‘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’
‘All your potatoes on the ground—you were never meant for this. The camerawoman tiptoes around spilled tubers as she zooms in on your front teeth, tearing open a parcel of dried shrimp. ‘
‘Murder is to mitosis is to mercy. / We are mostly legs too: part tendon, part pardon, kicking / or curling.’
‘Being alive has again made something new, something that may not be true of justice but is a basic commonplace in evolutionary theory. To forebear is one attitude, rising in an infinite return another.’
‘If not agates, then barnacles, if not / sweet-smelling seaweed, then shattered shells./ The traveler need not journey on. // If not mussels, then sea glass, if not // smooth surfaces, then rocks pocked by anemones. / The traveler’s journey is one of return.’
‘Match lit by a shadow’s curiosity. / Though I was not there for it, I still tasted their meat // and their marrow held a sweetness.’
‘Do you hear / the rainfall beating / on cowhide skin / father? It is the life / of autumn, / supernova / booming’
‘Your mouth a little wound with a little reason to be / involved is why alienation is a body part, which moves / you to harshly ask if death really wanted what it wanted, / if its sole duty is to be observed all the time.’
‘but what if it was something once / vulnerable, downy, and warm? // something severed or stillborn? // something with pulse and blood / and breath bitten right out of it?’
‘And they were a solemn people: naming / the world, mapping it out, arguing about what it meant. Clandestine as / husbands’
‘Pastor says / abstain, says sins of the flesh, says hell. But when we see the boys / with their strong corded necks that make us crazy, we want and we do not.’
“ALL WILL COME BACK FROM ROOTS – NOTHING KILLS BLACKBERRY – BUT WHERE ARE ALL THE SPARROWS”
‘They love long hours of blackout. / They love this snuffed out match / of a little city. To the dust that separates // stained lace. To the poor / thrum of humidity.’
‘The first boy that I dated weighted down his coif / with so much hair gel that the crest atop his pate / was hard as horses’ teeth’
‘No others no-place/what to do but hoard the remaining solaces’
‘It was the mind repeating itself out of hope— / a mind that inhabits the same metaphor over and over’
‘When I ask, the histologist responds, / Cells have no color. / We use ink to color the slides.’
‘I relinquish / the greatest thing I have / for my greatest wish. / I turn into sea foam. / I learn nothing / ceases to exist’
‘The world has a sleek, hot belly / A cue of white space, an inch or several yawning before the drop, towards volta’
“in the jungle they hide until / the seekers, bearing lime leaves jail / them in the silver night.”
“I didn’t care whether they understood me, then I said, ‘Hello, hello,’ again, soldiers climbed out of their foxholes and looked at me, they couldn’t understand, but they knew where I came from, they just looked at me”
Never / reaching orgasm, / the colony names its price and I, / hot cent of foreign cash, / sell it slant. Daughters / say it with ozone: my sex is a metaphor / for too much / good luck.
Be calm. Soon / we will bear sentimentality, scent / what is lost in these cells with carrion, / asphodel, turpentine, forsythia / blooming somewhere in the dark.
When did I first realize my parents were not infinite? / That I could see the end of them? Past their capes & catchphrases?
eating crabs with your fingers pre-Spanish fork and spoon and pre-KFC native chicken you can be served by dancing feathered natives that is true it all tastes good
how to be clear as the earth without clinging to the sand? / flowing through my hands like water / one seed clings to my palm
‘in the haiku I send her / and the silence she sends back, / hell no, nan da yo, / call it off, snap it shut, trash / it, just let it be, let me be’
She petrified her / Secrets. “About what?” / That she’s been chosen. / “She chose silence.” How? / “Like the light, deeply / Fissured.
How scared God must have been / when the woman who ate all the fruit of the tree he’d planted / was cutting out each red body from / between her legs
“In my desire to be Nude / I clothed myself in fire:— / Burned down my walls, my roof / Burned all these down.”
Such atonalities / caught floating through four centuries / in flagrant delicto bear witness
swimming six thousand feet to the surface / the lights lure curiosity / from a sudden clearing / to the gingerbread house / where a hand has lighted the wick
Upon entering a shrine, it seems to hold ghosts / The belly of an abbess suggests pregnancy / Behind a heavy curtain, the suggestion of people
They send flowers before guns now / all the thorns plucked from the stems. / An order to weave the dirge / before the mortar sings.
as if smell promises taste and always delivers. / Pleasure, when observed, wets into compulsiveness.
If these are ghosts, trace them / in the dismal notes of the gutter, / the window’s drumming murmur
I was the smell of ripe lemons in his oxbone nation. I was never / brave. But, he let me eat butter, held me like an egg.
I will float down the stream / until it ends. / Until it ends, the mines avoid me.
I live inside this world that lives inside / me: in this dream, there is nowhere to hide.
My mother left my father more than once. A favorite / family tradition observed when I was four. / Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Leaving is easier / the second time.
Rage dented the silver / trashcan / “fire-crack” or “schrack”
I went to see what people are really like / in a thousand human ways.
The work of nine ekphrastic poets
I should have pinned you / to that wall, but you have walked already / out of that drawn-on door.
A poem in memory of Eric Garner: “No offense, Officer, if I don’t / take to your charm offensive, or is / it your offensive charm”
“In the smoke, they forget their bare feet / as they see their faces more clearly than ever… No trial can strike down / their small and fragile umbrellas.”
Killed by the Gestapo 70 years ago, today, special agent Noorunisa Inayat Khan inspires with messages in code. A reflection and poem.
What time and place can call you home? are you an epiphany? a question? / Is it something / you only pretended to welcome, something you’ve come to regret?
How to say milk? How to say sand, snow, sow, / linen, cloud, cocoon, or albino?
I don’t teach my girls / to brave the violence of sun, sons, or stings. / When resources run out, don’t sit there and behave. / Abandon hive.
“Eyes will return tonight / with their ghosts / in the shape of tombstones.” On the 25th anniversary of June 4th, 1989.
I look up at the trees. / Like me, they have disrobed. / They have disarmed me
In a collection of poetry and prose, writers respond to the work of Bengali photographers exhibited in Eyes on Bangladesh
My palms cannot hold back the shifting currents. / They can slap a rhythm, hoist / a banner, hold / your face tenderly between them
I hate you, poem, for wanting to know the truth. / The truth is, I trusted the sky. / Trusted it wouldn’t throw things at us
The rivers / and trenches glossed with light / know we are so relentless as to plan / for catastrophe
The key to enjoying the jubilant, fleshy dread of Feng Sun Chen’s supercut poem is appreciating what one might call the bodily turn in poetry.
Poetic responses to the literature of the Ghadar movement
Four Poems by Victoria Chang
Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, inquiring into a poetics emerging from the adopted diasporic condition, guest-curates a portfolio of poems for The Line Break.
Ocean Vuong, in search of the “new erotic,” guest-curates a portfolio of poems in time for Valentine’s Day.