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.
I loved the humidity then.
It could have smothered me.
I didn’t mind,
in the tree house,
lying on my back like a forgotten swimsuit,
drinking in the hum of flies.
I rolled over the uneven planks until the call for dinner.
That verdict now in.
Heat waves never drove
down my street
when I was seven,
but one crawled over our back fence
when I was thirteen.
I timed the drops
of sweat, beads like men
solitary and suicidal leaping from my face
until my father drove up.
Even the heat
didn’t dare go near him.
Candice is a passionate educator who has been challenging students to think and live well for 18 years. Her poems have been published in print and online publications, including The Forum (San Francisco City College), 13th Floor Magazine, Tethered by Letters’ f(r)iction, 50 Haiku, Assaricus; she has read at various LitQuake and open mic events from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Candice is also the author of a 2007 trade paperback book (de Capo) which led to her spot on NPR with Diane Rehm. Candice earned her M.A. in literature from LMU. She is an Ohio native who carves out life in Los Angeles with the help of her three children and many pets.