Translated by Don Cellini
Look at us there, fermented
and its chills
the dawn dampens us
with its almost ashen milk
and it moves us
with that glamour of things
look at us there, ghosts
and leave us there, wandering
biting the mud
to quench the germ
with our constant thirst
on everything that hurts
Copyright © 2019 Jonatán Reyes and Don Cellini. Used with permission of the authors. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
Under my body’s din,
a hum that won’t quiet,
I still hear what you’ve hidden
in all the waves of sound:
each bead of pain
that buries its head
like a black-legged tick,
intractable but mine
to nurse or lure with heat.
Please, tell me
what it means that I’ve grown
to love the steady sound
of so many kinds of caving in,
buckling down, the way
a body gives itself away
like a sullen bride or the runt
who couldn’t latch? I know I’m just
a hairline crack the music
leaves behind. I love
the music, though I can’t keep it.
Copyright © 2019 Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison. Used with permission of the authors. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
What a thing to trust your life to, a scenic
veneer of solid safety, slashed with blades.
Give me four cubes in a gin and tonic.
Give me salt for sidewalks and lacquered roads.
In London, 1867, the ice
gave way in Regent’s Park, and hundreds fell
into the faithless lake. In a trice
Victorian coats and heavy skirts swelled
with water; boots and skates pulled them down.
They clawed at branches, each other, the frozen shelf,
mad to regain the land. Forty drowned.
So cold it was, the ice resealed itself
and kept them for days, preserved like florists’ wares
under glass, reaching toward the air.
Copyright © 2019 Juliana Gray. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
A reprieve: the subsiding of a storm. The withered leaves in the cracks
of the city’s cobblestones, the owl slams its head again and again
against the glass doors of the new coffee shop.
A chipped gimcrack inside my palm, a needle searching for a thimble:
because I know the names of every street in this city,
I resist nomenclatures.
A truce, a never-ending interim: the subsiding of a storm.
A locust drags a bullock cart across the tramline.
I see you standing
in the far end of the alley,
almost invisible: crouching behind the abandoned alabaster cherubs.
You are carving a constellation out of the bones, stolen from an incomplete
museum. An incomplete museum, an abandoned excavation site,
a notebook with nothing but inkstains:
yet, when translated, this is an illuminating picture.
Where in this symmetry of blue-ink grief to look
for pronouns that would house my loud dissipations?
Copyright © 2019 Nandini Dhar. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
Anyone who makes tasty food has to be a good person,
because think of all the love that goes into cooking:
salt and pepper, sprinkle a little extra cheese, and pop open a bottle
of Syrah, or if we’re eating at my parents’ in Las Vegas,
we’re drinking Tsingtao beer, my father’s favorite, and he adds more
bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms and baby corn,
and fun fact: When I was a baby, I’d eat only corn and carrot-flavored
mush, and now, my dad adds more to the Buddha’s Delight,
a vegetarian dish from China, and I think about my aunt
in Hong Kong, who, once a year, buys fish from restaurants,
only to release them back into the sea—eat tofu,
save a life—but back to the dinner scene in Vegas,
my mom is making her Cantonese lobster, extra garlic and ginger,
and I grew up licking lobster shells for their sauce,
I grew up waking up during summer vacations
to my mother wearing a headband, warding off the grease
from cooking crabs and shrimps, heads intact, and there’s something, just something
about my parents’ cooking that makes me feel
a little more like a Chinese girl, because I don’t live in Hong Kong,
and unlike my cousins, my daily stop isn’t Bowring Street Station,
where I could pick up fresh mango cake before it’s sold out,
or what about chocolate mousse cake in the shape of a bunny
or mini–dome cakes shaped like cows and pigs
or cakes shaped like watermelons and shikwasa and citrus mikans,
and who wouldn’t want custard egg tarts or hot dogs
wrapped in sweet bread or sesame balls, washing it all down
with cream soda, and I feel like that little Chinese girl
in Kowloon again, getting picked up by my grandpa
after preschool, ready to go junk shopping, and I’d come home
with shrimp crackers and a toy turtle aquarium and a snowman
painting and a dozen roses, and no, I don’t even like flowers anymore,
but there’s something, just something about thrifting
with my grandpa now at age twenty-eight that makes me feel
so Chinese Girl, the way he bargains in the stalls,
asking for the best, “How much for that Murakami-era Louis Vuitton belt?”
or “What about this vintage Armani?”
and it’s like that look he gives me at dim sum, after the sampler
of shumai and har gow and chicken feet and char siu bao comes,
and he tells me to eat everything, watches me chow down on
Chinese ravioli, and that face of his freezes in the moment:
“Eat more, eat more, eat more. Are you happy?”
And oh, Grandpa, I’m so happy I could eat forever.
Copyright © 2019 Dorothy Chan. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
moustached, bejeweled, or bejowled,
peer from the walls. A pinched cigarette
burns and smoke threads the afternoon.
No calling cards await on a silver tray
& being painted bores them too:
Men in tennis whites or one whose hand
weights the globed newel post
or home from the hunt in pink coat
and canary vest, riding crop clutched
in a gloved hand—the waiting day
a bright gleam on his black boots.
Behind him, the gilt frame of another scene
and a casement window that must open
on pedigreed pets, horses, and markets
waiting to be mastered. What will he mount
next? Somewhere a sailboat creaks against
a dock or the open eye of a canoe is beached
at the edge of a pond still as the hopelessly
lazy Mlle G, shoulders chalky with powder,
posed in the palm court, where bulbs break
into bloom, the white throats of daffodils
frilled as lace that lines her cuffs
while she dreams of chapel bells and school,
back bay clubs, an island braceleted
by seas, and pygmy deer they shot
and stuffed one season. Across from her,
a young mistress of the breakfast nook
peels an impossible sun. The rind unfurls
on the tablecloth’s vast winter, a snowfield
for two more oranges and a dish of melon
sliced to smiles. Upstairs, unpainted spaniels
loll that were bred to fill the space a body
makes, and a clamshell case closes on its string
of pearls. Let those who owned the world
sneer or sigh. Now they’re simply owned.
Copyright © 2019 Jennifer Key. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
It’s a long, long lane
that has no turning
It’s a fire
that always keeps on burning...
Sure as you were born
It’s just another requiem for Ragtown Ragers
where we’re all sons & sometimes-daughters
of part-time Baptist preachers. Our nightly high
hyphenated by Bobby Knuckles backing
his pickup too damn far up & onto this Christmas-light-
lit porch where you’d rollick over a slurred sea
of neon lighters firing up enough 305s to drown a toddler
in smoke. Goddamn if that ain’t exactly
what Tammi Miami (named on account ’cause
sure as brimstone and shitfire if she ain’t escaping
to the Magic City real soon) Goddamn if she isn’t
slowroasting her unborn son—of a shotgun
wedding in that crockpot cradled
beneath crossed arms. “Tam, you s-shouldn’t
s-s-shouldn’t,” Tyler taps his nose. Damn if he doesn’t
got more ticks than a midsummer’s deer carcass.
“Shouldn’t what, Slick?” True, Tammi likes him
well enough but damn if her gaze ain’t tempered glass.
Tyler leaning, right peach-pleased & dragging deep
he flicks the soggy slug of cigarette grassward:
“Ta-am, you shouldn’t wear a b-bandanna as a shirt.” She flips
Tyler the middle acrylic, ruby as her ruddy bandanna top.
Damn if them nights weren’t a flurry of schwagy shooting
stars across the warped wood of a thousand porch boughs.
& how we howled: pack of coyotes circling an absent moon. Feeling
we’d bent the bars of its orange irons & finally, basking in the light.
Copyright © 2019 Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
My unmothered bird,
dropped from the sky
like a millstone.
If you outlive the fall,
crawl from your crater
like the second coming,
like the swell of new growth
after fire: just briars and briars
Copyright © 2019 Lindsay Lusby. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
So it is quite different, then, if in a mountain town
the mountains are close, rather than far. Here
they are far, their distance away established,
consistent year to year, like a parent’s
or sibling’s. They have their own music.
So I confess I do not know what it’s like,
listening to mountains up close, like a lover,
the silence of them known, not guessed at.
Copyright © 2019 Jill Osier. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.