BOSRA, SYRIA 2009 for A and E George Amabile 1 We’re standing in a light breeze, in a field of poppies, white and red, their heads nodding and tossing beside the collapsed walls, broken columns with lengthening shadows behind them, and the wide road, paved with stones, that steered ancient wheels and hobnailed sandals back to Rome. 2 Today we’ve climbed to the top row of the Roman Amphitheatre. From here you can see most of the town, the ruins of the Roman baths, and the square, slender minaret of the Al-Omari mosque. Hushed voices draw our attention down to the stage, where students on a field trip are whispering urgently to a girl with long black hair. She shakes her head, backs away. But when they continue to plead, she relents, and begins to sing, in Latin: Ave maria, gratia plena… and as her pure, full voice rises, carried by the flawless acoustics of tiered stone, we hear another voice behind us, a muezzin’s intense tenor chanting the mid-afternoon call to prayer. ----- Skywater Manahil Bandukwala I am you in your jewel-domed reading room, I am you in your kayak skimming. — Phyllis Webb The sky was inverted. I called you in the bare yellow night. I am you against the river of clouds, I am you in an energy current shaking down the kitchen walls, you in the contrapuntal stream of two trees racing vertically away from the earth. The sea was inverted. The sun inverted. The boulders, electrons, all organic matter. I called you from the land that is now the sea. There is no becoming; I always was. Now all events are kisses, a softness in the morning before clarity settles in. You in the exhalations that clear out the day’s old dust, you, large enough to hold the sun. The vapour of knowing might be lost, the dream we never woke from. You, I am floating in saltwater in our sea that was once land. Originally published as “I love you, kiss me,” Plenitude, 2022 ----- Your Trowel Rae Crossman I’m using your brick trowel today to prepare the soil for planting begonias along the base of your headstone my hand on the handle you held the steel blade cutting through the earth you lie under just as you cut slices of mortar from the mound on the board then spread the mud with a flourish along the top course of bricks ran a light furrow along the centre laid your philosophy down the row walls always plumb stories always on the level corners as square as your pride I’m using your brick trowel today I don’t have your wrist action or your arm’s rhythmic swing but I have your eye for straight spacing the begonias evenly tapping them down with the handle’s hard end firmly into the ready bed of loam ----- Stanza Jannie Edwards from Italian meaning room, stopping place Room through seasons. Room asleep. Room that’s shaken from the deep. Room that coughs and coughs and coughs. Room with plenty of enough. Room with maps and gears and traction. Room left stranded at the station. Room with extra bowls and bread. Room that argues with the dead. Room that’s lost its mother tongue. Room that keeps becoming young. Room with tides of debt and rumour. Room with tools to measure sorrow. Wired room. Haunted. Borrowed. Room of air. Room that hunkers in despair. Ruined room awash in moonlight. Secret room to harvest midnight. Room of mirrors. Room that simmers in between. Room that takes the shape of dreams. Room that sings through nerves of green. Room ablaze with itch and fire. Room that learns its own desire. ----- When Lucy clambered into the wardrobe Y S Lee I didn’t know what a wardrobe was, but I suddenly knew what a wardrobe was for. And for wardrobe, say also flame-flickered cave, attic-ladder, red ignition button. Say Soyuz rocket, solid propellant, antique compass, handheld zip line, over-wintered kindling, seven-league boots, Wright Brothers’ brainchild, a faultless Houdini. Say a Ming dynasty treasure ship laden with fireworks, lion’s roar, wind-carved water, zeal of zebras, faithful pilot light, whisper of blade on wild ice, tulip buds trembling for tomorrow, twelve-dog dogsled from Anchorage to Nome, heartbeat beacon winking at the end of the world, cloud-somersault of one hundred and eight thousand li, the line your cartwheeling heel draws upon the sky. Through cloaks and minks, I leapt again for the rapture of the fall. ----- The Red Light Reflected atop Roblin Lake D.A. Lockhart At night the peeperscome on strong and the red light above Roblin reflects as if a fresh blood drop on sheer water. Groans from behind the distant tree line follows the patrol of military transports. This night rests upon this sweet water playback of a Drizzy track pushed quietly over a Koreatown side street. Calm. Low love vibrations. Conceive of the right bars to hum, drop your lines upon silence. Whisper a percolating thanks into the night, loft them up to all thirteen heavens, pray that they rain down neon rays of stars we cannot yet decipher from background noise. Al, did you too peer into the sky and dream of the places you've been and have never wanted to let go of? How this life is a matter of adventure rather than pleasing others. Consider the scent of a lifetime of books, the weight of dust from Gibson Road settling upon mowed lawns, dying ash trees, sprouted tulips. Let us walk out to the mailbox, the wail of bagpipes behind us, toothpick clenched between grinding bicuspids. Against a lake that I serenade with Ovo tracks. Hold on, hold on. How two very different men can come to find solace, medicine in a hilltop lake and a single red light burning rather shimmering into night. ----- Fiddleheads Anthony Purdy Beyond the willows, twilight stills the fields. Deer sink from view to lie on flattened beds of crabgrass, while we settle by candlelight to fiddleheads steamed over rust-red water and scallops simmered in an iron pan. You lift the ferns clear of their peaty juice, tip them in to join the scallops, finish quickly with a knob of butter, then, with shaking wrists, place the cast iron skillet there between us on a blacksmith’s trivet. We don’t need plates, you say, just bread and forks, as you brandish yours in time to unheard music, bowing wildly. I swing round, laughing, to make it real on Spotify, then catch myself – of course, we have no signal here. The scroll, it’s true, is purely decorative – it makes no sound – but when we listen to the violin, some part of what we hear is what we see; and when we eat the fern, its tight-sprung fronds are music on our tongues. Originally published in Fresh Voices, 2022 ----- Triolet for When My Children Ask if I Believe in the Hindu Pantheon Sneha Madhavan-Reese What can I say about belief? What comes forth when myth meets history? A logical mind like mine might come to grief. What can I say about belief? Entering a temple, I feel such deep relief, comfort, belonging—it’s no mystery. What can I say about belief? What comes forth when myth meets history? ----- Ischemic Stroke Richard-Yves Sitoski I have come to love your beautiful confusions. So tumble, unroll yourself as a blanket on the grass. Let meadow dew make sense of imprecise precision. And when you can’t talk, sing: imprint your words on the twinkling leaves and let them fall in the yellow of your gentleness. I’ll rake them into lyrical piles, then sew them to your nightdress to rustle as you breathe, to sound the stumbling darkness and guide me, sure-footed only in my sleep. ----- Metaphor Michael V. Smith the cupped palm of my grandfather in the garden teaching me to curl my own beneath the raspberry and make my hand a bowl ----- Taiga Eleonore Schönmaier After the evacuation orders ended, you returned home to discover the forest reduced to black ash. This wasn’t surprising: insurmountable flames had reached hot and high. The fire crept to the very edge of all your memories. Unexpected were the green-gentle shoots that grew so soon after: the forest already, slowly starting to rise up, feeding from the ash. ----- Tham Luang Cave Rescue Pujita Verma moments my fingers hover over your unopened messages, things I want to tell you become my monsoon. I finally saw the film. you know the one about the trapped soccer team & the world that swarmed to the cave to pull honey from the heart’s wound? that one. true story. I was making tea when divers first discovered the bodies. I mean, the boys (they were found alive) & I was licking gold syrup off my fingers. been years since the divers brought them back (alive, yes, but conscious? not exactly) & I can’t stop thinking about the boys sticking to higher ground & they kept climbing further & you told me how long it took, for the fields to finally forgive the farmers, for letting them flood. (I wonder if you know I’ve been treading water. you are in growing season). families were camped in the mouth of the hive & others split. dared to step into the stomach. you tell me years ago your father followed the allegory, as divers pressed between two walls & found footing to climb further. I think necessity paves the way for all the strength someone could ever have. there’s so much I want to tell you, & nothing that I need to. searching for you might just cave inside of me. everything always ends with the body. ----- Toulouse’s uncharacteristic heat Kevin Andrew Heslop brings seventy grandmothers’ begonias from the house to the balcony out of season. ----- birdbrained by Briana Lu am i the red tint window pane or am i the bird that hit it? this summer, featuring awakened glare in the synthetic typewriter and feelings of awful electronity. i think she was dead before she even made contact but all i knew was the windshield crack when she struck gold. maybe she practiced radical self love. maybe she aimed for sunfire. body and environment is an extension of the mind and maybe that was fucking ominous. i’ve got her in my hands, gloved and all as if afraid to melt into a synthesis of prophetic carnage. it’s a symptom of psychosis, really— not knowing how to wield the transhumanal ice pick despite having been raised by it. she’s weeping. maybe she doesn’t know either. cosmic infinitesimal feeling placebo in pianist hands, tickling ivories demanding to be freed. my skin is porcelain, cold to the touch and she is liminal warmth, heart beating out of chest and i’m wondering if her blood might just soar. it’s all wingless enormity in childhood shoebox crafts and prayers in secular mouthwash— encores in sewers and i think i’m going to be sick. crisis hotline sings “My Heart Will Go On”. i wash my hands and go back inside. this summer, featuring awakened glare in the synthetic typewriter and feelings of awful electronity. i think i looked up and felt her heart stop. ----- Asian Girl By Kyo Lee Inspired by Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” read more korean books; read more english books; memorise one hundred english words everyday; don’t bleed out your mother tongue unless you want to be some white-washed gyopo; here’s how to sculpt rice flour into crescent moons; here’s how to fold rice flour into bird eggs; always get better grades than your friends; always get better grades than my friends’ children; always get better grades because we don’t pay $20,000 for you to go to school here so you can be average; greet your elders by bowing your head; get double eye-lid surgery; don’t wear eyeliner, you're going to look even chinkier; here’s how to whiten your skin with a cushion; here’s how to look the same as everybody else; when you see something in the street, avoid eye contact and walk faster; remember, we don’t have the privilege of helping others; here's how to cook rice in the steam pot; here's how to cook rice in the microwave; here's how to cook rice in the rice cooker; here's how to cook rice with a kettle; here's how to cook the perfect rice; here's how to make a sandwich for school so the white kids don’t think you’re too asian; sprout like a lotus blossom: beautiful and exotic and on the verge of drowning; don’t hold your chopstick like that; here’s how to make kimchi; here’s how to make kimchi for white people; here are all the different kimchis to make in each season: summer for tender yeolmu leaves, the winter for snow-white radishes; always tap on the watermelon before you buy it; memorise the names of bts members so white people accept that you’re a korean; but what should the watermelon sound like?; don’t talk back to your elders; here’s how to stay quiet; here, store all your anger in this moon-hangari and swallow it over and over again; here’s how to complain about your husband to asian ladies; never speak well of your own life, people don’t want to hear about the good things; learn to give thanks to the bones of the turkey, we don’t get chuseok off as a holiday; here's how to say annyeonghaseyo to someone you don’t like; here's how to say annyeonghaseyo to your elders; here’s how to teach a white person how to say annyeonghaseyo; here’s how to be a model minority; stop complaining, would you rather be dark-skinned?; here’s how to carry the weight of your country on your shoulders; laugh politely when white people ask if you eat dogs; laugh politely when white people ask if you have coronavirus; laugh politely if white people ask if you’re related to kim jeong un; laugh politely when white people; always behave as if you’re representing all koreans; you don’t want white people to think koreans act asian; never use a dishwasher; never buy things unless they’re on sale; here’s how to be more white; here’s how to be more asian; sometimes be asian, sometimes be white; but which one am i supposed to be when?; you’ll know.