Session One Anthology
MENTOR: CATHY LINH CHE
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”.
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.
Watching the Wagah Closing Ceremony
Preeti Kaur Rajpal
Preeti Kaur Rajpal is a poet from California. She has most recently been published in Spook Mag and Jaggery Lit.
huiying b. chan 陳慧瑩
i lean down to touch my toes in tai chi
嬤嬤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 that has hardened me for years now.
her eldest sister sits at home in開平
perhaps next to her radio, too, singing cantonese & static, 借一杯附荐凤台上
does she still remember?
i remember to inhale deeply
嬤嬤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 breeze brings the sudden rush of catching winds down hill
of crystals floating on the lake when i reach the bottom.
sunlight washes over me.
at home, 嬤嬤 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,
to look for cherry tomatoes,
she thinks about home.
she slowly walks up the steps
shuffles past grandfather
napping in our childhood arm chair
three chubby cherry tomatoes
cupped in her palms,
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 the most popular chinese opera songs in china and of the cantonese diaspora. it tells the story of a princess from the ming dynasty and her love. her father is overthrown by revolutionists and she is separated from her lover until they meet again, where they plan to die together. included in this poem is the first break.
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 space.
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, canals, bridges.
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.