An Ode To Fast Food By Alison Zheng

An Ode To Fast Food

My yee-paw led the great Cheng diaspora from zung gwok to
yee fow. She and yee-gong bought their American Dream

in the form of a 7/11 where my grandma worked. There, she learned
her first English words: hot dog, nacho cheese.

Mom worked in a garment factory. She would bring
home scraps of fabric, sewing

rhinestone studded Bebe shirts long into the
night. In the morning, she’d make hot water

for breakfast and walk me to my bus. One time, a man
stopped us. Sweaty and red,

he leered at her. She looked away, but he leaned in closer.
When he realized she spoke no English,

he smirked and yelled, “Leng lui! Leng lui!” I clutched her
closer and he laughed at us.

Dad worked in restaurants. His prized possession was a
Buick with baby blue velvet seats

and an unreliable engine. The best thing about that
car was that he’d drive us to McDonald’s where

we’d help ourselves to fat stacks of napkins, and they’d tease
me for the way I ate French fries.

I savored the sweetness of the ketchup

savored how good it felt to mix Sprite and Coke
together. Dad joked it was our special family recipe. My favorite

was the Big Mac. I’d devour it layer by layer — and in that
moment nothing mattered except

three buns, the three of us, and thousand island dressing.

Afterwards, I threw up in the Buick. Dad cleaned and mom
yelled and then,

they both cleaned

but those baby blues were never the same. He missed his shift, and
the restaurant told him not to come back.

By Alison Zheng

Biography:

Alison Zheng graduated from UC Davis w/ an English degree a million years ago. She’s a Scorpio Sun/Pisces Moon. She thinks writing is tight.

americana By Tyler King

americana

my mother’s grocery stores were wrapped in red,
white and blue fish under the open sky,
sky filled with ash and dust and cotton fiber,
sky like sticky syrup,
but still sky.
my supermarkets are wholly-enclosed,
Chernobyl’s sarcophagus. American consumerism
is radioactive, seeping under the skin
implanting deep in dark blood, thick blood,
dragging and stopping,
coagulating. it drives her now,
my mother,
drives her downtown and out-of-town,
to the suburban edges of the city,
not to an open-air market,
nor the Chinese fishmonger on Second Street,
but to the H-Mart. the sign
by the entrance: a white H in a red square,
is splayed against the blue sky.

my anatomy teacher buys pig hearts from
99 Ranch, and I am proud
because my half-Chinese friend buys her
pork jerky from there, not Whole Foods.
whenever we do a dissection, I ask
if she went to that store,
not because I care for the procurement,
but because I want to know if I can claim
the blue-and-red stained kidneys
like I claim a cloudy Chinatown connection:
watered-down inheritance.
they’re from Carolina Medical,
she says,
injected with latex and formaldehyde.
in class, the chemicals exhume in the air,
dragging across my lungs,
viscous stuff.

my mother’s asthma went away when she came
to America.
she tells me in the H-mart as she shops, green
onions and kale, tomatoes and garlic,
scallion pancake and kimchi and vermicelli.
I want the open-air markets of her childhood,
memories before she moved here,
China and my great-grandfather
who died before I ever went (I still haven’t).
that was the first time I saw her cry—
when he died,
soul ripped upwards through a soupy sky
leaving a smoky trail I can barely grasp.
I talked to him once over the phone,
but he didn’t speak English and I can’t
in Chinese.
that is my greatest failing,
my worst betrayal.
smearing mascara. sixteen-year-old fear.
she couldn’t go to China for the funeral.
flights were full. we were in school.
it was quarter-end and
in America,
stock prices must stay high.

By Tyler King

Biography:

Tyler King (b. 2003) is a writer, songwriter, and composer. His work in poetry and prose has been recognized multiple times by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. In addition to writing poetry and fiction reflecting mainly on his Asian-American heritage and the impacts of contemporary masculinity on youth, Tyler co-directs Imagination, his school’s literary journal. There, he focuses on curating new content and helping student-writers develop their unique styles and voices. Tyler attends St. John’s School and resides in Houston, TX.

three cups (三杯鸡*) By Corine Huang

three cups (三杯鸡*)

you toast with a soupspoon
and a fist raised to moonlight,
a poet’s lonely breath through you
and wind in their willows–
like chorus of solitude
harmonized sweet,
and tart, fermented
crushed rice under your teeth–
the taste of sharp ale,
bitter spittle.
irons out your nose, says
prudence ill-fits your wrinkles,
breaks putrid congeal
and a lean pig’s cry
at sputtering fat. you try
to inhale like her worked hands
wafting over silken sheets;
treat it like boon, a preserve–
nonessential, non-exhausted
non-compromised gift.
you learn to pour soy
by quivering bottleneck–
tilt back, until
some pulse in the chest
seizes your wrist,
spasms it straight
til bronze meets xanthic
and fades to amber glisten.
but you do not do
and you do not
do, because ancestry screeched,
halted by your doorstep
made prissy nose and graceless tongue
stutter against path to ambrosial
and jittered hands flit to excess and ruin.
laolao pearled chicken onto rice
and you choked on a bone.

*a traditional Chinese dish pronounced “san bei ji,” meaning “three-cup chicken”

By Corine Huang

Biography:

Corine Huang is a high school writer from Hong Kong. She spends her time searching for astonishment. When she’s not writing, she enjoys listening to Japanese city pop and watching arthouse films. She hopes that you’re having a wonderful day!

Carp Belly Soup By Amy Zhou

Carp Belly Soup

They say it was earth’s breast who split
too soon, spilling yellow currents into
rivers and mud. Even sky’s spine cracked
and out of his folded back tumbled carp
and whipping eels. In their sleep, they gulp
river weeds and feed on children’s toys
leaping downstream.

But it isn’t long before we gut the river empty.
Wade thigh-deep in riverbed, slippery carp writhing
in our knuckled fists, clutch grain-filled gills with soil-
caked nails and brittle blistered fingers. Only our naked
feet swim cold, trembling under blankets of mud—
the rest of our raw bodies only know hunger.

Open mouths sputter salt and silt as
whiskers fall onto drought-soaked floors.
Carp, clean-shaven, roil in salted heat,
thick backs fleck into blistering oil and fins flap
closed— we have long lost
our wings. Dreams boil thin into clotted froth,
and we coat our war-cracked
lips with fat and grease, slice into underbelly
with chopsticks slick with spit,
eat the carp whole, bones and all.

Our tongues are not used to the taste
of food. We chewed on bark for days,
licked rust off palms spread open
for coins, prayed doglike

with spines twisted into roots.
Foreheads are long used
to kissing the ground clean.

Listen, my father sings:
of good men who become blind deities,
steeped in trenches and splashing
in phosgene streams. Terror-shivers
wash over yellow-eyed boys
wearing mulch and iron bullets,
small fingers stretching to reach the too-big
triggers placed into their shaking palms.

This is where sin blooms—
eastern, cardinal red, streets bathing
in beggars.

By Amy Zhou

Biography:

Author_Photo_Amy_ZhouAmy Zhou is an aspiring high school writer from The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. She has been recognized for her poetry and short fiction by The New York Times, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, Frontier Poetry, and Hollins University. She has been featured in various literary journals and serves as the Editor-in-Chief for her school’s newspaper, The Radar, literary publication, The Steele, and art magazine, ArtsMag.

ATM explosions they’re calling them By Parker Sera

ATM explosions they’re calling them

The summer the national guard played the sound of bomb blasts
Exactly 18 minutes apart
For hours once it got dark

And every so often we would ask if maybe they were only fireworks

The summer the people rose
Like shimmering heat from the asphalt

That summer I stared into the jungle of my backyard
Drinking with my skin and hair and gazing

at the patch of light;
The bright, polluted sky glancing through the trees

My body shook
An animal shakes to release tension and stress

I heaved
The whole house heard it

I looked around for some place that wasn’t on fire

In the damp yard millions of little bugs

My body shook
The whole house felt it

By Parker Sera

Biography:

Parker Sera is a queer, midwestern horse girl, poet, actor, and theatre-maker from Minneapolis, MN. Her work has appeared in Knack Magazine and the 11/9 Anthology. She lives in Philadelphia, where she’s working on her MFA in Acting at Temple University.

This Rotten Trumpet is Our Leader By Juliet Cook & Martin Willitts Jr

This Rotten Trumpet is Our Leader

1.

The portals erode.
The industrial debris became the new leader
and plans to cauterize the serpent tongues.

The escape hatch is gone
because he removed it
without permission or approval.

No one will be the same after the spray.
Already, I cannot speak of what has happened.
My silence is uncomfortable.

But if we talk, our words will slime out
because our yellow, reptilian skin
is not covered with enough rust.

He made us all have the same yellow-orange
skin tone as him because he is the evil leader.

2.

Alcohol used to be venomous;
now it’s everyone’s milk
in order to tone us down.

Breast milk is where the poison begins
to turn the babies into snakes
or snake charmers.

Milk: it does not do the body good.
It is our new slogan,
along with “Rust is Your Friend.”

Now that the leader is here,
everything is corroded
the way it should be.

It is great industrial rot day.
The mechanical birds do not whir.
The tin trees have unvarnished silver.

All as is should be.
All glorious waste
from sea to polluted sea.

3.

There is no cure. We no longer desire to be cured.
We rather infect as many as we can, so we are all alike:
crushed plastic doll heads
in blood-splattered, contaminated rain
bending like trumpets someone sat on.

Soon nobody will have their own instruments.
The only singing mouths will be off-key, cracked,
contaminated screams.

By Juliet Cook & Martin Willitts Jr

Biographies:

Juliet Cook is brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at http://www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Martin Willitts Jr lives in Syracuse, New York. He has won numerous awards and prizes for poetry. He has won grants to place bi-lingual poetry inside of buses from Adult English as a Second Language Students. He has 26 chapbooks including two national contest winners, and 20 full-length collections including two national contest winners. He is an editor for The Comstock Review, and a judge for the New York State Fair Poetry Contest.

RAIN By Ogedengbe Tolulope Impact

RAIN

Somewhere in a city surrounded by a body of water,
Inside a room filled with beams of light
A soft wind blows through a blanket of silence,
Swaying the curtains and lifting the calendars
Hung on the wall of beautiful paintings.
Outside, flashes of lighning collude with the rumbles of thunder,
As beads of rain fall from the sky, rolling into tunnels.
Somewhere in the room, a young boy buried
In the fascinating lines of a storybook,
Learns of the flood and the Noah’s catastrophe.
He looks up, pondering on the secrets in water,
On the torrents of mystery between the earth and the heavens
Each time dark cloud covers the blue sky
And the air becomes wet with droplets of rainwater.

By Ogedengbe Tolulope Impact

Biography:

Ogedengbe Tolulope Impact is a Nigerian poet. He is a chemical engineering graduate from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. His poem “Tell them” was a shortlisted poem at the 7th Korea-Nigeria poetry feast, 2017. His works have been published in Duane Poetree, Pangolin review, Amandasteelwriter, Words Rhymes & Rhythms, Literary planet, Wax poetry and art magazine, Porridge magazine, Parousia Magazine, Subsaharan magazine and elsewhere.

grandfather clock By Jenny Liu

grandfather clock

when i can’t feel anything anymore.
the erosion of pupils into flesh dust.
digits and hands unforgiving—grandfather’s
hands move faster than usual, and i.
i am a bandaged body with puzzle pieces
for limbs. i wear skin cross sections
like museum exhibits. when i can’t feel
anything anymore and those hands move
swifter than usual. when the sting on the
back of my hand is the realest reminder
of being alive. the begging of oxygen
from each individual cell, a condemnation,
a reminder. like the inexplicable fist over
my chest, clutching for symptoms of life.
digging for signs like an archaeologist
polishing bone bits to give it meaning for
existing. i too polish bodies. polish bodies
with metal, waiting for symptoms of life.
grandfather’s hands move faster than usual.
digit after digit after digit after digit.
repetition in these hands like repetition in my hands
circular like this feeling, like this nonfeeling.
i catch myself breathing for a second.

By Jenny Liu

Biography:

Jenny Liu is a rising second-year student at the University of Toronto. Her poetry has been nationally recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, Eunoia Review, After the Pause, Watershed Review, The Manhattanville Review, among others.

The sensation returns of bones flying off By J. Freeborn

The sensation returns of bones flying off

The sensation returns, of bones flying off
the handle, joints rubberized and fading

the heartbeat of a helicopter banking south
interrupts the mourning doves at 6. I am maybe

awake I remember being drunk at readings
where everything I heard was a way to

a future illuminated like digital streets peeking
up beneath David Hockney’s window

luminescent in unreal strokes.
The future now is a twin horizon that never

gets nearer, of living too long uninterested
like my grandmother, unable to read

because of anxiety; because you never
get a personality when you live for others

because now all those others are dead.

The alternative is obligations
unfulfilled and still not knowing if

what I feel is love not anger asleep in
desire; a stone in the stomach of a wolf.

By J. Freeborn

Biography:

J. Freeborn is a genderqueer high school teacher in New York.

Conversation with the Sea Adaeze M. Nwadike

Conversation with the Sea

Since the beginning of 2014, 19,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Untallied others disappear without a trace

I sit in this boat, rehearsing a new anthem,
Clutching my mother’s promise to sail behind, should the sea get turbulent
The farewell songs from yesterday echo behind like dirges.
And every distance covered by this boat distills the imagery of my death.
But I have spent half my life at the immigration center,
Carried my passport for so long it became a body part.

You only ditch the airport for the sea, when you wear many problems
you weigh so much to fly.
And this country;
To survive in this country is like
That Jesus’ metaphor of a carmel passing through a needle’s eye.

The sailor said I won’t be needing papers,
And I cut off the passport like an arm, fling it overboard
And the sea turns an ombré of water and blood.
It is better to enter the kingdom of God deformed than be whole in hell.

The sea is a melancholy,
and
The bodies of drowned men and ferries plunge their ways to shore.
A dove drops from the sky and begins to sink, and sail—like us,
To another country, that will open and swallow it

“The ferries will dance tonight”
A boy said to his mother, his voice vibrating like he swallowed a guitar.
I open myself to the crescendo of his voice and to the anthem in my mouth,
And I say,
I am a citizen left behind,
The land isn’t safe anymore,
Hide me.
Hide me.

Adaeze M. Nwadike

Biography:

Author_Photo_Adaeze_Nwadike

 

Adaeze M. Nwadike is a Nigerian writer and teacher. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in many notable magazines in Nigeria and the diaspora. She is currently working on a collection of poems that explores the experiences of women migrating to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.