Clifton Gachagua

eating cats

tamarinds, cayenne, blue mosques, all hues of white smoke. what is non-black? the blue that sips
under the tuareg’s skin, private tours of harems in underground marrakech. what’s a cat after all?
divinity? indifference? this is how to cook a cat in tunis: pray to sekhmet, bless it while it it still
alive, allow a quick lick and goodbye to only surviving kitten, skin it as you would a rabbit, blade
cruising between fur and tender muscle, bury the head and feet and tail in the backyard for
goodluck, you’ll need this in carthage, in marsala, in your duas and salahs remember those who
await drowning. brown the meat in butter, celery, bay leaf, red wine, sea salt, clovers. simmer for
two hours. mushrooms. a broth is an option. at this point thank those already dead, those that
await you.                                                          


The Poet in Port Harcourt

my grandmother’s head, wet with blood and incoherence, sits under my bead,
all this time, myself and some friends, waiting for maulidi, walking in black sand, saying, this is how
to love your people. me walking on any kind of bridge to get rid of her head,
the weight of it on my back, language time and fatality, a premonition, like a bag of wild
mangoes, or
the taste of snails in lime water, me saying this is the bridge we must walk over,
your head heavy, your kikuyu unreadable, your love for my mother unknowable,
the ocean too far for me to fling this thing, this head, the river black and unmoving.
and all my friends will see the thing I carry — your head in a backpack —
the quiet homage to a friend who says, ‘I love you’. what does medusa dream of?
how is it that after your body there’s a field of nightmares?
pissing all over your mother’s rhododendrons. what’s jujuu, and what’s
rhumba, what’s benga? what’s highlife? and the poet of the clinical blues telling
us all these things by the poolside, not reading to us. promenade.
what is a threat of drowning?
all for you, baby, all for you.
a short exchange of words — arrivals and departures,
you saying nothing, meaning everything. back to the smells of your house,
meatballs and pasta. me going on and on about zephyrion, god of the west wind, british
architecture, hydrangeas, nigerian efficiency, all these men
who’ve never known kindness, and, here’s B, talking about the brotherhood of man.
a woman at a nigerian airport — Lagos — is a disposable thing,
and will you give me all your money, for nothing?
I’ve had enemies who killed my cats, stepped on my water lilies,
I wish them nigerian citizenship.


Clifton Gachagua is the author of Madman at Kilifi and appears in a chapbook box set Seven New Generation African Poets. Gachagua is an editor at Down River Road. His work appears in Manchester Review, Saraba, Jalada, Kwani?, Poetry Foundation, The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories (Caine Prize Anthology), AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers, Sunspot Jungle, Enkare, Africa39, PEN Foundation: New Voices, and Harvard Divinity Journal, among others.




Ella Wang

yuri kochiyama told me the secret

Rumors of our disunity have been greatly exaggerated.
I don’t know a single one of my girls who wouldn’t
do the work for those we love before our own.

Adobo and hobak jeon for our girls in box braids, our jojoba oil girls
For their grandmas and aunties. Swapping recipes in the quarantine kitchen
grandmas and aunties of our own catching flour in their knuckles,

the old rutted roads carving down their hands.
I don’t have a sister who didn’t turn up
seven months pregnant, splashing water on her neck

to storm the Brooklyn Bridge. All the friends I met making posters
doing flash mobs, young and drunk,
we rewrote the lyrics. We handed out flyers for the union after.

They may not know about the girl the cops shot
in San Diego, lemon-cream wall, downy-chick police tape, saffron outline,
but they cry when I tell them. They don’t forget her name.

We’re having a strategy session which is to say
we are raiding the liquor cabinet
and I am rubbing lotion into her calf as she talks about her day,

speech growing sharp with dialect. Chinese is a tonal language too, you dig?
Her head against mine. Her head on my thigh. Her family gets loud
when they’re excited. Mine too. I gotta wonder how much

the people who talk about the deep divide, the mutual microaggressions
spend with the other side. If they were there
when the man on the subway stood between me & the man cussing me out

cause he fought for this country blah blah blah.
When he offered to call the cops for us
and we didn’t, for him. Sure, I guess I’m naive.

My experiences are not universal etc etc.
But my sisters o my sisters. Down here on the ground it is so clear.
So dark so clear. Slant-eyed street medic holding hands

with the lawyer with the Afro who speaks Cantonese to the tenants union
with a deliberate delicacy. We know the people we fight have flags. We,
we don’t have flags. We have Korean fried chicken and collard greens.

We have a door flung open in the summer heat
and a sister half out the window, singing a K-pop serenade
Her hand in mine. Blue palm. Same sunscreen. The gap between her teeth

as familiar as anything.


a possible translation:
begin here: fall in when your tongue fails you. it turns out you preserved that fleeting loneliness for nothing. so don’t think of that long-savored memory of her mouth shaping a question and you returning to faith like getting drunk, those lips your sustenance. and don’t mock how her blossoms seemed to always be perfect holy fruits in your hand. it will haunt you anyway. in winter you’re angry; in spring you’re hopeless; leaving this was not enough. no death or surrender lasts forever and no words weigh as much as her indifferent motion. swollen to smallness, every one among us grows old and stops running from ourselves and the two types of silence, the finis and the whole. in flesh we envision crime succumbing to punishment, nationalities unfurling into the constellations scored above, hearts thunderstruck with women giving way to pure rough love. & a fist of her apartment flowers. & a brassy serenade. salt water into music, despair to unsweet sport. love. and you bore it onward in lush hell and steady passion, in throbbing abundance charred to 40-watt warmth—no more shadows. this clash between reason and mysticism has left you shaken, shaking. heaven will not return by looking to worship worship worship; raze it, renounce it, escape into the air. and death finds out all shelters. and sing to share the good news.
o divine echo, bear it on.

another possible translation:
singing hands pressed together scroll please music (Emoji 5.0)
the clock will swallow you down. turn outside. you can wander in the desert for forty fruitless, mindless years, eat memory, guzzle manna and mutton from heaven like cheap beer, chew bland and joyless bouquets with your eyes ever aimed at god; but this—to linger directionless in this frost-dammed field without hope of deliverance—this is enough. this is enough. we cannot remain exiles forever. & do not say that justice may be birthed in our children’s children’s lifetimes. & we must not go to our mirrors and quietly witness the end of the world. in our meat we know: for every crime an inquisition; for every flag a cancer poised to swell; for every red and stricken body an alchemy which tempers budding resistance to night-blooming revelation, sorrow to song, tears to tart fruit swinging blue and heavy on the vine. for every sin a slow fire in the heart. if all we have is our heat and our light and our heat, that is enough. we will still wrest our future from the palsied hands of the lord himself. we do not find jerusalem; we build it out of birds and bones, we seek it out of survival and psalms, we press on. god, oh god. we press on.

Ella Wang is a spoken word and slam poet, currently in migration. Her work is also forthcoming in RHINO Poetry.




Rachael Lin Wheeler

in response to being told me to take up more space

i am v suspicious  of the sky  /  as i am of many things
/ bc i hate feeling / as small as i really am / or think i
am / which is why i first feel the impulse / to ask for
forgiveness / & then hide anytime / i speak for more
than 2 minutes straight / at a time                                

i’ve been trying to apologize / less after my friend
scolded me / for apologizing / too much so i listened
/ to Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” / from 1982
for inspiration / it didn’t rlly work                      

she also scolded me / for thanking everyone / “an
unnecessary amount of times” / though i fought back
/ on that bc i’m willing / to embarrass myself / if
there’s any chance i can keep people / from believing
they go unnoticed                      

though ya ig sometimes such noticing / is
counterproductive / like when i noticed / that one
white girl’s room freshener / made the rest of the
apartment smell like a smoothie / shop in a mall /
which tbh  /  could  have  been what she was  /  going
for  /  at one  point she wanted  to buy  /  silver  disco
balls to put next to her / unironic live laugh love sign /
ngl she kinda scares me                                   

personally my best / purchase all season / has been
that $7.00 mug i found / at Target / it reads my favorite
people  call  me  grandma
 /  &  i  immediately  wanted  to share it / w an old friend / except i can’t / do that rn
or maybe / for a long time bc we’re / not talking / so
i  wallowed  /  in my  vanilla chamomile tea  /  & only
sorta felt better                                  

idk  how to keep  /  from hurting  the people i love or
try  /  to love & or how to keep them  /  from leaving
me / hurt / & ya ik i probably won’t / solve that any
time soon / or ever / i’m sorry                      

ik ik sometimes u have to hide / bc there r no other
options  /  but  there  r  /  times  when  u  don’t  /  so
maybe we can / find each other there                      


preliminary notes for an essay whose conclusion still feels out of reach


after sifting through all these european philosophy books in the stacks, all i can really think abt is how i really want to learn french, but that’s only partly b/c of the tea between sartre & de beauvoir & mostly b/c of my need to watch portrait of a lady  on fire w/o the subtitles,

though i could probably already do that now given the number of times i’ve seen it (which, thus far, has always been at some strange & sleepless hour after midnight)—


movies i have never seen that i guess i’m supposed to have seen by now: titanic & grease & mamma mia & when harry met sally & pretty in pink & the notebook & say anything &

don’t worry, i’ve been berated for this already.   


i have too much of a god complex for that

someone i passed on a walkway said one friday night & tbh i was jealous.

the closest i’ve ever come to feeling anything near holy is whenever my body seems to flee from me & blur into the background, which is always everywhere around me anywhere i go.  

one time i heard my mother say goodnight, honey but it turns out she was talking to the cat & not me before closing her door 

& maybe that’s the reason my cat has a god complex & maybe i can learn from her?


yes it was céline sciamma who brought me this close to taking a class on media until i remembered film bros exist, which was enough to make me change my mind. 

i don’t regret it. i don’t need cishet white boys

—who worship like, idk, the godfather (according to the google search “what do film bros like??”)—

to tell me the politics of why queer love stories always end in devastation. 


“The theory of disidentification that I am offering is meant to contribute to an understanding of the ways in which queers of color identify with ethnos or queerness despite the phobic charges in both fields,” writes josé muñoz. 

how to resist interrogating the philosophy of my desire and not my desire itself.  


at cvs, i saw a box of goldfish with its motto, the snack that smiles back, & isn’t that kind of ominous 

& also maybe that gestures toward something wrong w/ society b/c the fish is smiling even though he’s abt to die 

& haven’t we all smiled when we didn’t want to, “we” here being, especially, people of color & gender-marginalized people & queer people 

& also the never-ending apocalypse (i.e. the world) is absurd & smiling, sometimes, is easier,

& long story short i didn’t buy the goldfish but i did realize how badly i needed to take a nap.


the longer the body is left illegible to others, the longer the body is rendered illegible to the self 

& it’s not exactly that i want my body to be legible but sometimes maybe it would be nice 

if to understand could mean something more than to define

tell me, someone, what it means to read the body &/or control how it is read using a method more adjacent to desire than desperation. tell me whether they are even different after all. 



Rachael Lin Wheeler is a writer who works at the rupture points of genre and discipline. Currently a student at Brown University, their work appears or is forthcoming in Waxwing, The Journal, Southern Humanities Review, wildness, The West Review, Lantern Review, Foglifter, and Gigantic Sequins, among others. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, finalist for Tinderbox Poetry Journal’s Brett Elizabeth Jenkins and Majda Gama Editors’ Prizes, and recipient of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholarship, RL is an editorial assistant and poetry reader for Split Lip Magazine. Find them on Twitter @rlwheeler_ or at




Aldric Ulep

Etymon: Idiay


There, beyond you and me, a million crickets dance a fan dance in the dark bamboo groves. Before dawn, the man wends his way through his flooded field.  A frog choir swells deep from the bogland, and from above, a bulbul whistles his clear descant. The man attempts to hum along, but the scale does not register, does not chart against the solfège etched in his memory.

There, beyond you and me, first light dusts a rust orange glow over the man’s rice paddy. Leaning against the stone well, a bucket conjures a wish of its own, to ring like the bronzed temple bell, commanding and holy. The man appears at the well and casts the crying bucket into the depths, its metal rim clanging against the damp walls.

There, beyond you and me, the carabao’s strong jaw and elephantine haunch. A gentleness belies his bullish face, engine of this industry. A bast fiber rope strung through his nostrils. By this rope, the man leads him to the river to bathe. The beast wades in: his heft, his charcoal eyes, his small twitching ears.  

There, beyond you and me, the man’s grandmother steps out from a curing shed, her sunken eyes squinting against the rising sun. Even she could not have remembered what the field once knew: the forced quotas, a constant air of suspicion, the threat of a whip. No, that memory was long buried. He helps her bundle cured tobacco leaves to take to market. His eyes meet hers, teary from her smoke. 

There, beyond you and me, on a concrete patch the man revs his traysikel, a sputtering rickshaw with a sidecar, enough for two or three: his wife, her brother. The man’s young son always perched right behind him on the backseat, where he would hug onto his work shirt and feel the motor’s sheer force, thunderous and deafening. 

There, beyond you and me, a horse-drawn kalesa strides by, creaking and quaint. From his market stall, the man notices a young tourist: his unworked hands, a clean shirt too warm for this heat. He could be his son. The lone tourist comes to admire the umber fans of cured tobacco. Remembering a song from childhood, he asks for sigarilyas, assuming it means tobacco. No, the man shakes his head:—winged beans. You are looking for winged beans. 


Etymon: Langit


Who governs this myth
full of sky

               langit      sky 
               sangit      cry

I have felt this rain 
silver my skin

who governs these myths in the sky
the myths where—
the myths whose
language was native to—
the language whose—

who governs these myths in the sky
in the sky
the sky whose language
the sky whose first language was rain

the sky whose first language was water
the myth whose first utterance was rain

I have felt this rain 
on my tin roof

I have slipped in this rain’s puddle
I have slept in this rain’s puddle

I have cried tears which remind me of this rain
whose body of water came from this rain

tears, my tears then, have sought
to rejoin itself with the sky


Etymon: Dila


after M. NourbeSe Philip’s poem “Meditations on the Declension of Beauty by the Girl with the Flying Cheek-bones.”

a tongue cut in half / becomes sharper
Öykü Tekten


if not ᴅɪʟᴀ
if not my
if not my ᴅɪʟᴀ

if not from here
where if not

from here then
are you
from where is


I found


what can
be called

from ᴅɪʟᴀ

ᴅɪʟᴀ hiding

from ᴅɪʟᴀ

hiding ᴅɪʟᴀ
what else, what more
to lick
tongue, as in lumber
to kiss, lick
to tell a story, a fib

tongue, to lick

snake fangs

to mock

to taunt

the spirit tongue plant which wards off evil

tongue, bolt of lightning

flame, blaze
to lick, to lap

drywood mushroom
lamp of the shadow-puppeteer

to illuminate
to lick, taste
prickly pear, tiger tongue

the needle of a scale for weighing

ᴜsᴀɢᴇ; ᴏʀɪɢɪɴ:
when the ᴅɪʟᴀ                                                  dila
fractured upon                                                                                                híla
the shore
did it find new                                                                     dilaʔ







what meanings loosened
from drifting continents                                                                              lila
what hesitant
breakage                                                            dila

inflections           become ancient                                           lera

 Best viewed on desktop.


Aldric Ulep is an Ilokano American writer from Hawai‘i whose poems have appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Beloit Poetry Journal, Tinfish Journal, and Zócalo Public Square. His work was nominated for the Best New Poets 2022 anthology and earned an honorable mention in Southern Collective Experience’s 2021 Asian American Poetry Chapbook contest judged by Lee Herrick. He received his MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop.

Laura Mota-Juang

unfinished abecedarium

I was born with no language. Then, I was given my mother’s.
My dad’s mother tongue was withheld from me.
As a result, we became uncommunicable.
We speak at each other. We stare at each other.
Our voices are raised until one of us loses hope to be understood.
We live in the absence of one another.

In this language from none of my progenitors,
I hide my own voice.
and what is that? In my first year living in Canada,
I hoped for the day I could dream in this language.
Dreams, the symbol of fluency.

The day my partner and I met, we laughed at my translations.
Such as merde du taureau. It didn’t take long before I realized
my languages were useless in my lover’s community.
They acted like my father’s family: entertained
that their secrets couldn’t be caught by the foreigner.
The language of love moved like a betrayal on my tongue.

I betray my first language.
Compatriots say that I sound like a live translator in my mother tongue.
Time and distance make me a foreigner to all languages.
Is my mouth a collapsed shelter? A place of semantic debris?
My tongue, an estranged daughter.


Laura Mota-Juang is a Taiwanese-Brazilian shameless experimentalist based in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal.  Her current practices include upcycling clothing, photography, analogue collage, linocut stamps, drawing, community organizing and writing. You can find her poems at carte blanche, PRISM International, High Shelf, and elsewhere. Laura is the author of Light Spill (Block Party Press 2023), a chapbook inspired by Physic’s imagination. To keep in touch, find her on Instagram @imnofiction. Photo by Jean-Michel Moreau.




Debasish Mishra

Smokes and Wishes

Once again, I wake and wipe the swish of sweat off my forehead
It feels as if I was sleepwalking in dreams and the night is half-burnt

Memory plays like the refracting rhythm of fishes in an aquarium—
colorful, countless, cancerous—and I try to hew its tender neck

as they do with the nameless lambs in a blood-stained slaughterhouse
My memory is a smokescreen now—Are smokescreens meant to be blank?

Or it’s full with all the smokes burnt in my dad’s lifetime gathered in one place
I imagine a huge container pregnant with all the butts, the shell-casings
of a million bullets—Is this a picture of his lungs? My mother
always said, ‘my dad didn’t burn the cigarettes but they burnt him’
Is it that easy to exchange the subject and the object?
Was he an object after all? I’m restless as though a storm 
has raised its head within my chest and meanwhile the fresh fruit 
of morning has arrived in the window after an incomplete, unripe night

Tomorrow, I know, I’ll wake again with the cold feet of memory
stretched against my face like a layer of unpleasant moisture

But I want to get rid of its tentacles at least for this moment
You may call this an urge for temporary freedom

I pick up my phone and scroll through the newsfeed as I always do
It’s No Tobacco Day—as the post at the top reads me
I wonder, if Facebook employs Artificial Intelligence
capable to intrude into the walls of human memory

I get up as though I’m possessed by dad and my body 
feels light like a sheet of paper floating in some obscure stream
I look at his lively picture-frame and light a candle— 
if cigarette is a devil, a candle is a God—
with a wish that cigarettes shouldn’t burn any parent, anywhere 


Bridge of Slumber

I have burnt the bridge of slumber—which runs from
 evenings	 	           	 to	  		   mornings—
with				 the			  smoldering 
 fire				 of			    dreams
and thoughts.						 Wakefulness

is its face.  The river of dark mourning awaits me. 	Leviathan-like
nightmares half-sunk in the viscous night. 	Each inch is a difficult
movement. 	How will the night pass?     It will pass just like the other
nights that I have survived. 	Memory is a ferry to sail me through
this night, yet again. 	As it has done over the years. 	Always.
The glimpse of my dad's toothless smile 		and the moment
of heartbreak	—You are crying over spilt milk—	play before my eyes
again, again, 	till the streetlights are drowned by a blinding sun.


Debasish Mishra is a Senior Research Fellow at National Institute of Science Education and Research, HBNI, India, who has earlier worked with United Bank of India and Central University of Odisha. He is the recipient of the 2019 Bharat Award for Literature and the 2017 Reuel International Best Upcoming Poet Prize. His recent work has appeared in Arkana, Apricity, Hawaii Pacific Review, York Literary Review, Dash Literary Journal, and elsewhere. His first book, Lost in Obscurity and Other Stories, was published by Book Street Publications, India, in 2022.




Sodïq Oyèkànmí

drowned haibun

it was a monsoon season. there was tears flood. & anywhere could be an entry point as long as there was a raft. the polyrhythmic sound of the rain could pass for music—say jùjú or sákárà. there was a cavity in our canoe—the exact size of my mouth when i saw màámi—neck-deep—in the water—ah! olúwa gbàmí. depending on how far the music have travelled in the body, flood tears could become the lyrics spilling out from the eyes. if reflected on water—the shadows of people screaming & tapping their feet for help could be mistaken for a dance. drowned chorus. drowned chords. drowned hearts canoes. omi ò lẹ́sẹ̀ omi ńgbégi lọ. i pulled her into the canoe & everyone was swimming to safety—even a dog backed a chick. i pulled them into the canoe. ọjọ́ burúkú èṣù gb’omimu. our village—filled with enough water that could dampen 7.9 kilometres of the sahara for the growth of wisterias. olúwa, we didn’t kill no albatross. why send a flood without warning—without an ark? everywhere could have been an exit point—as long as there’s dryness on the horizon, but there was a cavity in our canoe—our hearts. our prayers—bloated & unanswered—

                                                                          a praying mantis splits
                                                                                           open God’s eyes


Sodïq Oyèkànmí is a poet, dramaturg and librarian. A 2022/23 Poetry Translation Centre (UK) UNDERTOW Fellow. He holds a B.A in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, he won the 2022 Lagos / London Poetry Competition. His works are published/ forthcoming in Agbowó, Lucent Dreaming, Longleaf Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, North Dakota Quarterly, Passages North, Poetry Wales, and Strange Horizons. He tweets @sodiqoyekan.




Stephanie Heit

Anthropocene Curse

The text of the following poem is arranged so that in the center is a blank nearly circular space.


After apocalypse midwest migration, the water wars. No more borders or countries. Big
lake got bigger. Reached fingers overland until interlaced with ocean. The light didn’t go
out but got brighter. Continents boiled to sludge in the salt/sweet ocean/freshwater mix.
Party snack for an extraterrestrial drawn to this solar system
sad marble by the rank smell and churn. Planetary slush pile
stew. We were once water anyway, with different
skin/feather/scale configurations. Earth a witchy
cauldron with all the raw extinct species materials
(that’s us!) in for the brew. Toil, trouble, double,
triple cauldron that shit. Mycelium goes undercover
to wait out more optimal conditions. A few
beauties still fly in a low sky strip: sandhill cranes bugle
beckon prehistoric compatriots. The moon rises. Tides
obey gravity. Without land to absorb the vibrations, putrid
waves play themselves in screams. Something dying. Already dead.
Burnt sun pupil reflects into liquid surfaces. Cyclops with a magnifying glass and bad
intentions. Fire and sizzle. Ether does the requisite elemental roll call. Earth doesn’t
answer. No charm, firm or good, will incant. It will take deep time. Forever.

Headshot of Stephanie Heit, a white queer disabled cis woman smiling, wearing a purple wrap, with brown wavy hair in a bob. She is on (perhaps in, feet dangling) the Huron River with background muted green of tree leaves, and dappled light before dusk.
ph: Tamara Wade

Stephanie Heit (she/her) is a queer disabled poet, dancer, teacher, and codirector of Turtle Disco, a somatic writing space on Anishinaabe land in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is a Zoeglossia Fellow, bipolar, a mad activist, a shock/psych system survivor, and a member of the Olimpias, an international disability performance collective. Her poetry collections are the book of hybrid memoir poems, PSYCH MURDERS (Wayne State University Press, 2022), and The Color She Gave Gravity (Operating System, 2017). Website:




Nora Hikari

The Hand

after Porpentine Charity Heartscape

They are coming for you. You know it, deep in the dim heart of your Assembly code, in the same way you know everything else you know. Things like “I am a woman,” and “this a crime,” and “they will try to kill me for it.” 

The age of the masked vigilante is gone – don’t you know Disney heroes all have their faces bare and beautiful? Instead, the boyhood fantasy made man-machine murderviolence now comes in the instanced Cyberhand, the gorgeous, pale technosassins raised in the crypt annals of imageboard militias and podcast conscriptions. A Cyberhand is a human DDoS. A Cyberhand is distributed among the clump of whatever most hateful and lowly biomass has clustered around a specific technocidal nexus, a choral outcry for bloodshed. Cyberhands are egregores, or emergent consciousnesses, or deepweb gods. One billion conscious hatreds focused on the back of a single neck. Your neck. Main Character Of The Week. Focused hot like a low-orbit ion cannon. 

You know they are coming for you. You can feel it, in the vinegar sweat coming up your throat. In its taste in your nose. You can hear it in the piercing shine in your ears that never quiets, never quite closes its eyes. The gods are murdered. The new pantheon rises and there is war in heaven. Machine-kings with subwoofer throats howl into their Blue Yeti Snowballs. They push their devotionals hard from the back of their grinding stomachs. Full spit and diaphragm and shrieking metal. They command their apostles – pay no attention to the women who beg you for mercy. They are not women. They are something worse. The Hand is coming for you. 

You know in a basic way. You know in the way your body knows how to eat and when to shit. You know in the way terror is chemical, the way death is mechanical. The Hand is here to strike you deathful. Even all your fragments cannot save you now. 

The Cyberhands are anyone made out of meat. They are a white faceful mass, a congregation tumored from every schoolyard bully, every molesting pastor or priest, pedophile Soldier of God, every would-be Harris-and-Klebold. Souls consumed as a metabolic precursor for the synthesis of hyperkillmurder and ultradeath. They wield their numbers like a Beretta M9 against your throat. They lie as a rule – all of their lies things like “Your code isn’t worth the silicon it’s run on,” “Your body belongs to me,” “Your home will burn. Your beloveds will burn,” “I know all your secrets.” 

“I know all your secrets” is the click of a trigger. It’s the shot of a gavel. It’s a sound that spells “END.” It’s pain and death for any homebrew girl. “Your secrets,” the sin, the crime, the inevitable thunderclap of Zeus striking you through ethernet for the irredeemable act of being a living trash girl. It’s any bitter word you’ve ever lathed. Any screenshot of a mangled, failed hex. Any vague curse under stifled breath. Anything to tip your scales from “cringe” to “killable.” 

Know this: your terror can be keen or keening. Drink it deep. Feel it poison your nerves, sharpen them against your own agony. Hardcode your grief. Feel it disintegrate every hope you ever had for your own peace, shatter your soul into every new part it would need to survive this. You are becoming something so much more than flesh. You are, indeed, becoming worse. 

We will never again know safety. We will never know peace. But by the wires that connect us, we will string them up. And by the blades in our wrists we will cut them down. 


Nora Hikari (she/her) is a disabled Chinese and Japanese transgender poet and artist based in NYC. She was a 2022 Lambda Literary fellow, and her work has been published in Ploughshares, Palette Poetry, Foglifter, The Journal, The Shade Journal, and others. She was a reader at the 2022 Dodge Poetry Festival and a finalist for the Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award. Her chapbook, The Small Lights Of Her Heart, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2023. Nora Hikari can be found at her website and on Twitter at @system_wires.




Dorothy Chan

Triple Sonnet Because My Love Language is Power

               “Divorce is hot,” I say at dinner,
because white men keep projecting
               their fantasies onto me, as if they’ve
never seen an Asian femme with red
               lips & thick thighs & black hair & a mouth
that never stops. If “Things You Can Do
               With Your Mouth” were a Family Feud
category, I wonder how many players
               would say “kissing” instead of “eating,”
or are the two pleasures really the same.
               Noodles spiral in our mouths as we eat
our tomato carbonara, proving how “O”
               is the sexiest letter of the alphabet,
other than “X” that marks the spot,


as in can you find the G in me, or do we
               need help from a friend in delivering
the treasures & pleasures, maybe the Fire
               Man toy, and I love my heroes, but why
is female fantasy so two-dimensional in
               media, or what about the Tennis Pro or
the Millionaire, not Billionaire, because
               he has half a heart, or maybe the Poet. 
A photographer says “power” and I’m
               turned on. He brushes the hair out of
my face, and it’s textbook, like the Lady
               and the Tramp move of sharing spaghetti
until you smooch, which terrifies me,
               because that whole movie is about dogs

               falling in love over pasta when everyone
knows canines can’t eat tomatoes or onions,
               and I’m fearing for Lady’s and Tramp’s lives,
even though I know the ending. “Power.” 
               Position change. I always say poetic lines
are like camera angles, or is it the other way
               around. We share a soft serve with sprinkles,
the fourth-grade way of kissing. Power. 
               Poetic. We share our desires through food:
I lick our ice cream harder, the serpentine
               S of tongue—he loves that I’m a Snake
Daughter. Is he a beautiful coincidence. 
               I feel the S of his tongue. When I see “GF”
on the menu, I think “girlfriend,” not gluten free.


Dorothy Chan is the author of five poetry collections, including the forthcoming, Return of the Chinese Femme (Deep Vellum, April 2024). They are an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Co-Founder, Editor in Chief, and Food and Beverage Editor of Honey Literary Inc, a 501(c)(3) BIPOC literary arts organization. Visit their website at