The Yongsan Grill by Michelle Park

The Yongsan Grill

On a Saturday evening, a cold breeze
swells over the streets of Itaewon.
The sky is humid grey, clouds cloaking
the night sky. The only source of light
is the glimmer of the signboards
that bleaches the sides
of the buildings. In the corner
next to exit two of Itaewon station,
beside a Gopchang restaurant,
a steakhouse. Inside, a woman sits
behind the cashier, waiting for the sound
of the bell to ring. Before her – vacant tables,
snow rippling against the pavements,
a remembering: a family of five,
walking in with their shoes half-soaked,
faces blossoming at her salmon.
But when did this become an empty shell?
The exoskeleton of it remains, but
the snail and oysters
are long gone. The woman’s eye
trails to the reflection of her restaurant’s
LED lights, which reads The Yongsan Grill.
It flickers.

*

Michelle Park is a 15 year old, high school freshman currently living in the Philippines. Many of her poems are about nature and her memories from her childhood. She loves to eat food, and during her free time, she likes to play soccer, dance, and listen to music.

Old Shanghai in Paris by Sarah Zhang

Old Shanghai in Paris

Like easing out of the body
into sleep, what it was –

early dimming glow and steaming cattail fluff.
He talked about it to me anyways, carved lines holding
stories in his face. What it was –

Classic signs along Nanjing Road,
and killing the night with joie de vivre.

It was winning your first bar by cheating
its owner in a dice game on Blood Alley –
of sweaty linen and paraffin stoves.

Hookers grifting the crowd, while slummers
jig to gypsy jazz from balalaika bands, and
crying into your vodka beside
a Russian boulevardier.

It was loose talk lips, all of life’s mutations
hiding behind the city’s vertebrae,
hanging out of trolley cars,
swilling Japanese rotgut whisky;

It was emptying pockets of change for the
drunk-throated crooner,

local Chinese kids with
flat-cap berets playing jianzi, strapped for sweets

beside cheap taxi dance girls
stripped for cash. It was being wreathed

in blue smoke of poppy, dwelling
on boiled down dregs of others
for three copper coins.

It was inhabited by ghosts,
dissolving into the sockets of bones.

*

Sarah Zhang is a Chinese-American living in the Philippines. Surrounded by a community filled with diversity, Sarah aims to share the vivid aspects of her cultures through her poetry. Her works have been accepted in Eunoia Journal, Daphne Review, K’in Literary Journal, Heritage Review, Lunch Ticket, Trouvaille Review, Cathartic Literary Magazine, WEIGHT Journal and more; she has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Hollins University, and Saint Mary’s College.

Persimmon Tree by Doeun (Jessica) Kim

Persimmon Tree

A grandmother sits on a layer of newspaper
beside piles of flattened cardboard boxes.
The cold coats the palm of her hands
like a thin glove, slowly numbing the crevices of her fingers.
Dry flakes of skin dress her wrinkled knuckles
as she remembers her grandson
who would crouch beneath a persimmon tree.
The bright orange hue of the fruit glowed
amongst the frail branches.
She taught him how to trace the bruises
and pick out the ones with the smoothest skin.
She’d wipe off shreds of soft persimmon flesh
that lingered on the corner of his mouth.
This story of bliss splinters
when the feeling of warmth curl around her body
is forgotten and the cadence of her breath weakens.
She wishes memories were like books,
remaining on shelves for one to open,
over and over again.

*

Doeun (Jessica) Kim is a South Korean currently studying in the Philippines. Her work has been recognised by Austin Poets International, Cathartic Youth and Isacoustic among others. During her free time, she enjoys doing contemporary dance.

Two Poems by Robert Okaji

Unwinding the Snake (after Linda Gregg)

Old moon, you piss me off,
smiling so in your flimsy gray
sheets, looking so content.
The snake wraps itself around
my wrist, squeezing. Its eyes
say nothing to me. Nothing,
as if I were a temple devoid of
laughter, the cliff at dawn’s
edge, or a kangaroo rat skittering
under mesquite. I unwind the
snake, place it in the grass,
look up. You still piss me off.

*

Water Strider

Without you I am the roofless house
awaiting a thunderstorm, a water
strider in a drying creek, that boulder
poised at the canyon’s rim before
the earth shivers. I am the pan without
fire, a spoke missing its wheel, the
skydiver’s nightmare, a black hole’s
belly regurgitating light. I hike and
sweat, and every second leans slowly
against the next, tiny glaciers pushing
minutes behind, pulverizing the long
incremental days into fine gravel.
Where are you, I ask. What is this
fever, this surging tune I cannot hum?

*

Robert Okaji is a displaced Texan seeking work in Indiana. He no longer owns a bookstore, is a U.S. Navy veteran, and once won a goat-catching contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Book of Matches, Vox Populi, North Dakota Quarterly, Boston Review, Tistelblomma, Crannóg and elsewhere.

Pocketknife by James Harms

Pocketknife

Red and Swiss (the flag embossed
on enamel), no mention of the Army
though once there were three letters,
initials now worn to a few white flecks
as the blade flicks forward, the rub
of the thumb, the crumbs of old
cheese and bread in the hinge, a corkscrew
and can opener, the tiny toothpick
shadowed by tweezers, both tucked
in slender grooves beside a ring at one end
to attach a set of keys, a perfect tool
stowed for years in a cigar box beneath
a lost tooth and a baby bracelet,
a wedding ring and a piece of pyrite.

*

James Harms is the author of ten books including, most recently, ROWING WITH WINGS (Carnegie Mellon University Press 2017).

An Urn Among Music Boxes by Tom Hunley

An Urn Among Music Boxes

I.

My dad is made of balsa wood.
He’s wider than he is tall,
taller than he is deep.

On his face, you can read
“Footprints,” the sentimental poem
that everyone’s mom sticks on the fridge.

My dad has Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Roundup® from the farm next door infected him.
First an allergic reaction to meds
made his tongue swell up, gave him a rash.
Then came tests. Then came the diagnosis.

In the hospital, he couldn’t talk
except by spelling on a board.
A machine breathed for him.
He ate through a tube in his nose.

If you open him up and turn the key
inoffensive music should come out.
It’s my task to open him up, turn the key,

and listen, knowing the music will wind down.

II.

I guess I retire from Walmart
my dad wrote from his hospital bed,
but nothing could make him quit

flea markets, so here we are
my sisters and I, lifting boxes
arranging inventory on tables

like kids again doing whatever Dad says—
hard work but also a cakewalk
started and stopped by the rhythmic

orders coming from Dad’s still-damaged voice.

III.

Last night, in the deep fog on 234E,
two deer galloped in front of my car
and I had to swerve to miss them

as Lou Reed music set my stereo reeling.

IV.

Test each music box, my dad says.
If there’s no music, don’t put it on the table.
If the glass is broken, don’t put it on the table.

Dad, this one’s not a music box.
It’s an urn. It has instructions
on the bottom for storing ashes

and no music comes out.
My dad says Morticians charge
bank for those. $5 per music box.

$10 for the urn. My dad’s a music box.
My sisters and I are music boxes, too.

When the music stops, someone will land in the urn.

V.

At 8am, a vendor, crossing the street
to get something from her car
gets hit by a vehicle going 50mph.

I hear it and hope it isn’t my car
getting hit. Then I hear Ohmigod
and Get up, Mama, and minutes later

a lady holding a coffee maker
asks Will you take $3?
and my dad takes her money as

his friend Shawn directs traffic,
and an ambulance comes
as does a helicopter like the one

that airlifted my dad two months ago
and a teenage girl, trying to figure out
which music box to have her boyfriend

buy for her opens several boxes
at once and there’s this cacophony
of chimes and my dad says

Quit standing around, son. We’ve got work to do.

*

Tom Hunley’s latest books are Adjusting to the Lights (winner of the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize) and What Feels Like Love: New and Selected Poems (C&R Press 2021).

Consumed by Edward Lee

CONSUMED

Grief consumes my heart,
a cancer devastating
all in its indifferent path,

almost a kissing cousin
to the cancer
that took you from me,
savage and swiftly.

*

Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen, The Blue Nib and Poetry Wales. His play ‘Wall’ was part of Druid Theatre’s Druid Debuts 2020. His debut poetry collection “Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge” was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection.

He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy.

His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com

Moon by Julia Caroline Knowlton

Moon

Enough already about it, a poetry professor

once said. There is no room for the moon

in poems anymore. The idea being it has

all been done before. Undeniably true.

I tried the advice, writing about waves, ill fate,

petals like bells, eyes & lies, secrets to confess—

all other things that have fully been said.

Then last night, early spring, getting late,

trees black & still bare, you held me hard

in your arms. We were one, lit by it, entirely unknown—

full pearl button, huge sequin sewn in night’s lace dress.

*

Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, where she has taught for twenty-five years. She has a PhD in French Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill and an MFA in Poetry from Antioch University. The author of four books, she was named a Georgia Author of the Year in 2018. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets College Prize and a Pushcart nominee. Her work has recently appeared in literary journals such as Boston Literary Magazine and Raw Art Review. You can find her on Facebook. 

BUDDHIST FIRE-EATER by Susan Michele Coronel

BUDDHIST FIRE-EATER

Each time she strikes a match, she tilts her head
back, imagines she is entering a Coke bottle’s

glass neck, swallowing the last threads of sulfur
before its saw-toothed cap snaps on.

After she seals her lips around the head
of torch, she exhales with ease

to release the flames of attachment
she has been holding her entire life.

A siren of gratitude widens its range.
What is empty cannot be destroyed.

*

Susan Michele Coronel lives in New York City. She has a B.A. in English from Indiana University-Bloomington and M.S.Ed. in Applied Linguistics from the City University of New York. Her poems have been published in or are forthcoming in publications including The Night Heron Barks, Prometheus Dreaming, Amethyst Review, Hoxie Gorge Review, TAB Journal, Ekphrastic Review, and Passengers Journal.

Two poems by Nicole Caruso Garcia

Sijo for Two Sparrows

Two sparrows are beak-deep in
        tire-flattened rest stop French fries,
more or less content to peck
        an ecstasy of sun-warmed trash
here beside the Jersey Turnpike,
        when they could fly anywhere.

*

What Were You Wearing?

Because the body is a temple,
I wore the wakeful song of birds,
Lay safe beside my lover, still.

Because the body is a temple,
When he trespassed like a vandal,
I had no robe but words.

Because the body is a temple,
I wore the wakeful song of birds.

*

Nicole Caruso Garcia is Associate Poetry Editor at Able Muse and a Board member at Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference. Her poems appear in Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Light, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, PANK, Plume, The Raintown Review, Rattle, RHINO, Sonora Review, Spillway, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. Visit her at nicolecarusogarcia.com.