VIOLETS, MY OFFERING
So often I think – my life as arpeggios – Within
gaps rise a crescendo I fumble – forward into B.’s
touch reminds my body – of hummingbirds their flight –
Movement – he enters my body – does not like that
which comes out – inside me the music set
to his watch – I have held onto far too long –
The postcard I write – no sound ruptures what light
floods slanted – downwards the bed – He says nothing
I am – will ever whisper beautiful in his ears –
Still – He steeps our days – in blues & greens
where I wade myself – violet flowers freckle
the riverside – All is alive around me I feel –
no death – I show B. the wind – He tells me to not
make a big deal –
Jake Matkov writes poetry in Brooklyn, NY. His poems have been published in fields magazine, voicemail poems, Maudlin House, thosethatthis, and others. A 2015-16 Queer/Art/Mentorship fellow, he is currently at work on a manuscript of poems examining trauma and memory and a long poem exploring shame, silence, disease, queerness, and his body.
won't you celebrate with me
after lucille clifton
mom says i’m bird boned
collarbones thrust like wings
peeking over big coats and sweaters supposed to hide
curves that draw and surprise
my own body i know i should love always felt too small too soft
to shout or plant or turn away
i told you my favorite trees are redwoods
when a grandma tree dies
babies shoot up in a circle from her roots
but i know my height
i stand on the shoulders of giants to see far
some afternoon we tossed a frisbee and i sprinted past
stretched my hand caught the pass
you laughed and said you get it
how those towering trunks shoot through my spine
today the sun hangs and squints through wisps
sixty-six degrees, he made it
we sprawl up from the couch and kick off our slippers
walk a block down the street
run down the steps
knees bobbing in quick time
straight yelling into the pacific
golden kelp forests swirl scratch our belly
seawater numbs and sprays
when big waves crash over us frothing we dive deep
let our toes uncurl from the rocks
i’m just in my sports bra
feeling good feeling great
i feel the sun browning my shoulders
and mom’s freckles on my cheeks
kelp twists round my hips waves in my hair
to the little houses and palms
peeking high over the cliff
Emily Bang was born in California and grew up in the land of oak. Her first experience writing was an attempt at survival - she was about the ripe age of three and a half and on the run from a motorcycle gang. When she was thirteen, she discovered how she wanted to use her writing - she was going to make millions as the lead singer/songwriter of a punk/emo band. She performed her first single, “Splinter Fountains,” at the school talent show and received rave reviews. Throughout high school, she continued to write songs. Her college statement was a variation on one of her songs, “Four years, your fears”.
Session One Anthology
MENTOR: CATHY LINH CHE
Watching the Wagah Closing Ceremony
Preeti Kaur Rajpal
i watch peacocks strut
soldiers kick legs into air
fly cutting each other’s wire
rifles click the countries’ teacups
i sit with the indians
instead of with the american
the view of the circus
the wall electric with nuclear
ash left on the other side
flags rising falling the breath
my family dead by 47
the gates pulled down at sunset
Preeti Kaur Rajpal is a poet from California. She has most recently been published in Spook Mag and Jaggery Lit.
in turbans and khaki salute
paper kites that neighbor children
scissors in the wheat sky
clacking cheer of the border
under august’s only sun
tourists in the VIP booth
clear from the map unrolled
blood running the great-grandmother’s
grand trunk our hair’s wheel
borders inherited the sugar
tumbling pigeons who cross god
the light scattering in half
ode to embrace
your arms open like an envelope
and clamp as if they were jaws,
our heartbeats become orators of great poets,
Strom and Rilke and Angelou,
their words ring earthquake in my ribcage,
and then i feel you terraform me,
your eyes make moaning oceans
and your breath the atmosphere,
and on this wonderland
we raise a temple
and pray in it,
we serenade it,
and even before we
even think about
tearing it down,
we imagine the rain in it,
a train is docked at its station,
but its departure is delayed,
and though we know
we have less than forever,
we keep building all the same,
we speak to the air, it smiles,
we defy entropy, it seethes,
and in our transcendence we become
our best attempt at holy,
we speak to time like an old friend,
she tells us that
the best place to love
is in a black hole,
that the world we have created
can never exist but in transit,
we love anyways, in our weakness,
we love anyways, our weakness,
and until the wheels begin to turn
and we return to our own flesh,
we are never not scholars
of each other’s universe,
and if we have to leave
having learned one lesson,
it is that sacred can never wither
Alex Huang is a student at Williams College. Born in California but raised in Shanghai, China, he considers home to be his mother’s cooking. He has almost four years of experience performing spoken word poetry and is a former president of Williams' spoken word poetry club, SpeakFree. His biggest dreams are having an exhibition at the MoMA and owning a dog. (One is easier than the other.) You can contact him about any and everything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
huiying b. chan 陳慧瑩
i lean down to touch my toes in tai chi
嫲嫲 sits in the dark mahogany chair from when we used to live together
her radio sings cantonese & static on am1480
together they begin, 落花满天蔽月光
her voice budges tectonic plates,
mountains begin to rise.
my back is a boulder hardening me for years now.
嫲嫲's eldest sister sits at home in 開平
perhaps next to her radio, too, singing cantonese, 借一杯附荐凤台上
does she still remember?
i remember to inhale deeply
嫲嫲 shuffles to the kitchen,
hands submerged under running water
帝女花带泪上香, her melody draws out the last word
she is five again.
gliding seemlessly from
cupped over carrot slices to
shifting the pot's handle just a little to the right
are her mother's hands.
her hands summon clouds of starch in the rice water
her mother's caress spinach leaves under the trickling tap
together their voices softly sing, 愿丧生回谢爹娘
she siphons the starch water into the bucket behind her
outside the chickens two-step dance around their shingle house
she smiles remembering the grandmothers she greeted in the rice fields
grateful there were clouds for them today.
the radio crackles, 偷偷看, 偷偷望
hands submerged under the creek of running water
she is seventy five again.
i reach down to touch my toes in tai chi
the sudden breeze brings the rush of
catching down hill winds
to the lake of crystals multiplying before me.
sunlight washes over me
at home, 嫲嫲 conducts her symphony
the orchestra sings, 渠带泪带泪暗悲伤
she bows to the jingle of the keys around her neck
grandfather's soft snoring, a standing ovation.
slipping on her sandals,
she creaks open the door to her garden.
it was her all along who taught dad how to tend flowers.
as she crouches
the small canopy of leaves,
she thinks about home.
she slowly walks up the steps
shuffles past 爺爺
three chubby cherry tomatoes
cupped in her palms,
and remembers, just for a moment,
of doing the same when she was younger
how it was her village that first taught her
how to grow a garden.
sunlight turns gold the crevices between the canopy of leaves
i reach up, slowly,
hands intertwined to the sky.
帝女花 is one of the most popular cantonese operas in china and of the cantonese diaspora. it is still performed in chinese theaters and sung in chinatown's parks. it tells the story of a princess from the ming dynasty and her lover. her father is overthrown by revolutionists and she is separated from her lover until they meet again. included in this poem is an excerpt my grandmother 嫲嫲 sings.
帝女花 dai neoi faa never say goodbye
translation by han keat lim 林汉杰
Huiying Bernice Chan 陳慧瑩 is a writer, community organizer, and dreaming dandelion from New York City. Huiying has organized and emceed open mics in Boston and grew a student movement for Ethnic Studies at Wellesley College. Huiying is deeply rooted in New York's Chinatown and has worked to fight urban displacement through community organizing and the arts. Huiying's most recent writing has been published in Project As[I]Am and Asian American Writers' Workshop Open City Magazine. Huiying is currently traveling to and writing about Chinatowns and the Chinese diaspora around the world through a post-graduation fellowship.
Why Resurrect It All Now: A Golden Shovel after Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée
You leave you come back to the shell left empty all this time. To claim to reclaim, the
You must atone.
Leave the marks for what
You stole, a dried chrysanthemum.
Come to shrine.
Back step like apologies
To sisters long forgotten. Count
The strikes upon brass bells.
Shell the meat, honor whatever’s
Left behind, a wishing bone inside
All that talk of nations
This time healing as though
Time is all that’s needed for a man
To say, “I’m sorry.”
Claim this mine.
To heat the water.
Reclaim how it scalds the tongue,
The absence of my sisters scratching
Space beneath a throat.
Into the mouth the wound the entry is reverse and back each organ artery gland pace
element, implanted, housed skin upon skin, membrane, vessel, waters, dams, ducts,
We had crawled toward the wreckage and into
its belly where once pelicans nested among the
vertebrae before bones lost nutrition. Its mouth
was missing all its fangs. We wondered if the
mythic snake could talk before it died. A wound
about the size of a cherry tomato dotted the
ground before it, where something forcing entry
must have shot a warning. My memory is
sure of this, the tsuchinoko, a child in reverse
pounding on gravel, growing hooves, antlers and
a wind pipe. We were warned not to look back
especially when it called our names, and each
time it did, our hearts grew weak. The organ
sunk inside us like a sword falling upon an artery
before the gates of heaven. One by one each gland
opened in our bodies red poppies at a pace
unfathomable to history, to feel that human element
of air as torture, mother, language. We implanted
garlic on our tongues, became that empire housed
within some sacred text. We bound it, too, with skin
from eel to fawn, declared these sins passed upon
our daughters, nectarine, ginger root and skin
of lizards from an army camp, whose membrane
long abandoned catches shoreline breeze, a vessel
for the occupation between Nippon and its waters
never were we quiet to the quiet building dams
we buckled under. Resurrect it all, these ducts
and lullabies, the arrogance of stone, canals
along Busan, from wine to men, blood bridges.
Sophia Terazawa is the author of I AM NOT A WAR (Essay Press, 2016).
From the desert
Cathy Linh Che
I drove clear through the snow. It’s been three years since
I lived off of no money, fueled only by the currency of feeling.
It is cruel, the way life is
one disappointment stacked atop of the first.
Oh, love. Is it God who
makes the organs thrum? The regretful self pays
for years for giving over to that rich music. Any
fool can get into an ocean, but it takes a hero to pay attention
to the task at hand. Self-care, self-care! Drive the exercise bike to
your shelter in the woods. Return prepared for all the winter fixings: the
pines, the cobalt sky, a flat lake. Nature’s own brilliant syntax.
If I believed in God, I’d succumb to the belief in the order of
Only, my days resist order. Chaos and the will
needed to tame it. It’s too much. The soul never
listens. I want to live wholly
in this body. I kiss
my own hand sometimes when I think of you.
Cathy Linh Che is the author of the poetry collection, Split (Alice James Books), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. Contact Cathy at cathylinhche [at] gmail [dot] com.
lok faa mun tin bai jyut gwong
ze jat bui fu zin fung toi soeng
dai neoi faa daai leoi soeng hoeng
jyun song sang wui ze de noeng
tau tau hon, tau tau mong
keoi daai leoi daai leoi am bei soeng
ngo bun daai ging wong
paa fu maa sik lyun fung pui
bat gam seon oi bun ngo lam cyun joeng
falling petals fill the atmosphere, obscuring the
moon from view
with a cup of wine, i offer my respects to
this flower-like daughter of a king,
tearfully offers incense
in gratitude to my parents, i willingly
give my life
secretly, i steal a glance, stealthily i steal
he is tearful, tearfully hiding his sorrow
i'm half afraid, fearful that
my prince would value his
position too much to give up
and journey with me to the