Labour Day

for my sister, giving birth

A double meaning, I guess. When the effort offers
more wind to the process, a grown-up confusion
depreciates. A day of countless promotions, too,
suddenly glimmers, as seismic as the letters
of your name in the skin of new day. Numbers
reduced into decreed holidays. Once again,
these are the borne context on your head, set
to cradle the perfect word in a tin house we built
for freelance work and exclusive reading repast.
My dear sister, you lie there waiting for now.
My dear sister, you lie there closing your eyes.
Don’t you know the sun is knitted for a pumpkin
hat, its rays the colourful socks for tiny feet
insecure about the dripping weather in September.
Oh, my sister, labour day is all fine with jazz!
Before I forget, just what I heard on the news,
Kim Jong Un loves to play with missiles
with no carrier-propositions. And just so you know,
dear sister, like Kim, I’ve watched the episodes
of The Boy General, expecting that in every
cartoon show, a healthy baby is born.

Lawdenmarc Decamora holds an MFA in creative writing and is currently finishing his MA in literary and cultural studies. He is a literature professor in the oldest existing Catholic university in Asia, the University of Santo Tomas. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cordite Poetry Review, The Ilanot Review, Kartika Review, Spittoon Literary Magazine, Peacock Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, We Are A Website, The Pangolin Review, LONTAR, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Transpacific Literary Project, Rambutan Literary, Shot Glass Journal, Ginosko Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Chrome Baby, New Southerner, In Between Hangovers, Panoplyzine, The Cadaverine, and many others. He lives in the Philippines.

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Nocturne for Haiyan*

My country, you see, is surrounded with tropical spinning babes
of the equator, those temperamental hyacinths guarding
a ginosko of coastal charisma after which the beauty
of earth knows no history, future, or shall I say madness
soaked in between hangovers, flowing into greater darkness.
The rain outside gasps in my mind, and my mind
surprises each semen of pride my people share.
Weather reports would approve of the eye
as the typhoon’s most erotic part, the storm of a chance
I can barely withstand without an atom of your gaze.

You come just when the doors in village houses are shut,
classes in schools are suspended just when stars
take shelter in my shyness that at once
was heart and happenstance. It’s 9:45 PM
and I wake still to the monsoon wind offering
salt that fills into the space a dream that often
escapes me, learning how to sing again a song
for two people breaking a marriage of signs. You know
that I can hear you all the way out in the garage,
screaming your name all over town, a name the night
remembers in tide after tide across the Pacific.

*The international name of the super typhoon that devastated the Philippines in 2013.

Lawdenmarc Decamora holds an MFA in creative writing and is currently finishing his MA in literary and cultural studies. He is a literature professor in the oldest existing Catholic university in Asia, the University of Santo Tomas. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cordite Poetry Review, The Ilanot Review, Kartika Review, Spittoon Literary Magazine, Peacock Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, We Are A Website, The Pangolin Review, LONTAR, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Transpacific Literary Project, Rambutan Literary, Shot Glass Journal, Ginosko Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Chrome Baby, New Southerner, In Between Hangovers, Panoplyzine, The Cadaverine, and many others. He lives in the Philippines.

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Vyuha

The indeterminate shape
of modern fire twines past everyone’s
automatic happiness.
You resemble the dissolving wheels of neon.
Time’s a labyrinth.      Twenty-nine, and depression
is a young man’s war.
Shush—
                  I am shaking: some vital parts of me
scream, want to scale the higher ground, scoop
the fleshy sight of might
that wants to untangle,
free: I
            submit
                        to memory the risk
risking this brute formation
                                    of South Asian armies beneath
            the unstudied reflection
                                                      of Hastinapur.

Lalala-ckakravyuha*-lalala-unveiling-Krishna!

*A defensive and offensive military formation of the Kaurava army in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata.

Lawdenmarc Decamora holds an MFA in creative writing and is currently finishing his MA in literary and cultural studies. He is a literature professor in the oldest existing Catholic university in Asia, the University of Santo Tomas. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cordite Poetry Review, The Ilanot Review, Kartika Review, Spittoon Literary Magazine, Peacock Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, We Are A Website, The Pangolin Review, LONTAR, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Transpacific Literary Project, Rambutan Literary, Shot Glass Journal, Ginosko Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Chrome Baby, New Southerner, In Between Hangovers, Panoplyzine, The Cadaverine, and many others. He lives in the Philippines.

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The Neighbourhood

And the music from the neighbourhood waxes,
collects smoke from yesterday’s conversation.
And the tea kettle pot puffs another faithless
translation of a strange intervention.
Which is like placing the beers with toy guns
and sanitary napkins. Armageddon is coming
to you when you least expect it. Heavy,
quite the world babies in cribs want to hug
with their tiny T-Rex arms unmindful
of its axis mundi that supports the insects
marching around a crumb called curiosity,
or maybe patrolling one winter night
above the clouds sprinkled with graffiti art.
During overcast days out in the street,
dotted with basketball courts, you would
enjoy black motorcycles muffling the noise
yard after sprouting yard, rocking the entire
neighbourhood with the only music that is
relevant to a perambulating landscape:
Eunoia. Such emergency won’t break
my bones. Ashtrayed your intentions in.
An aubade in front of the TV set, you would
say was written for Dinosaur Jr. to play
in your head like skateboard silhouettes.
And dancing you suddenly surrounded
yourself with McDonald’s character mascots
and showed me your world. And according
to the gaze, life is coming, they are coming.

Lawdenmarc Decamora holds an MFA in creative writing and is currently finishing his MA in literary and cultural studies. He is a literature professor in the oldest existing Catholic university in Asia, the University of Santo Tomas. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cordite Poetry Review, The Ilanot Review, Kartika Review, Spittoon Literary Magazine, Peacock Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, We Are A Website, The Pangolin Review, LONTAR, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Transpacific Literary Project, Rambutan Literary, Shot Glass Journal, Ginosko Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Chrome Baby, New Southerner, In Between Hangovers, Panoplyzine, The Cadaverine, and many others. He lives in the Philippines.

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Theresa Harris

You’re born on New Year’s Eve. 1906 or 1909. Your official bio makes you older, your tombstone, younger. One written in ink, the other in marble. But what doesn’t matter is, you can sing and you can dance and you can act. What matters is, you are black. You are a woman. And it is now, or any time.

Maids. Hat check girls. Waitresses. Prostitutes. Tribal women. Blues singers. These are the women you play because these are the women you can be, while the rest lace themselves up as Southern belles, socialites and molls. You’re their friend, their confidant, just as young, just as pretty, a maid’s uniform can’t hide that. But they are blonde, even in black and white, and no matter how many times your voice is heard, your name doesn’t appear onscreen. The radio’s easier, no one can see your face, but — no one can see your face. The arch of your brows, the smirk in your smile, the deep dark life of your eyes. You crowd around a microphone with people the same color as you and entertain a world that isn’t.

When you’re 33 or 36, Val Lewton and RKO show up, and, after ten years in Hollywood, you rescue yourself. In movies with names like Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, Phantom Lady and Strange Illusion, you play a waitress and a maid and a maid and a maid but you have guts and looks and sass and smarts and when the white people see monsters, you run and they don’t and the audience sides with you.

At 38 or 41, you’re finally offered a part with a first and last name. She is an ex-maid, and you could kill somebody for the difference they claim it makes, but you take it and when Robert Mitchum sits down next to you, the camera rolls into life and so do you. It’s the best you’ve ever been and it’s the best you’ll ever be given.

Looking around the parking lot and the studio at all the pale eager faces, the straight hair, the light eyes, the upturned chins that have never had to look down, you find yourself halfway to a decision. There’s a sharp, deep anger inside you, crisp as cut apple, and maybe your father was a sharecropper and your mother was his wife and you’re a thousand miles from Texas — it isn’t enough. When you attend the premiere and watch your straight, bright body move on the largest screen you’ve ever seen, it isn’t enough and it’s the least human you’ve ever felt. You are in the balcony. Fifteen years and you are in the balcony. Roped off, an exhibit with your short, succinct label in bold brick letters: COLORED. All the distance in the world can’t separate you from that. Your hands move before your mind tells them to. Gripping the edge, you drop your eyes and take in the scene. 63 movies have given you a director’s eye. One lid closes and your fingers form a rectangle, boxing in the tuxedoed and diamond-encrusted crowd below. When the camera clicks you know, fully and completely, you are not a part of this, you have never been a part of this. You will never be allowed to be a part of this.

So you descend the stairs and walk out the backdoor of the theater, the one that isn’t but might as well be marked especially for people like you. You don’t pause. You walk until you get to your apartment. You turn on the light. It’s filled with everything you care about. Some are framed posters of movies only you know you were in. They will have to go. It will all have to go.

No-one can appreciate quiet unless they’ve known noise. Thirty years later you die a doctor’s wife, comfortable and safe in Inglewood, living off the money you earned when you were young and beautiful and so much less than you wanted to be. Two months before your 79th birthday (or is it 76th?) you find yourself in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, in the same ground as former Los Angeles mayors (the 10th, 31st, 35th, 36th, 38th and 41st), Rasputin’s daughter, the composer of “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, suffragette Caroline Severance, Hattie McDaniel, the first black woman to win an Academy Award, Ernestine Wade, Sapphire from Amos ‘n’ Andy, and Dooley Wilson, Sam in Casablanca. There’s also Louise Peete, the second woman to be executed in the state’s gas chamber. You don’t know who she killed to get there, but maybe they had it coming.

You played maids. Hat check girls. Waitresses. Prostitutes. Tribal women. Blues singers. And the most unreal thing of all: an actress. The night you die, you have a vision. Dancing across a stage you can’t see for the flowers at your feet, your waist bends and the applause is a cyclone picking up all the little black girls in the world and tipping them over to look down at a black form, the center of all the lights and noise and booming freedom and energy and life. Sparks shoot from their tiny hands and you look up at millions of eyes that see you and all you really are, the similitude of your outside and the endless parade of grit and ability and intelligence and grace of your inside. The arch of your brows, the smirk in your smile, the deep dark life of you winks at all those little girls who watch you like a dream. You are black. You are a woman. You exist. Have, are and will, now or any time.

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. She resides in Graham, NC, with her cats, Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.

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Viewing the Cloud Plain

We awake to a place we do not understand,
folds of skin starch empty of breath.
The nearby stream the only space it knows,
the river trapped in the channel it creates for itself
and boulder puddles eroding into muddy flesh.
Dragons seek nourishment in the clouds
and the vapor streams we toss around
feed the other animals hiding in the sky.
Everywhere a bounty of molecules
stretches hands across itself
and we who come to this place far from memory
breathe an air full of nourishment and satisfaction.

Michael H. Brownstein’s work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters & Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetry Super Highway and others. He has nine poetry chapbooks, including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and The Possibility of Sky and Hell (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

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The World is Not Coming to an End

One one-by-four oak plank,
a waterlogged salt-stained antler of driftwood,
the soft skin of butternut bark and scar.

The world is coming to an end, she said,
and the young girl down the street
tied a dog’s leash around her neck
and went for broke. Elsewhere,
a dust of clouds rose from the shoreline,
smoke from a mountain shaft tinged the air,
an airplane let loose flames that blackened in the light.

How much strength to rise each morning,
eyes injured on a disfigured face,
the rocking of the body, the rhythm of what is heard
and what is not heard.

The world is coming to an end, she said,
and a boy was born to the mother of a soldier,
the son of a veteran in another round of war.
Count the fingers, count the toes,
how does his face look?

Years will go by,
a tree will mature and grow strong,
the world will not come to an end.

Let’s gather wood on the beach near the dunes.
You know the place—down the thick sand trail,
across a few ridges, near the graveyard of branches
where leaf changes to stone.

Once we dug a hole in the sand, placed sleeping bags
for flooring, built a roof with whatever wood
we could find. Openings filled themselves with night
and we slept well.

Michael H. Brownstein’s work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters & Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetry Super Highway and others. He has nine poetry chapbooks, including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and The Possibility of Sky and Hell (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

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