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questions for babcia - Angela Armstrong

To Answer the Unanswerable - Sophia Craig

Jazz, Personified - Miriam Halim

Perm - Jordan Kalt

Yum Cha - Sydney Luk

Tin Hau (天后) Station - Sydney Luk

Central - Sydney Luk

Painting a Portrait of Marie - Valerie Massey

where I’ve never been - Sean Murley

I’ll say what I mean one day - Sean Murley

Lines for the New Fortune Cookies - Sean Murley

We Couldn’t Have Known But - Brooke Peterson

a brief meditation on impulse and the women who support me and the men who do not - Aluna Sedona

All That Lives Long - Jackson Spencer



Don’t Wake Me, I’m Dreaming - Anya Welborn

questions for babcia by Angela Armstrong

Momma told me you loved to cook ​pierogi

did your momma teach you like momma taught me?

did you lean over the counter and press until the dough was smooth

and your wrists ached?

did your momma give you a fork to crease the doughy edges?

did you linger near the stove to watch the water gurgle and pop?

Momma told me you didn’t have any shoes

no furry boots, shiny sneakers, or bright flip-flops

like I have

she said you walked for miles to school on calloused feet

did the other kids have shoes?

why did no one help?

Momma told me you walked alone through the forest

heard the booms like thunder crashing

felt the ground shake

felt your knees tremble

felt your freezing feet throb in thirty-nine

were you scared?

Momma told me you were smart like me

she said you stayed awake late reading

hunched over in the attic

only a flickering light of a candle to guide your eyes

did your eyes turn red?

did your momma ever catch you?

Momma told me you became a principal

I’m proud of you

you were brave, ​babcia

did you ever cry?

To Answer the Unanswerable by Sophia Craig

Wear your controversy, for my sake.

Some may not approve, but I’m here for you.

You may think this is selfish, that it’s all about me.

It kind of is. After all, you said you love me.

Siri, how do I stitch a body that I keep breaking?

She didn’t answer. So I asked mom, “What are boys?”

“Hypocrites, the lot of ’em.” Oh, I see.

We are tiptoeing towards transparency.

Hesitantly, though.

How silly of me to think that I could do this.

I’m a fixer, naturally. But

where is the procedure for this?

Google, how do I sew a heart I haven’t even touched?

My kisses heal, on instinct. But who taught me that?

Destroy them with kindness, they say.

Here lies your grave.

I’m not sure what flowers you prefer, so I left you emptyhanded.

You bite your nails. You want to touch with your fingertips first.

Dip them in the water, then. Enjoy the ripples of my face.

And envision your destroyer as she caresses your cold, cold hands.

Jazz, Personified by Miriam Halim

He will rarely knock. If he decides to his knuckles will bounce off the wood quickly. A skipping record. A


He will fidget on the other couch for four minutes before pacing.

You will notice that his bare feet stick to the hardwood

like smacking lips.

If you indulge him,

if you attend him,

his stare will spoon-feed you challenges:

Why do you sit on your feet so much, if every time

your leg fills up with      metal beads?

Why did you use those books you haven’t read

to put under your tv to make it   taller?              Why did you

stop painting your toenails?      Why did you so carefully pick apart that styrofoam cup with the water still inside?

If you don’t      indulge him

he’ll take his aching needle fingers and work his way into your cupboards.

He will eat the one-third cup of raw pasta at the bottom of the box

and will crunch and hum until

he gets you to smile.

He will then lift up

the corner of the rug

with a flexed toe

and make a comment

about sun-bleaching.

As he studies your twitching fingers he’ll narrate aloud the                      cold war

between your ambition

and your hands.

His Irish exit will either

leave you with all four corners of both your feet pressed into the floor,

or leave you cursing and hobbling, unsticking a single rotini

from the bottom of your right foot.

Perm by Jordan Kalt

You stretched like a leaf

that couldn’t tear

Carried a home, a neighborhood, a continent strapped all in chickenwire on your back Purple-headed death got your mother,

even your granddaughters before they’d sprung like constellations

But miraculous shamwow, you kept absorbing

You lifted me and yours

like a grim-faced whirlybird rising out of Katrina waters, speaking in and out of tongues

Surely you were Superman, Christ Almighty and Odin Allfather, female though you were

Why did you let them talk to you like hahaknowyourplace

then make their meals and tell me to act more like a boy?

You taught me to bend, give, and accept my blame and thanks for you

Lips locked by hidden sutures

where we should have both cut the strings

Now you must go, slip loose from their burdens and while away in an ecstatic


Yum Cha by Sydney Luk

Let’s drink tea,

Dad. I worry about your health. I do not think you could give me your kidney

like you promised.

If we were medieval, you’d have a forge working late nights early mornings stumbling to sleep in the afternoon

and it all looks so romantic

until the shadows of tree branches grow over your face and

we laugh

because we’re not medievalists and you’re just a man

downing coffee dregs.

Dad, you have depressed the couch. By which I mean to say, you have literally

left a depression in the couch.

You are the sleeping field mouse an artist wants to carve the likeness of into a hollow walnut.

By the time the kitchen exhaust fan is at work, maybe you are awake and driving

to the hardware store

and tonight, if I am the telescope, you are the ISS blowing past

me yelling “tally-ho”

saluting the stars with your cap but before the next galaxy, Dad,

let’s drink tea.

Tin Hau (天后) Station by Sydney Luk


At night when I cannot sleep I have an urge

to climb up on the roof

and count the empty spaces between stars

they are always so far.

I wonder what time it

is in Hong Kong but realize that the sun is out,

nobody is watching the stars in Hong Kong with me.


Once, many years ago

I stood admiring a happy yellow poster in the Hong Kong Metro

40 feet away from my parents when someone covered my eyes

I was too surprised to scream

and was left gaping when my uncle’s face appeared in my view

suddenly thankful I wasn’t being stolen away to the mainland.


In bed, I looked up

at the ceiling imagining

a mirror out of which grows two women: one with monolids,

one with double

they look back at me, unamused. I cannot tell which one looks happier

to be living a 2-dimensional life.


When I sat in a cafeteria in the Midwest and carefully crushed four

small pearls of lychee between my molars for the first time in several years my friend asked how they tasted

so I told him they tasted like Hong Kong 12 years ago but he did not understand.

Central by Sydney Luk

could use a new name.

People throw fire in Central drawing and re-drawing its streets’ lines which is only a little funny because of its

namesake. On the weekends Central is more diagonal than straight. The skyscrapers morph

into black-clad people, they may as well have been glass themselves. The harbor’s lights reflect

back purple and blue and green against hard plastic gas masks and from

somewhere above Central, some observer could be forgiven for mistaking them for short buildings.

Central is square blocks

and always has functioning traffic lights. at night, on weekends, Diagonal functions almost as well as Central does. The police

write their signs in English and Chinese (for the tourists, you know) “WARNING TEAR SMOKE”

Painting a Portrait of Marie by Valerie Massey

You asked me to paint a picture of you, for you

because you want it

so you can hang it on the red wall of your bedroom, framed by all the pictures you’ve taken of yourself.

It hasn’t even been five minutes since we began but your eyes are already sharp.

You ask me why I have blue on my paintbrush

and I tell you it’s because of the way the light of the ceiling fan reflects off of the blue walls in your kitchen.

But you protest:

I don’t want to be blue. Blue is a sad color.

I want to be pink and rosy and soft.

So I clean my brush off

and I make you pink and rosy and soft.

I can remember the yellow walls of the bedroom I grew up in.

It was a muted yellow, like the color of sunshine on the savannah. I used to hate it. Not so much anymore,

but still, when I am painting you in hues of ochre,

I cannot help but to be reminded of the sunshine on the savannah and how your face reminds me so much of the face of a puma.

Soft movements and crisp eyes. Sitting silently under the tall grasses, ready to pounce.

I am the zebra and you are the puma, warming differently under the same sun. After I finish, you tell me

You can stick around a little bit longer.

No, thank you.

I have other portraits to paint.

where I've never been by Sean Murley

I know these fossils should be buried,

but the dinosaurs were only on the ground for a little bit.

Everything of mine can be buried.

I’d swallow the earth and all its famine to say hello. Don’t worry,

I can handle this earthquake underneath me next to you. Where’s the stage?

I’m only acting alone. Let’s pretend it’s the last day of summer

every day,

so we can talk about how the earth is just a peach pit, and we are solely fruit flies.

Let’s fly a bit longer, like vultures picking at the dry ground bones jut from.

I’ve only ever broken my left arm

once, and that was a fluke. Never again will I let myself break like bread the last time Jesus was seen alive. Never

again will I be so alive.

I'll say what I mean one day by Sean Murley

“I’m an artist with a certain special something, and that something makes me really, really sad because of nothing.” — Hobo Johnson

Everything hurts beautifully sometimes

across from you, I’m confined solitarily

to this counter chair, shaking

‘til I fall onto the diner’s vinyl tile.

Let me draft my words to you on this napkin

for a moment before

my mind flies into the wind.

I can only wish for daydreams submerged

in amber and thoughts wading through water.

My silence is simply an echo

of the sounds I make on walks

in the emptiness of the nighttime.

Sidewalks house me

when all is silent in the neon darkness of the world.

To say something beautiful is once-in-a-lifetime

which is why I scribble on napkins

and wander hopelessly in the night

as the Earth shifts

beneath my feet.

I’m speechless

at the best part of this.

How to say, you remind me of a simpler

day when I’m still, sitting here.

Is it the light snow that shakes me

or the natural fallen twig I find I am.

I’ve been the ice on the road way too long.

Little truly needs to be said

but that I’m here right now

blending in with the flower wallpaper of this diner.

I haven’t lost my voice,

it’s just gone for the winter.

When these things happen, I know you’re just a complex human,

as am I. I remember:

You’re wide awake

early each morning under the stars.

I have no comment on

the passing comets we are.

I’ll take my sadness

on the side please.

Too many things, like you,

are too good for this small world.

It takes too long to fall asleep at night.

I just want to be wide awake.

We’ve all been a bit too busy to

stop and enjoy the drawings on the sidewalk.

Please fill in the blank when I’m fumbling for words like lightning.

Things work out eventually, hopefully.

Because all I want is

for you to be

in front of me

and for some happiness

in the middle of the street.

I’ll run one day, but let me sleep

for now, until I rise

grinning at my curtains

blocking the sun

from staring at me like someone I seem to know.

Lines for the New Fortune Cookies by Sean Murley

-after Frank O’Hara and James Masao Mitsui

You will lose your voice

and your most expensive ink pen.

The next bus you take will drive too far past your home.

At times, your silence seems strange, to friends.

What a thin slice

of watermelon, life is.

You should order the pancakes at any diner, unless you’re alone.

The next Magic-8 ball you shake will say maybe.

One day you will write your own fortune on a napkin.

The next person you see on a sidewalk with weeds will see you too and nod.

The next investment you make will be a pyramid scheme.

You will become a taxi driver

and the front seat of your mustard-colored car will always be empty.

No one in this room knows what to think of you.

We Couldn't Have Known But by Brooke Peterson

growing up as lonely small touched girls we learned the word for rape & thought it was synonymous with sex & no one taught us otherwise & the world made it seem like they love you only as hard as they hold you

down & the law of attraction is as follows: they are attracted to you so they take you and you take it & so we learned & we took turns & we still won’t talk about the ways we touched each other when we thought we were someone else’s

playground & recess the week after was silently spent walking the paths alone trying to find words for wanting in the concrete & we were scared of being lesbians and coming home to families who would rather us drown

in the fox river than do what we did & how we let ourselves do & we let everyone else fluff our pillows & fell asleep staring at the ceiling inches between us too small to know sex is meant to be talk before touch & rape is not touch

see even if it’s soft the contact is still impact & see we just wanted to be held like we were loved & shit that’s not it but on the bus in fifth grade Nick asked his friends which of us girls he would rape if he could & Mason picked me & he knew

where I lived no I mean he could see my bedroom window from the street as we drove past & I couldn’t shake that or sit still so I slinked against the window seat & let my head bang against the glass hard as how men are supposed to touch you right but

later he came to me & said don’t worry that doesn’t mean I want you it’s just an honest answer

a brief meditation on impulse and the women who support me and the men who do not by Aluna Sedona

an instinctual primal     urge to bite       crunch a shell   i bit through                   it bit down through

until the crack

yolk pored through        teeth    poured through

broken shell     i gasped                       surprised by the taste a raw egg                        stolen from the carton

when shafer wasn’t looking

this need                                  to bite the egg    i couldn’t explain it past                     i had to bite it something

in me needed to        pierce the walls of a

spoiled chicken infant               something in me knew it would be                                                            crunchy

the egg was so full                    whites and        yellows

and clear goose glue                             goo ooze it slipped from my tongue                          slipped down the sink

where the boys             told me to hover           they didn’t want egg on the floor

as i sunk my teeth   into cold calcium they were horrified         and amused and confused and bemused

and enthused and                        scared

why do you want to bite this egg

you wouldn’t want to bite the egg if you didn’t talk about it so much

i can’t watch this

oh my god beth why

they threw around the term egg sucker while i continued to insist         i only bit before the bite before the bite before the crunch  i held to egg  in my palm rolling it gentle and soft warming it

the fridge was chilling

my boy ben he said i couldn’t bite the egg

he said             it would be a waste       he brought up

Salmonella                   he said i would Hate    the                                    taste

i spoke to my poetry     ladies

told them the delima of my egg biting desires

and they told me                       don’t let him hold you back

each one said         i should do It

they told me                         do it

i knew then      what i had to do

All That Lives Long by Jackson Spencer

When the ash was cast onto each of

 my boots, I should have known.

The quill, dripping deep black,

intent with the ink of the

Everywhere Spirit

In the penmanship of one who

fills in the blanks before

the words are spoken:

All that lives long

are the earth and

the stars.

Though we may be of the same

charm, the same strange

dust, I must recall my

own realization that

I am but little more

than quantized


 I’ve come to know my respective rosette

which renders me repugnant, wretched

reduces me simply to a fool, with

locomotive eyes that despise

my likeness, assuming some

guise in odd, outward,



How could any two truly argue about

who cares more about the other?

 The question – for me – has

now become something

entirely different:

Do I really need

you, or do I

just think

I do?


I am denoting my old thoughts as cerebral artifacts—

an attempt to make them feel more noteworthy

in the landscape

of my consciousness, because it matters what we name things. my name is a lie I tell people

to catch their attention, and my smile is a promise

I’m trying very hard to keep. I try not to sweat on strangers

when I shake their hands.

I find myself always hurrying to catch things

when I drop them, as if

I could break the fall of a pencil or a toothpaste tube. I feel as useful as sunscreen on an overcast day

from the inside of a windowless

basement. I feel as useful as an umbrella during

a category four hurricane. The people I love most are always loitering

on the brimming city block of my brain and making

their appearances in my best ideas. I am trying

to learn myself. Another purple night, I reach for a star

in the empty air above my face, (of course) my hand always comes back to me empty.

Another yellow morning, I coast the tip of my finger across the shore of my scalp,

a migraine there (of course). Who are we but a field full of all of our thoughts? I am

growing a garden. I am attempting to unearth truth in the soil.

IN TERMS OF HEAT by Jo Wallace

one day, someone else can be your protagonist as long as i am mentioned

somewhere in your footnotes. what i mean is

try remembering me.

it might seem easier than breaths, than bike rides, right now

but you should know

i am a nothing— a sweet one. floating southwest toward your sun-swallowed equator

so that I can catch the rays of your smile, let them scintillate in my vision cast them into a black sky

and watch them become the stars. collect them all again

to fill my pillowcase

in the hopes that i will dream you more vividly tonight.

i feel sometimes like we must exist outside of time—

but how can you exist

outside of something that doesn’t exist? what i mean is

i want all of my seconds with you and some firsts,

and a footnote.

Don't Wake Me. I'm Dreaming by Anya Welborn

I had a dream one night that we were trees— pushing up through the dark earth,

reaching toward the sun, our arms out stretched.

I woke up to the feeling of sunburned cheeks

and a stray leaf still tangled in my hair.

You told me once that the sky is all around us—

pulled up close under our chins

like a baby blue bedsheet, billowing about as if hung out to dry on the wind.

You said if I spread my fingers I might feel the soft cotton air brushing past.

I thought I loved you then.

I used to tell you about the time I tiptoed out unto the horizon— about how I let the lilac haze surround me like stardust as I

clung on to the edge of the world.

You laughed at the way I spread my arms against the breeze

like I was flying,

but I swear I could feel my feet lift off the ground.

How much simpler the world was when we still wished on fireflies

flickering through the night like loose embers, when we still set dandelion dreams drifting out over a sea of green grass,

when we still believed in the weightlessness of words, of whispered secrets wandering between us.

There was magic in me then— before my brain

cracked open, before the light spilled out.