and made tourists hurry back to their vans while covering their noses. 

In fact, as early as 2019, the effects of unmitigated urban activity on wildlife in the city have already been observed. In Baoanan’s study (2019) of a certain forest park near the former Convention Center, she noted that “there has been a considerable decrease in the number of resident birds in the tree park due to the noise coming from the said amusement park” (referring to a development project called Skyranch in the latter half of 2010s). The tree park, which was “home for diverse species and provides ecosystem service in the form of microclimate regulation and nutrient cycling,” was one of the last ecological refuge within the city before it was fully engulfed by overdevelopment and hyper-tourism in the latter half of 2020s. These final gasps for life from the city’s pre-cataclysmic flora and fauna heralded the city’s ecological death, long before it was hit by the Earthquake. Ironically, when Chapis and Yang’s post-cataclysmic expedition first surveyed the area, the two remarked that they “were struck by the profound silence of the forest and the stoic fawns [they] crossed paths with,” saying that they “tip-toed into the depths of the long slumbering forest, as if trying not to disturb a child on an afternoon nap.” 

With reverence for nature’s nonchalant persistence, we present to you some of the most remarkable plants our team has discovered in our first botanical expedition into the depths of the Cordillera Protected Area. We would also like to acknowledge the help of the Northern Luzon Historical Collective, James Chapis and Robert Yang of the Pre-quake Explorers Society, Miles Herrera, Nikki Camille Malabad, John Levi Masuli, Amihan Fernandez, Jesusa Paquibot, Ivan Emil Labayne, the Bilo-bilo Gastronomical Squad, Archivos Filipinos (for their invaluable archives), and our friends and family for their unwavering support. This research endeavor would not have been possible without you. 

— The Pedantic Pedestrians Botanical Research Group


Baonan, Zenaida. “Species Richness and Carbon Stock Assessment of the GSIS Tree Park, Baguio City.” Forum on Preservation of the Last Forest Patches in the City, University of the Philippines Baguio 2018. From Miles Herrera’s historical archive collection. 

Baguio Midland Courier. “Year Ender List for 2029.” From Miles Herrera’s historical archive collection. 

Dal-ew, Cherry. Tracing the Stank: Ethnobotanical History of the ‘Leucobryum reynosum.’ April 6, 2115. 

Miekle, Michael. Urban Myths on the Cordillera-Northern Luzon Protected Zone. January 2116.

In a grayscale image, on a white background, two manual typewriter typebaskets (with typebars) are shown on the left and right, with the words "pedantic pedestrians" shown at the top center of the image.

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. Other works can be seen and downloaded in the group’s site.




Melvin Clemente Magsanoc


self-translated from Ibaloy

Its height does not overshadow
Its length does not protrude
Its strength does not falter

It’s sufficient always in all its uses.


self-translated from Ibaloy

Its decomposition
and its disappearance
is not something you’ll lament
because you know
that is how it is going to prepare
for its perennial
showing up again.


self-translated from Ibaloy

It plows well
It is strong in harrowing
It can endure the heat

Equally shares Father’s
works in the fields.

Melvin is shown, on a pale grey photography backdrop. Melvin has light brown skin and black hair, parted at the side. Melvin wears a dark navy blue sweater over an pale pink or white point collared shirt, open at the top button.

Melvin Clemente Magsanoc was raised in a small community overshadowed by the majestic Mt. Pulag in the mystical town of Kabayan, Benguet. He is Ibaloy by language and ethnicity; he traces his ancestry on the maternal side from Tuba, Benguet and Baguio City, and his paternal side from Kabayan. He was a fellow at the first and second NCCA – UP Baguio Cordillera Creative Writing Workshop. He is one of the founding members of Ubbog Cordillera Writers. Some of his poems have been published in the Ubbog Journals, Ubod Anthology, and the Philippines Graphic. He lives in Baguio City and he is currently a faculty member of the Senior High School department of Baguio City National High School. He writes poems in Ibaloy then translates them to English or the other way around.  




Enrique S. Villasis translated by Bernard Capinpin


Translated from Filipino

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.




F. Jordan Carnice


 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
Perhaps? Perhaps.
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.
Theoretical Framework
The devil is in the details. As well as in everything we want.
Performance Analysis
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. 




Levi Masuli interviewed by Ivan Emil A. Labayne


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 KulturaThe Cordillera Review, Entrada, Hasaan and Katipunan and in online platforms ChaJacket2 and New Mandala. He blogs here.