discourse/analysis

‘establish the work of your hands’.
            it finds a steady hum, the beat of an
                        ocular dance stretched letter by letter.

they are their own chisel, chipping at
            moral tessellations: an unfettered trust
                        in some kind of labour, digital ink.

and now and again the hope of medial
            transmission – seeds scattered to take
                        root, detoxify, strangle discursive weeds.

but what is the work of these hands?
            concrete compressions into widgets
                        ordered on a screen. pixel stocks.

engineered perception, the surface
            made tectonic, a stone made stony,
                        the circulation nudged to churn again.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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bright abyss

when i meet my maker, i think about the
yawning gap between prayer and consciousness,
the straining ache of the eyelids and the
single, shuddering convalescence. at one breath i
dwell at the edge of pink sundown, swept
in a burnished haze, willing a peripheral
blur into focus. i wonder if he is in the
concrete grooves where petals unfurl, or
the swallowed amnesia of tarmac. my
soul clings to dust, shot through like a
gradual dazzle. your word is an entrapment
of foliage: i yearn to exhale fruit. they will
be your testimony and my heritage for the
light is as night and darkness as bright and
they swirl in a luminous shawl. i take these
words and scratch them on my heart.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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process

the text will never be a
mirror, just the pale imitation
of a sunbeam’s fringes, an incidental
breeze, the grainy pink of an evening
glaze. and when it is pulled from a
shadowy place, it glows as a lantern,
radiant, no longer condemned to
murk. that is the task: to eke out
fluency, to contain the nebulous,
to trace the sunbeam back to its
source, one day at a time.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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composure

and the rustling fell still: face flowed into
eyebags, creases deepening affably, unflappably,
the presumed moorings of conscience. their
silhouettes at the ledge, restless, hungry, peering
past our door, that same fear at the peak of dusk:
where were you when they needed you most? elbows
calloused up grassy mounds, nostrils seared by the
billowing smoke, and the decentering, the jungle heat

of divine absence – and the rustling falls still. face flows
into eyebags, the creases framing a stolid smile. mom
said to drink less coffee after seeing that inveterate
twitching, reflected under glib fluorescence. sometimes
it feels like a funeral in your brain, the ache of being
pried open by daybreak. the coda: showing up is an
act of love. to come back to the sociology of it all: to
sit, lips stained, fully present, ink receding into smoke.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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sheol

‘the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me’
– Psalm 18:5 (ESV)

back then, i feared each night
my eyes would close for the
last time, numb to the pinprick
of consciousness. there would
be no cry in submission,
swallowed whole by that
unfathomable place: not-god,
not-spirit, not-person, the limpid
unity of absence. no blade of
light would cut the abyss, but a
tumble, the unsought shattering,
the undone grammar, always and
again beneath each eyelid.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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resurrection

at dusk the tremors begin,
too stubborn to yield to that pained
ekphrasis: jagged headpiece, mottled
palms, limp torso, crimson stain.
perfection is unbroken bones; they
roll the stone from the mind. light
crackles in an empty cavern. no tears
will surge this descending jerusalem,
only the lungs, the limbs he comes
to fill, the bough that learns to bend,
the breath, spilled upon the altar, and
the body, roused to dance, over and
over again.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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lament

why do groans not form in sentences? the wetness, red,
curves by drooping eyelids, at the edge of tiny windows.
prayers catch in the throat, droplets keep to themselves,

faces, lined by tubes and tightened paper, are seen only
in snatches. language offers a loose embrace. the slow
work of the tele-chaplain, watching, waiting, in social

distance: the scene relayed as disembodied voice. where
does God hide when the breath is absent? when the hand
shudders and the phone howls and the masks begin to tear?

he groans. he only groans.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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temptation

this world is not conclusion
she writes – breathless cages
for teeth to rattle, suspending
the shudder of mourning flesh,
the lacunae of unread distance.

and he is still as it begins to nibble
at the soul, the ache that falls inward
until it cannot and can again. this is
my restitution, twice a day, until faith
slips, rallies, laughs, and composes
as it is wont to do.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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ritual

always the same: sleep
burrowed in the corners

of the eyes, thin pages
flipped in sacralised bed

song, stillness cradled and
rocked, mourned in the slow

descent past auburn fur, the
bitter of morning sips, teeth

enfolding, and the sun, lavish,
pouring on the flowing water.

Jonathan B. Chan is a student at the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore. He is preoccupied with questions relating to faith, prayer, and identity. He has recently been moved by the writing of Frank O’Hara, Li-Young Lee, and Charles Olson.

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Chapare

Still digesting lunch’s red bananas and citron,
having avoided poisonous ants on the long hike,
I lean over the piranhas of the Chapare River,
drape my hand in water as the boat speeds on.
We pass by a ruined bridge, and along shore,
women washing clothes, their faces taut as wire
reflected in muddy mirrors. At night we hunt jaguars,
drink, sleep on the roof under heavy nets.
Once a cab with a mother and child,
legs slung out the open back, nearly touching the road,
hauls us into town to buy coca leaves and dance.
In the morning: coffee before another hike,
fishing with children in Nikes, as workers in La Paz strike,
readying for wars that never come.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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Epigenetics

A kiss discarded pell-mell into anarchic flames
dredged from the human genome,
tacked on secret frames—
the insistence of causation—
buttresses our frail elation. Cravings, interventions
of hands, brain, waver in the aftermath,
suspect given the environment’s influence
on even the simplest deed.
Disease holds, with its skeletal hand, the key.
Alchemical beings alter us. We know
not how. The lark and the widow—
distant cousins—meander through years
oblivious to our fascination: coded romance,
fracture relegated to readings of dying stars.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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The Wolf

Sprawled on a chaise longue slumbering, waiting,
excised from routine, a notepad in his lap, fountain pen,
crows canter in the void surrounding his body
as traffic hisses a block away. Dressed in navy slacks
and a white-collared shirt, form erased, erasing—
his song kaleidoscopic, ringing, still sleeping
among marigolds—falls as the dawn adumbrates
shells of incinerated buildings, slips in his dream
beyond the gauzy white slipstream of an imagined wall.
Passing, frail with grief and inarticulate longing,
throat flush with congealed blood of ego—
while the floor disintegrates, the pocked earth leaps
from ashen clothes toward the retrospection
necessary to save the burning city—he masks his domination.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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Rebellion

Just keep loading the gun or wild tigers will devour you,
stomp on milk cartons, break into buildings,
lead revolts, and other perturbations of disgraced tyros.
Bells of holidays and felicitations unknown,
carols that in their fervor have become untenable:
these enter your head and stew
until in their singing they begin to hurt.
But don’t flag. Don’t relent. Let the spirit
fill your lungs. Your blood will boil.
One night beneath a red moon, thoughts will ravage your brain.
Let acid rain fall—rain of warriors and heathens—
and drink the cup of sacrifice. Sink to your knees
and let the sword pass through.
Dig your grave and climb in it too.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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Pilgrims

We are an immigrant caterwaul, a spectral bonfire
of glass smoke and opaque heat.

In our blood courses the flint and silver of antiquity,
in our bones the ore of ancient machines.

We span the Euphrates and the Seine. We envelop the night.
From our hands gush oil and rusted milk.

In our hearts the songs of troubadours lilt and lollop.
Lifted from the soil, our mannequin tongues

burn cantankerously. We follow their lead, distrait,
dismembered by greed, to a fountain of wrought tin.

With each indulgence our voyage lengthens, our feet
tracing steps through cages of orchid and bamboo.

Only the late reveille of the nightingale interrupts
our slumber, a tree of rotten cherries

lost in distorted oscillation, aloft pillowed algae,
burdened by time, and the insistence of dreams.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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Saturnalia

after Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts

Albeit disenchanted, unmoored, the generative probabilities
subsist on meager praise, blush kittenish, tender no resignation,
while forces of capitulation, scrolled on shields and doors,
unhinged, rational, guard every exit. Desist or raise glass—
rush one’s excitation beyond mere verbal extravagance
lest in carnivalesque deterrence, urged by satyrs,
systematic as rain, fields bloom checkered with dread.
Beware of clouds, ceilings carved, ivory-sloped,
heavy with darkness, the country encumbered
with numbered fates, an insistent draft
sounding the alarm at half past eight. Whether ignorant
or incognizant of its own virtue, such possibilities enchant—
as in a summer play on a hidden stage,
while the war rages—the great war of last century.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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Troubadours

We shall not dive into oceans or be obliterated by the sun.
Our crimes of leisure and solitude will remain
incomprehensible. One day we’ll explain
our disdain for lizards and moths.
Across the moon we’ll lay our shadows,
both unseen like morning stars.
Gulls will hunt our scent as we wander the coast,
full of strawberry wine. Hermit crabs
will devour our forgotten crumbs,
threadbare clothes keep us humble
as we incant melodies, tumbling down dusty avenues.
To drown in this sound will be paradise,
to hear our voices echo and entice—
for we have travelled long, to give you this one gift, our song.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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Fall

I have seen nothing, but I have seen all.
Blackberries rotted on a withered branch, small

and inedible. Fire floating on the air
above a wayward river. Without care

wind harangues the trees. The difference
between light and shadow wavers. A fence

topples on snapdragons and weeds.
I have come to interrogate the leaves,

nebulous and inscrutable—no master
but merely an arbiter of disaster.

Let me carry my torch into the dim
woods, to search for love, to search for him.

Let me lift my body into the clouds,
then let me sing and call his name aloud.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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May

A cricket’s milieu—dewy grass, fistful of dandelions,
reconnaissance of nesting jays—has proceeded shadowy rain.
Today the lily blooms, worms surface in dirt,
clouds zoom like warmongers across a peacetime sky
while soldiers linger in bed, nursing tea.
Hares evade the machinations of serpents,
tracing the sun’s arc for hours in fields of new wheat.
The sublimity of chilled cantaloupe
on a chipped blue ceramic plate, shank of lamb,
conjoin, sprawled on checkered sheets.
Wind curtails the feast—lavender-lipped,
pilfering pollen, flush with gnats, the river unravelling
spools of speckled silk
in eyes of the ravenous doe.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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Circle

Show us another way to be invisible,
like rain that can’t fall, a mannequin holding a cane,

a whip-poor-will without wings.
Blame the raven for its execrations. Call the night

by its other names. Lose all, even love.
Let go of rain; clutching fists of snow

plunge downward. Let the river hold you
in its womb, the ground bury you.

Do not move until roots emerge with the return of sun
on the verge of spring. Only then may you speak,

only then dance around fire in a cage,
under golden spires. Hunger for the inviolate peony,

white as ash, disintegrating as you flee. Rise with dust.
Begin where you end, in an immutable arc.

Enter the gate. Capture the dark
holding a translucent flower.

Raise your voice and sing with the hours,
a madrigal, or troubadour’s song.

Tarry a day, but don’t stay too long.
On the other side, they’ll be waiting with light.

Kevin J.B. O’Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University, and will start a PhD in English program at University of Kentucky in the fall. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Bayou Magazine, Glassworks, Flare: The Flagler Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Visions International.

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The Giant Exhale

The winter exposes the bones of the landscape,
the skeleton of the world.
I have cried at the table because the meal
brought me back to who I used to be.
It was easier to put a dog down when I was younger;
now, my proximity to death scares me.
I took pictures at her funeral to prove
to HR that these were actually bereavement days.
My mind blurred as I read his poems.
I wanted the words to bend one way
and they didn’t. I wished he was drunk.
Listening to Tupac’s “Brenda Had a Baby”
and I cried at the lines, “She didn’t know
what to throw away and what to keep.”
How the fuck did he know that?
That’s fucking sad and brilliant.
And while I was meditating,
I forgot to breathe in.
I exhaled my life out through my nose.
I will be so happy when the currency
of the flesh is no longer at war
with my internal life,
but that might be the GIANT exhale.
The loss of that tension might
equal the loss of drive.
Letting it all go.
Letting it all out.
Forgetting to breathe
                                       in.

Jason Fisk lives and writes in the suburbs of Chicago. He has worked in a psychiatric unit, labored in a cabinet factory, and mixed cement for a bricklayer. He was born in Ohio, raised in Minnesota, and has spent the last 25 years in the Chicago area.

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I Just Want to Be a One-Star Hotel

My brother tells me I have dead doll eyes and complains
that Wi-Fi is bad in Taksim the whole time. The bathrooms
here look good although the shower door swings open
of its own accord. He pounds the wrong key card
into the slot, over and over again. There is nobody
else to photograph but me, in the dark, him telling me to look
alive. In Taksim, I am not attractive enough to be hit on
but I am young enough to be unsafe. Men who are not
my family speak to me in eight different languages. I am told
of faking language for respect. The Wi-Fi keeps cutting out
and I constantly lose my family. Everyone tries to connect
to my hotspot. We take timed selfies at every spot we need
a remembrance for. Mama dresses me up. My brother tells
me dead eyes dead eyes dead eyes over and over again. Grandfather
controls my rice intake and Papa makes sure to remind me
that I am a girl. Our key cards all deactivate. At night Taksim
fills with smoke and stumbling couples, arms slung around
exposed necks. My brother takes photographs of me in between
coughs. I fake laughter and my eyes crinkle inwards, unseen. Father
lets us in later. Facing our bathroom mirror, I close my eyes.

Bianca Layog is a junior at Interlochen Arts Academy.

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Two shapes

Sun and moon, perhaps,
the same, separate, separable,
but only just.

Two lovers or two brothers, young boys,
with horns and spikes:
hedgehogs and cattle, perhaps.

Two sisters intertwined, perhaps,
above or below makes no odds,
at peak in their togetherness.

J. D. Dixon is a London-born, Glasgow-based novelist, poet and playwright. His debut novel, The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle (Thistle, 2017) was shortlisted for the Somerset Maugham Award (2018) by the Society of Authors, among other accolades. The judges called it ‘powerful and brutal’, whilst The IndieView labelled it ‘lyrical and haunting.’

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Room to breathe

i.
A piece of sharpness
cries, lying
triumphant

and the long sadness
weeps blue for the
hurried night, it comes
too soon.

The fury of a
blistered cant
mellows. It lists solely.

You chew your words
for the green days;
and the blue days chew them
and soul’s end sleeps.

Exeunt,
we are become peace.

 
ii.
As the morning covers the rainclouds
and the world remembers its weight,
I think:
one more coffee
one more breakfast.

My father’s wisdom brought laughter
to the long and sickly night.
My mother’s wisdom made
the morning dawn bright.
And I thank them.
I thank them.

J. D. Dixon is a London-born, Glasgow-based novelist, poet and playwright. His debut novel, The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle (Thistle, 2017) was shortlisted for the Somerset Maugham Award (2018) by the Society of Authors, among other accolades. The judges called it ‘powerful and brutal’, whilst The IndieView labelled it ‘lyrical and haunting.’

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Artemis

i.
As Artemis wept,
            alone, alert,
            we leapt.

 
ii.
There is always an
absence on the wall;
a sunlit barren
palette.
We scrawl

water figurines
as the sun stalls
over cobbled scenes.
Childhood calls

from a house made
of quiet corners
and hidden moments played
at her apron skirts.

 
iii.
You would take us out
driving in that beaten-up
old three-door,
            bought for a song
            as you read Ibsen and James.

Out of the city. Down twisting lanes,
beyond which the land’s greatness
whiled away the years in furious slumber.

Great hedgerows lay
passive, learning from
the burden of their years.

The land was gently tilled,
ripe with rape and lavender,
the comfort of dying days.

She says: ‘you fuss pot,’
curling daisies underfoot.
The sun blazes for her
            and she blazes for the day.

J. D. Dixon is a London-born, Glasgow-based novelist, poet and playwright. His debut novel, The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle (Thistle, 2017) was shortlisted for the Somerset Maugham Award (2018) by the Society of Authors, among other accolades. The judges called it ‘powerful and brutal’, whilst The IndieView labelled it ‘lyrical and haunting.’

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The digging

The warm pollen sits heavy
in the loam and the wet soil,
wet and furious green all over.
The infant watches with a child’s eye.

Laughter is all around;
the father idly sups, the mother digs,
the children work the barrow,
and the green is furious.

The old folk feel young for a short time.
Grandmother in her nice shoes,
now browned as the child’s brother laughs,
filling the buzz and the bustle.

A cat suns itself somewhere near, removed.
The sun is there for all.
They are all there for the sun
as the earthy work continues.

The child’s stubby legs hold him right
and his stubby arms fumble at the weeds.
‘It’s OK love, it’s OK.’
Ringlets shine as the planting goes on.

Warm pollen and wet soil
and the sun above, glaring…
eighteen months, give or take,
maybe more, maybe not…
Planes above and a brother’s laughter
fill the late spring
as the grandfather puffs his roll up.
Parents and grandparents watch the children,
a first garden is dug for a first home.

They all dig the garden over,
digging and more digging,
ready perhaps a water fight to
            round off the day.

They move from the house,
one day soon or maybe not,
though the grandad keeps to puffing
and the grandmother keeps her shoes browned.

J. D. Dixon is a London-born, Glasgow-based novelist, poet and playwright. His debut novel, The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle (Thistle, 2017) was shortlisted for the Somerset Maugham Award (2018) by the Society of Authors, among other accolades. The judges called it ‘powerful and brutal’, whilst The IndieView labelled it ‘lyrical and haunting.’

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