I am thinking / Of a burnt cathedral, which / Has nothing to do with actual death.
A snapshot of ISSUE Project Room’s creative collaboration between Jasmine Gibson, Fana Fraser, Sokunthary Svay, and Annie Heath
her story—a bone-white line across her throat. / Given enough time, she says, are all stories / not ghost stories?
we dog eating people / eating off each other / bear the vaguely dog / sounding name stairs
Is not house, not kitchen, not ceiling. Spanish chandeliers as old and intricate as iron.
I am // just trying to sleep. To feed. To fill / myself and grow larger from it.
What / saint-kissed relics shall I take with me, what shall serve as capstones for the / humble churches I’ll build in the parking lots of the American dream?
O whose chant do I hear in these halls recalling my deeds, or my debts, the structure / of the cancer room, a storm that once wiped Laos clean of sin a thousand years ago?
the / tangibility of absence: to put a ruined keep inside of someone / until it becomes skin
When I tell you that she’s a witch, I’m not saying like it’s a bad thing. What I / mean is that one time she went to see / someone and said that he was going to die and then he died / the Friday after.
no matter how desperately the world begs / for my blood / I still refuse to die. in this body, survival / is an outlier
A conversation on Marylyn Tan’s debut poetry collection, Gaze Back, plus a brief interview with the author
But tonight, the horses, there, / down among the beeches, know when I begin to yield / and do not move until I do, turning their heads / in the direction of my voice.
the hot air rising from the cooker / has tightening effect on your lovehole
You can describe a place / without knowing it. / At recess in March I choked / because the air tasted like fertilizer. / What’s the difference / between breathing a place / and being suffocated by it?
20 Thai Baht = 33 Philippine Pesos = 44 Indian Rupees = x bolt of fabric = y square vuông of rice = 15,000 Vietnamese đồng = 2,600 Cambodian Riel = 2.6 Malaysian Ringgit = 9,100 Indonesian Rupiah = unquantifiable sweat
I pulled the comforters out after. / You had sweat the bed; the room bloomed with / your sweetness. I thought / you can know / somebody for a long while and not know / their scent.
Sanggup menahan jerit, menukar peluh menjadi ringgit || [we’re] able to swallow shrieks, exchanging sweat to ringgit
easy to get cold out there in the desert at night. hard to maintain the skin sealed to the bones below, to the meat beneath against each blast & every impact.
I was the writer in my life / and where did it get me / is not a line from an Army manual
hong kong a neon neckline, long hair glittering / with ship-lights, crystal balls, storm velvets. / it’s her life, yet I had come, and grown / my hair, and happened upon the eastern sun / like a moon.
Now, I’m lost in the woods thinking of Noy. / Is she still in Seattle? Does she has her pastry shop? / In Minnesota, I gather what is gone, capturing a spirit.
On the 150th anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, Paisley Rekdal revisits the legacy of the Chinese railroad workers who reshaped the American West.
I came into this world in an Allahabad hospital / In the absence of reliable ghosts I made aria / I watch your hands at the keyboard / Memory is all you have.
i had a twin who was 95% water. a twin who latched its mouth onto my heart and drank me dry.
Instinctively, one / wants to be the native plant in its ancestral loam, / one wants a resistance to the sun, to shun full rainfall / for a flash of morning dew, or at very least, grow / some throwaway limbs.
Grandfather would have bought the Ilish—not wincing at the 1200 rupees per kilogram
I practiced my Urdu in the bathroom with you / as I sat in the tub; only so long before an American / mermaid can stand without floating on into sea foam.
I could become / a better citizen, but then who would be left to / speak for me?
if only we could learn / to stop // looking back / for each other.
I reside in purgatory awaiting judgment. A seven-level structure, seven stories of nothing.
Sometimes you wonder if there really is a place called heaven nearby. You will ask yourself which would be better: Death? Or 38 years in prison?
three Novembers ago we found a comic that told us / if you want to say thank you, don’t say sorry. / I have held my breath ever since.
Dao Xiong writes to Axxel Xiong from inside a Minnesota prison.
each maple and golden locust / weighs heavy with coverings of Christian / white snow concealing / impurities of earthen made bark
What do you like he tries again / and I think of landscape, the early fog / ridden hills of San Francisco when eucalyptus / unfurl like children waking to the light.
Not an assumption; not a name you learned to remember, not a fleshy shape or a face you already recognized
Bạn sẽ gọi quê hương bằng một đại từ nào? Tôi sẽ gọi đó là một ám ảnh | What pronoun would you use to call your birthsoil? I would call it a haunting
夜來沉醉卸妝遲 || With night you sink drunk slow to undo/ your hair
Can I call my death “I”?
was it a gentle human hand, or black-furred / long-clawed
The shaman wore long white sleeves rippling & / Minuscule in the bone-dry distance. / I jerked & righted the wheel / Plying invisible waves of hot sea
I write myself into the fiction / whether you see me or not.
If you lie / on the table, you subject the table to a terrible guilt. / It is no longer a table people can eat on. If you stand / next to the table, the table senses its mortality.
Over and over / from some small / dark pit, / it spun out / a whole world / for itself
I am careful with my words unless they are not in English, / am I not? (不好意識打擾各位可是我不想再禮貌了。) / My mother is careful with her words only when they are in English.
Here, the mangled text that will / become a poem — loose language — / blueprint for a reckoning.
My father was always the magician, / not I. One swift pull and / the silk streamers would spill / from his mouth, flooding the floor.
Banknotes / dropped, jawbones dropped, and it was truly / unnerving, to watch the white people / stare at me, mouths / twitching in awe or pity, / or both.
My father the frycook, his father / the same. Their hands so oiled / everything they touched / flamed. Like Midas if Midas / loved fire not gold.
Did you take my mother’s hand or ghost / the altar in her bedroom first?
but your leaves are changing in here / as all the fallen do
Always / propelling the thing forward, not leaving us to rest. / Below: the infinite world, // all its ligaments, all its creatures.
what I don’t get is why / you choose to come here
as I bear loneliness in the shrieks of iron, it carved / my residence registration on a hole-punch
This is a rectangular dream / which inevitably brings forth a rectangular waiting / a floating country can’t pillow a broken dream / and I’ve never dared say goodnight
The / day you died, the windows of our house were / open to let the breeze in. You said that it was / nothing.
Tonight, too, there are turning lines…/ I say I do not know, do not know.
love you because i / hate your lovers loving your peripheral love
Taking advantage of opacity, Girl E goes for it and punches indiscriminately.
Near the bottom of your hollow mouth, / Your cut tongue gathers lizard scales / Like a sunken bucket in an algal well.
into such sen / sitivity of it / such sense / could not say
Ultrasound waves / pulse between fluid, tissue, and bone一 / the embryo echoes.
She’s here to see us off. / Her voice is the softest ligature, unthreading. / Why are you saying goodbye to everyone except for me who raised you?
After a sperm whale sucks in a squid, it will vomit out its beak.
There was a longing / in the carvings of the / knife my mother held / against the fruit. She / peels with quiet / permission.
May our dead no longer speak to us / Our language now kneaded into other woes / with rancid stars a meager pittance / and false kingdoms rich in violent blows
I always thought I’d find you / throned in the moon-drenched water my wonder / woman your palms curled upward like lotus skins
Who’s keeping count of what’s given against what’s stolen? / There’s nothing I can’t trace back to my coarse immigrant blood.
Tonight, when you return, you / will be an American and I will still be a girl who needs / a translator to read in my mother’s language, my mouth full / of so few shapes. I fall into the habits of my mother, it’s true.
This is my small sphere. / I’ll make good, stay folded in myself. I promise / to memorize the bramble and texture of garden walls.
She is girl. She is gravel. She is grabbed. She is grabbed like handfuls of gravel.
A collection of essays, poems, and stories by Asian American writers that trouble, expand, and redefine the space of the camp
Fingers caked with wet / rice break backs and bellies, / pluck gills, / scrape eggs, tear limbs / Tita takes our legs– / cracks them / under a glass jar for us. / We suck shells ’til twilight.
Woman who puts up her hair comb holds / up the sky. There is the legend and probably a lie.
From a crevice in a severed rock / birds with long beaks were tearing out earthworms. / My pain was without a wound / and in the bodies of the frayed, torn-out worms / there was no pain.
because I love you, I will gut this distance / with nostalgia, because grief can taste of sugar if you run / your tongue along the right edge
Not all rainbow: here, tender orange, / there, rusted brown, the underside / gelatinous and white. Then the bones.
There is uncertainty in your future, a woman on the street told me. I can see it. You will be very unhappy, very soon.
The stallion: one win short / of the triple crown. My intonation: / one stress too many for an apology— / all the times I got it wrong. Minoru, / Minoru—both are gone.
i say i’ll be / dressless, skinless, curated / and pickled. i say i’ll give it / all up for a chance to be warm.
Mythologies have their way of explaining the basic human condition: that there will always be some where or thing you wish to get to or back to.
Ask if he knows, what the first champagne mango of the summer / tastes like, its golden juices flowing over some farmer’s / cigar paper skin.
A policeman found the boy minutes later. A shaman, / a monk, a priest, and a poet are still pouring over / his soul.
Against the hills, a tall building with plank-walled rooms. / I, wishing for my wife and son like clouds far away, / My night is even longer under the bright moon.
The moon appears / the small clip of a nail a paring knife / a chalk mark / left to linger in the sky
We prayed for resurrections, / but the dead remain as memories that / seemed to shrink in the mind, / like an airplane appearing smaller / the further it gets from the ground.
I should say kholo, my mother’s brother. / I should say umja, my father’s brother / so you know which branch of the tree to cut. Or / cherish.
If I can learn its grammar and alphabet / hold its vocabulary in my mouth / then perhaps I can know something of history—my history.
Pipedream: / I wondered what it would be like to strip away / slit eyes—sick of assimilation; the debilitating / task of tireless reinvention.
When I was born, my parents put me on a rug on the ground and stood / staring at me until the light outside dimmed and then there in the / darkening we three were quiet for a while
I could live like this, I thought, lie here / and have my own kind of drifting blue.
We wonder if this is what heaven is like—an old movie theater with thick velvet curtains that part, as the lights dim and the naked cherubs peering down from the blue and gold ceiling vanish, like comets.
I want to make / change and am ready / for new challenge. / I can stay between white white lines.
I dream my mother / unravels / hair out of my mouth / in English / she asks me / to speak Chinese / coils the hair / into a dark gloss / whorled / in her palm
How do I tell you that I have done this before? / How to build a diorama of what I am not.
The floor broke apart / the tasbeeh into ninety / nine beady reflections / and my mother is still / able to fake a surprise / when she can’t locate / them all.
I am the last of them—a woman with her own dreams, not salvaged from the cloud-based data lake that I created.
One lover was bold and touched / me once behind a door, but it was her cousin / Vandie, the one who never looked at me, that I loved. // One lover was kind, so kind, in kissing / me at all.
Older immigrants talk as if Reagan invited them to dinner. / The dream never showed, but we can paint chain link white.
They might spend most of their days in the sky, / but every evening they remember / to come back to earth.
I lay my head down on a pillow pilled / with characters, yellow tracks and traces / of the name I was given.
The usual / drama of chiaroscuro, / how it begins / in medias res for the sake / of the viewer.
Studio Era music makes me want to dress fancy and pretty; leave the house in gorgeous armor, but I know too well the earth’s hunger and I will not satisfy it. Today I leave my house and I make sure no one can call me faggot.
but really every word sounds like the sun/ sweltering in the middle of Santacruzan
I was her American / daughter, my tongue / my hardest muscle / forced to swallow / a muddy alphabet.
The world held us / In glass circles
i have seen the line at the bottom of sky crack glimmers of clear light
Think about it: if rain accumulating above someone / resumes descent, where does it fall?
I tell C no one loves me like a mother would. / C says no one loves a fragile queer. I choke / on the thread as it slices words out:/ Say Ma say Mother America say Mother India say love me like a mother won’t.
‘These were / all the gold coins that he laid by in a life of poverty, / saved up in the vault of his mind’
I remember / 亲爱的 / back then / how you robed / yourself in tall grass / & earthed your flesh / how your waiting / shrunk soldiers’ bayonets
‘What I / am—I’ve gone further than gambling, drug addiction, death— / I’ve killed the image of her daughter.’
When the tide rises, it is easy for the fish to prey on the ant, but when it ebbs, the fish becomes the ant’s prey.
‘A week before I graduate, I round up all my femme clothes / and stuff them in the Savers plastic bag / I’d gotten them in.’
‘Mine: thick & black, so coarse / when trimmed, the ends splintered / bare feet.’
That American thing · The good old good
Funny how it ends up that you’re the leftovers.
‘Which poem can defeat / the fear of dying / a meaningless death / and how to write that poem / staring into the barrel?’
Pray tell me, how much
are we paying for the sermon?
‘As if I could get un-situated / this airport a bubble hovering / in a void between celestial bodies / in but not of / the country I stand in.’
Through stories, essays, and poems, writers imagine new narratives that speak to Trump’s Muslim ban
showbiz etceteras · commercial spaces · newspapered ideas
People judge me by my skin. My skin’s purpose in life is to prove them wrong.
There are countless ways / to justify company. Hunger, overdue balance, whatever. / Cartoon savage licking the throne clean. / & isn’t that what you always wanted? / To be filled & emptied?
In all the books I love, the hero doesn’t strike first. But then again, none of the heroes look like me.
Half a century on, what does it mean to be part of ASEAN?
For eleven / years I lied about where I’m from, / ashamed by the music of endings, // that deep hollow bell. How much of my yearly / tax is spent to bomb the dirt / that birthed me?, is a question // I never wanted to consider.
‘Children are playing soldier. / Fetuses ripped from wombs dangle / in nearby trees. Yet he opened his mouth / and a flood of love melodies poured out.’
pink spam injected into the bloodstream / won’t make one minnesotan, / the difference of an exporter and importer, / colonizer and the colonized with a nine digit ssn
Marwa Helal reads two poems at the Workshop, including her paen to the Palestinian American rapper DJ Khaled.
Every spring, a deer must shed antlers used for fighting and each bone branch grows back with the thought of my partner’s return this season, and yet.
The poet talks about her debut collection, sharing silenced histories in her writing, and being a “wild girl poet.”
but this is boring. let’s talk / about something else. people are only lines / written with water it’s not that serious. i just want to drink / my coffee. i just want to think about roses i misheard / the words as a laugh, beautiful like a song of roses
‘This drought of silence / that does not feed me. I mean, I refuse / to hold his vanity. And demand to know / myself better. Cull his soul but only / for memory, carve a history / for myself in which my reflection / alone can be seen.’
I meant / to just take a photo of you. Forgive // my trespasses, my negatives, / but remember them. My ghosts // were asked to lay in their bed, / and so said: I am not like them // I am not. This is the blood I’ll leave / behind on bark to bark.
At this point I will disobey and say / you are free to go if you choose. Choice is a complicated part of describing / Palestinian heroes or terrorists.
Oh Mars, you mistook me / for someone / I briefly was. / Girl alight / with impending loss, / vessel for bearing / out an arch / -itectural illusion. A wall / isn’t truly built / to exclude, but to instate / something worth defending.
‘No words of a Savior are news to a Woman. / No words of a resurrection sound gospel[-enough] / when you are both the Crucifixion and the Crowd.’
‘Skin molted like a lazy adder/while sinew pooled like glue.//Bone fractured next/like desert rose glass/then melted too.’
‘We do not want to hover like a line of fog, a river’s shadow, but slower: shadows in conversation, gentle only when we don’t bother expecting to be heard.’
‘When I held him in my palm, I learned to love what made me. From time to time, I think about my father, his country, clean hands. I like to think of his hands as clean. I like to think I owe nothing to his body.’
‘A man kisses a pigeon and another kisses a dog and / both times I look away to gather the spikes of trees into a / dripping faucet.’
The sun sieves through the canopy— / rivers are relenting. My soul seats itself // for the first time. Where it is quiet, it becomes cold. / There is nothing I must do but die— // what joy to let go of all things—what ease to give up.
‘First memory of English: my father orders spaghetti from a waitress. / Foreign flowers blossom in his mouth and I’m spellbound in Urdu. // On Friday afternoons, cars spill across a bleached suburb. / Not far from the mosque, look! Crooked lines of devout Urdu.’
‘did I ever tell the teacher / we invented a new language that a pair of six year olds spoke fluent / appeasement she pointed to the globe told me to tell him / this is the world and that is America’
‘Cracking the spine, we eat // With fingers mixing and mashing, / ladling for one another, / Karaili, pommecythe, cur-he, / spooning and sliding into our mouths, / Wiping the leaf green.’
‘My wishes are fulfilled with less searching. / My lover rises with a little waiting. / His fresh moustache conquers the cosmos. / Colored by evening, his mole deceives fate.’
‘I roam. Sometimes in solitude; sometimes in a crowd. But unlike a dog, I do not die a little each day, subdued to the loyalty of my master. I die all at once if it must be.’
‘how to write a thank you letter / how to write a sorry letter. how to write / a letter saying please i’d love / my money back, or haven’t i given / you enough? how to write i love / you i love / you and isn’t that / enough?’
‘The pain entered / me the way the moon / disarms the daya slick blade. / I offered myself as water, / studied its errancy. / What a good citizen, / I thought.’
‘If you spark a flame and turn / it upside down, / you will find it is still / a flame.’
There are no refractions today / by the pepper flakes— in the glass. // The snails slept by the snap pea hooks / and cradles— I salted them. // Sometimes I drank / from a vapored gas— / I made ellipses with my glass.
‘i contour my face with sand & it is war paint on the wrong body. i puncture my nostril with steel & that is a war crime on the wrong body.’
‘My father likes silence and the past. // He votes for losing candidates (he is so unwilling to love charismatic men.) / He believes in the things we are given, like decency.’
‘these games draw lines / between crowds / i am one of many / who wonder, / how come the silicon valley / squats on san josé?’
To constellate; archipelago. // Portmanteau & neologize. // To fix a golden / foil across the mouth— // a burial mask / to keep the evil out. // To raise walled cities / stone & green with rain.
From comfort food to college applications, this zine showcases the stories of undocumented women from the Asian Diaspora
‘Here is language, say / it is one you know. Hyphenate / when you can. Steal inquiries, / steel for confusion. Be content / in the discontent of the hyphenation.’
‘A body on all fours, you / prefer crawling over standing, / your face permanently tilted / down, your eyes only seeing / the ground. How beautiful / the view is.’
‘A family as triangle. Drifting lines. This [mother- father-child] triangle will never be reassembled.’
‘Night, she tries to define herself but forgets / her skin is already inked into a script.’
‘Dark, dark, too dark a dark everywhere / Lovers drooping their necks / Dark as though picking up that darkness / And, again, inside that darkness / There are wolves and dogs on the prowl’
How the steering wheel / points nowhere except towards itself. / And such is the spinning of the mind: / everywhere. When we drove into new / cities it was only a different shape of haze.
‘No motions./A tonic in page display tufts,/call me switch-foot, a check away from homeless./You get there. Intentional.’
‘Grief is deep green and carries a sharp scent./ Memory and rain are like nothing that keeps./ She disappeared in the season of roubai.’
‘After midnight you assemble your limbs back to / their rightful place as you rid the pressure formed / by all day heat and no privacy.’
‘I lifted / an arm, to signify the range / of human voice. Somewhere in the week, / a detour from grief.’
‘How to measure my body home, which is to say, how many names can you give to an immigrant’s geography? Delta Court, Tai Tam, Outer Sunset; finally, a dream to reach the edge of the sea.’
‘That day, I came of age / And became a child.’
‘I remember when I first learned my ABCs. A is for apple, B is for bird, and C is for cat, but further experience taught me, that ABC means American Born Chinese.’
‘Sometimes you are damaged. You think poetry will repair you. You think poetry should repair you. You shake your fist at it when it doesn’t. You walk hand-in-hand with your damage, into the world. You do not speak. You are surprised when people register you are there.’
‘there was / my mother packaging miàn tiáo by the sink. / breath in the morning. breath in the afternoon. / the way history comes back to haunt me with / a plump fist. the way my mouth, a cave, opened / and closed.’
‘You hold the knife, you drink the sorrows. / You burn your hands making tea. / When something hurts, / You no longer feel rage. / You wipe up the mess. / Outside, dusk is the color of Violet and ash.’
‘I wanted to be the last of my people, / a girl without mother, father, sister, brother— / a girl belonging to no one, / my only belongings a cormorant skirt / and a cage of tiny birds.’
My shadow turned to rust / …dust at the first strong wind / … the lungs of others / …hard to breathe / …to follow me / No one to lick out your lungs? / – sweep out the curious orange flakes?
‘I am looking at pictures on a very large / chair in a room with white / walls my mother wipes daily. / Her shoulder is a shelter on which I arrange / rock formations to resemble skin burdens.’
‘I told, my dear, I was living living living in the river. / I told, her then, I was dying dying dying not to shiver.’
‘When you climb the stairway, / don’t shield your eyes / from the pixels, 30 hertz heat— / don’t shield your awe / from the ghosts of pretty prey’
‘I’ve heard the way some people breathe / at night and it made me want / to close their mouths. I think / inside of all of us lies / an animal trying its best to escape.’
‘the games you played as a child: / cracks breaking bones with every step. alive because / that’s your job.’
‘So be / domestic, Bambi / no one kills a pet / So sell your flesh / for fabric, Bambi. Leash / your skin to a lawn / meat yourself.’
When we point towards the horizon and say this is the color / of our grandfather, we do not know for how long // the night will carry your shade or what winds / brought you here.
‘We begged our bodies for / alchemy, death into new lungs, we fed bread / to the jinn’
‘You’ve memorized its bends like a prayer, / its long silver-gray hair, / its cigarettes, its favorite / songs and curse words, / the holes in its shirts.’
Writers respond to Trillin’s doggerel “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?”
‘The right to hxstory is the right to know. / I need to know how my mind is theft. / My body is property because my mind is theft. / I say “woman” and I can still move my mouth.’
We graze our fingers through damselfish schools, // but our appetites are as insatiate as the sea is for land. / We gnaw the shore, legs wound in seaweed, / skin flayed by the tongues of clams, pulling, pushing.
‘At Downtown Crossing // he trail the shoppers, buying nothing, & rub / his rented nose. He know: myself am hell. / His feet unmoved in the snow.’
‘How many times in the dark? A brick for every freedom to hold its dream in. Will the Sun make his own grim entrance?’
You said you were an ant, eyes frozen / on an indigo wave looming over the world. / (You reset every time / you move forward.)
‘All the bitter things, one by one, in a rush, / She wants to swallow. Clothed in blueblack scales in a forest of iodine-colored seaweeds, / She wants to be chased by a shark.’
‘my hulled hands crash against the tide / to the unloved I will offer / a part of me / in hope my wards will be made complete / for another life’
‘There’s a piece of me / that has never been / to this country and another that never left. // I stare at strangers as if they might be friends. // It took three weeks of traveling / before anywhere looked like home.’
‘He knew the genealogies and coats of arms of / all his neighbors, with pride at its right hand and / cruelty at its left’
‘when I am dark/ when I am no more light/ when I am no / more an abomination/ when I am no more shame/ when I am face / again/ when the collective being of me worships god, family, / education and the collective administrative silver spoon, / then I will be back in the fold.’
‘We are given a face, / which means we are given / a vessel of blood to call body, / & lungs–that know the alchemy / of altering wind into breath–the way / plants are always transforming / someone’s last words / into oxygen.’
‘We melted in amnesia, bubbled up / from the ocean, rinsed clean / of appetite, all healed, / all negated, a sequence of two spines / imitating an arrow. A jaguar loved us. / He licked where our hips had been, / and we cucooked in reply.’
‘You brace yourself against the oncoming. But today the sea glistens like the fish you used to scale.’
‘we need to reinvent the image of tragedy for the nation everyday / or even in the everyday / get incensed or pretend to be so or else there is no exit and no future’