it spills, like ink drooling into graveled
roads, hair hanging from the broken neck—
i run—past the smoked houses that smell of
firecrackers on new year’s—but too
heavy—it drags across my skin;
they said the wokou are coming! ri ben ren lai le!
but the peonies dressed with summer’s qipao
told us stay, stay, stay.
did we stay to die here?
his stomach bulged as they forced water
down his throat, eyes screaming mercy—
uncle, your swollen body haunts me now.
and mother, lullabies and village songs have grown
into the pig’s squeal just before the butcher’s mark—
what did you sing to me before? all i recall is,
“don’t touch me there!”
they said “world war”
but what did we do?
i have seen things. pregnant women with torn open bellies,
heads of our ragtag soldiers in target practice.
the red scarf of a schoolgirl.
her body splayed open, dumped in our once-blue pond.
why did we stay?
i did not want this adventure.
my voice has stilled; i am no longer brave like mulan, my hero.
wait, i wasn’t ready.
Allison Chen is a writer from Queen Creek, Arizona. She has been published or upcoming publication in the Paha Review, Canvas Literary Journal, Shine: Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2016, Brushtalks Magazine, and the Writer’s Slate. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, Mount Mercy University, and Skipping Stones Youth Honor Awards.
with a heaved sigh.
Only the bachelor jay
bathed in his cerulean vest
resists the fait accompli
of ephemeral gray.
The lynx pads soundlessly
into this laundered, stony light,
tufted ears twitching
to the avian colic
from snowshoed feet;
roods upon whispered white.
Deep inside this refuge,
her feline eye—burnt
ochre to its edges—
in a clasping, crushing end.
Though a button breeze,
Time’s muted arbiter,
foretells some misgiving:
in a lethal distance—
the southernmost verge
of an endangered range.
Gina Marie Bernard holds B.A., B.S., and M.A. degrees from Bemidji State University. She writes and teaches high school English in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her daughters, Maddie and Parker, are the two halves of her heart. Her work has recently appeared in Appalachia, Balloons Lit. Journal, The Bat Shat, Border Crossing, Cimarron Review, Fox Cry Review, Glitterwolf Magazine, Tule Review, and Uprooted: An Anthology on Gender and Illness.
Give me poems—
poems which speak to the heart
and not the head;
whose words roll from the tongue
like water over polished stone;
which say straight out
what they have to say;
whose truth does not lie buried
beneath endless layers
of meaningless metaphor;
poems unlike those
fawned over by the literary elite,
but leave me asking:
What fuckery is this?
Standing in the bathroom,
attempting to text
and pee at the same time,
I dropped my cell phone in the toilet.
In a flash, I saw the phone’s
micro-circuits signing off, one by one,
as I reached down and took hold of
the little urine-soaked rectangle.
after three days of silence,
no texts, no emails
no help from the ubiquitous Siri,
the phone still buried
in a bowl of Uncle Ben’s long-grain rice,
I wonder who, in truth, has been rescued—
the cell phone or me?
He was a bad kitty,
and did not care.
Dining according to the dictates
of his own finicky palate,
he turned up his nose
at all the rest.
Without warning, he would
bite the very hand which fed him,
if that hand strayed where
he deemed it should not be.
He shat and pissed and wiped his butt
wherever he chose—oriental rug,
litter box or easy chair,
they were all the same to him.
Clueless that he owed us anything,
he slept through the day curled in front
of the big glass door, twitching in the sunlight
as he dreamed his ephemeral, feline dreams.
For he was a bad kitty,
and did not care.
Howard Brown is a poet and writer who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Lookout Mountain. His poetry has appeared in Old Hickory Review and Poetry Super Highway. In 2012, he published a book of poetry entitled “The Gossamer Nature of Random Things.” His poem “Pariah” placed first in the poetry division of the 2015 William Faulkner Literary Competition put on by Mississippi’s Tallahatchie Riverfest. He has published short fiction in Louisiana Literature, Extract(s), Gloom Cupboard, F**k Fiction, Crack the Spine, Pulpwood Fiction and Mad Hatter Review (forthcoming).