background stars background text eye to the telescope tour of alternate worlds spacer



Issue 7 • January 2013
Asian American Speculative poetry
edited by Bryan Thao Worra

Table of Contents

Editor’s IntroductionBryan Thao Worra

Dancing with Mara • Joy Panigabutra-Roberts
Planet of the Linguatrons • Mark Rich
A Short History of Kissing • Lisa Marie Rollins
Astro Logic • Tom T. Nguyen
A Letter to Ria • Sery Bounphasaysonh
Ambulocetus • Wei-Ming Dariotis
i, ii, iiiNeil Weston
Migration: Like Paul Atreides • Kenji Liu
The Hexen • Kev Minh Allen
ontology of tsunami • Lee Ann Roripaugh
Spirit at the great wall • YiWei Huang & Kath Abela Wilson
That Unicorn Dead • Juanita Sayaovong Vang
Aswang • Michael Janairo
Urchin • Robert Subiaga
Five Haikus • LeRoy Gorman
Leaving the Shiny City • Ching-In Chen

Dancing with Mara

Mara, in her dark lair, the chamber of misery,
Is luring you to cross over to her side,
To the land where the sun always sets,
And the darkness always prevails.

You hang on to the goodness,
Like harnessing your thought;
That’s acting like a runaway horse.
A young colt full of heat, anger, and violence
—of the power to destroy …

You cajole and calm him with sweet coos,
Whispering into his ear,
“Don’t go there.
You will get lost,
and the anger will destroy you…
not your enemy.”

The hateful heart is a wounded,
bruised and battered heart.
You want to take the high road;
A tougher way to travel.

The next day, you can still look at yourself in the mirror.
Let your enemy take the karma with her
To pay for it in purgatory.

—Joy Panigabutra-Roberts

Planet of the Linguatrons

I doubt that I can speed away
when held a prisoner
within invisible but sticky strands
of stintless chitter-chatter.

Thanks for calling, and inviting
crew and I to land
on Party Planet Ten, though. As the captured

captain of this diplomatic space-rig,
I must do my duty, first. First, gifts;
next, reasoning; last, outright lies and threats
(if need be) to effect an understanding.
Planet of the little chatterboxes,
we have dubbed this place. The beings here
are small enough to hold. Once held, though—yikes:
they talk-talk-talk-talk-talk without respite,
without a moment’s grace of letting me
or anyone get word in edgewise. Sagely
(so we thought) at first we simply listened:
now we tremble with impatience, rattled
to the point of turning raygun-deadly
rude. Rude—me? The thought must mortify.
If word should reach you of unmannered, callous
gabfest gaffes perturbing Prattle Planet ...

would you scuttle future shuttles
bearing invitations?
Very well—if so, then we will stay
right here, for years—all ears.

—Mark Rich

A Short History of Kissing

it may have had something to do with a snake
(if you believe that sort of thing)
or maybe gods of lightning and thunder
who clap and roll, groan as their lips join
or maybe it’s Poseidon and his mermaid chicks,
frolicking in the froth of waves
while onlookers at shore shovel sandbags,
board up windows in wood terror
or maybe its mother earth
fingering herself while the moon leans in
for one on a late October night
last vestige of summer
she reacts like a shock and earth plates
shift sudden, new continents appear
(or in this case archipelagos).
shoving earth under one side or the other
there’s no telling, with this downpour of salt
what reverses tidal waves
there’s no telling what was carved on these mud walls
or written inside monks’ secret books.

—Lisa Marie Rollins

Astro Logic

With my eye on Orion
I lie awake in awe.
Across the sky flying.
I see planets, stars.
Visualizing environments,
On moons and on Mars.
Listening to silence,
Wondering who we are.

How’d we come to be?
Who planted the seed
Of our genealogical tree?
Curious indeed.

Out of non-life came life,
Organic out of inorganic.
Water, steam, and ice,
Lifeline of our spinning planet.

Twinkle, twinkle, ancient Gods,
By the cycling of Nature’s nods.
They shift our cosmic paradigm.
Wars and storms when they align.

—Tom T. Nguyen

A Letter to Ria

in my dreams, I am crawling
between the teeth you never show.

somewhere else,
you are watching a movie
I have not seen.

I want to tell you these things,
that I do not understand
your childhood of broken sticks,
that I would like to try.

I want to tell you that
I am always being forgotten,
that I am full of ghosts,
that the child they took out of her
looked like a white bean
in a blood-filled jar. she told me this.
they wouldn’t let me in the room.

I want to tell you that
I am not good at confession,
that I am a circus ape,
hands fluttering like an injured bird,
trying to explain to you
with this empty gimmick,
in unnatural language,
how to understand
the space that inhabits us.

—Sery Bounphasaysonh


my body needs an empty space
a silence
a vista: plain, subtle, distant

my body needs emptiness within
a breath
a wish to breathe, to feel free from restraint
to expire, to emit a fragrance or aura,
to utter, to express
to make manifest

what kind of whale
walks on the land?

I undulate, lower my head, and listen for vibrations
to find my prey

I am too far outside myself
or too far within

I ask the Cylon’s questions:
am I unique or just another twin?
am I a god?
or just evolution’s transition?

can I fall in love?

—Wei-Ming Dariotis

i, ii, iii

Andon lanterns burn
Haiku spirits tell
Of steel bones turning
Beneath Lincoln’s oath.

Androids clothed in steel Kimonos
Burnished faces turned against the ice wind
Androgenised, delicate.
Footfalls glide over paperweight moons.

Artificial hearts, cluster in procession
Lips cleave the blistered sun
Preset warriors present wakizashi
And whisper Aishiteru to mirrored smiles.

The End

—Neil Weston

Migration: Like Paul Atreides


—forced into red desert from
a world of beloved oceans—the dreams slipping through
my nights owe their tides to bottomless water.

Mind touches one possibility of place,
then another, and builds a bridge of light between them.
The heaviness of my cage crossfades, luminous.

In the iris fold, I consider what it means to be
locatable. Seventy percent of my molecules are hydrogens
and oxygens, the finger nails of binary stars.

Atoms: At least one from Okinotorishima,
and its neighbor was the whisker point of a catfish.
The rest are the sighs of everyone who leaves.

Scent of spice in my hair. Dark anise. Marjoram, dulcet kare.
I need their fragrant spin, their underground currents
and burning pools. And singular traces in my deepest dust.


The emperor descends in night-vision goggles.
Motions forward hardened soldiers and policies twisted
into bullets. Cue old-world glam rock and eyeshadow.

Sting smirks behind a golden blade, his pretty heaving chest
a fence they will patrol all night. But we have megaphones. We have
the power of description. And the shadow of rain in the orchard.

Underneath the longitude and latitude of our battles,
a vast network of caves, wet from collecting us. The darkness
contemplates from below as I step across. Thump. Thump.

—Kenji Liu

The Hexen

Such shamelessness.

The bastard had no one to blame but himself.
Cauldron passed down from the tree, emptied
of its dastardly contents and now sitting under the naked branches
ready for his sides to be split open and his stomach drained
of the comeliness afflicting his courage.

Heaven told him yet another lie about the reward
of goodliness that awaits penance if only one
eats the curdlings of the virgin afterbirth, her loving wastefulness.
This half-man, half-newt would cower in front of a ray of sunlight,
if ever it promised him an eternal life of a Pharaoh.

We, sisters of Evil Dawn, scribble our spells on the fingers of sloths and place them in sleeping mouths.

We, children of Dungeon Dusk, chant phrases that furrow the brow of Millennia.

We, three, were once innocent birds of a feather before the tongues of men broke our necks on hill-top gallows.

—Kev Minh Allen

ontology of tsunami

awoken venom

cobra come uncharmed

glittering rush
of fanged lightning
that strikes
and strikes again

tsunami has no name

call her the scalded splash
of tea jarred from
a broken cup’s cracked glaze

call her the blood-soaked shirt
and cut-away pants
pooled ruby on the floor / rising biohazard

ill-omened oil that stills
the wings of birds

she spills
and spills
and spills over

a sloshed bucket
tipped-over pitcher
the bent tin cup’s
cool sluice of rinse
poured over skin’s
delicious prickle

ginger’s cleansing sting
erasing the soft flesh of fish
from the tongue

she goes by no name

call her annihilatrix

call her tabula rasa

she’s the magic slate’s
crackling cellophane page

shellacked wings un-clung
from staticky black elytra

the liminal torn-open, turning
words into invisible birds lifting
unruly as catastrophe

yes, but/and …

(if only, if only—
meticulous swift precision
of disaster’s swiss watch)

she remains unnamed

call her the meme
infecting your screen

call her the malware
gone viral

—Lee Ann Roripaugh

Spirit at the great wall: A Tanka Exchange

Inspired by Art Integrations created by Susan Dobay, artist, Monrovia, CA, after a visit to China.

the great wall
tomb of the craftsmen
deep longings
for a huge breaking
from the eyeball-less eyes



follow snakes and dragons
along steps and the outposts
waiting for tomorrow
trinkets with spinning eyes
have alien names




On top of the world

on top of the world
can you survive
in the whirlpool
of fame and fortune



rainbow swirls
inside the antelope’s head
his dream of being
human atop
a different planet



Meditation with dragon

with the Chinese dragon
breath into the sky
and to fly
without a wing


(Note that Chinese dragons can fly without a wing)


dragon and human
wingless in a red sky
they roar in silence
history of the future
mystery carved in stone



—YiWei Huang & Kath Abela Wilson

That Unicorn Dead

That Unicorn is dead. Its demise
was met by trusting the gentle
and pensive virgin. I killed her
and have been urging myself to
save the remains for my own
reasons. The seasons of mystical
healing is needed for my soul.
He stole it without knowing. I
know he’s sowing his wild oats to
freedom he’s hardly had. It’s bad
to think of the possibilities that
weren’t allowed to us from the
start. The heart’s a funny thing
to mess with. It changes every
so often and you fall in love
everyday. Who’s to say this
time it’s real when the odds have
always been against you. The
gods are cruel. I must have been
a fool to believe. I have deceived
myself and the Unicorn is dead.

—Juanita Sayaovong Vang


A thunk disturbs my shallow sleep
Slow scrapes raise hairs along my spine
I clutch my sheets, I cannot keep
My mind from falling back in time

The cat that crossed my path at noon
Was just a gentle padding stray
The thing that slinks beneath this moon?
A cat-like demon stalking prey?

“The Aswang hunts those stained by sin
To tear apart their darkened souls
With claws and teeth as sharp as pins
—you must be good,” my mom would scold

So strange her tales, her bedtime gifts,
Which I, so young, had shrugged away
But now—a thunk—I know I’ve missed
The truth she lacked the strength to say

You can’t escape; my past is yours
I bore it ’cross both sea and land
My hope: a link that shall endure
My tales: my way to shape a man

And now alone I hear a nail
It scrapes and slinks as it draws near
The Aswang of my boyhood tales
Has come to sink into my fears

“A myth!” I shout, still filled with fright,
My voice consumed by darkest night.

—Michael Janairo


The little girl, she begged me, “don’t.”
And then I knew I couldn’t leave.
As she just sat there, in the door,
and shivered right in front of me.
The little girl, she begged me, “don’t.”
And as I knew I couldn’t leave.
I sat beside her, on the floor
and shared a little
bit of me.
Little urchin, in the sea,
Sea of streets, sea of lights.
Little urchin, sea of spines,
Tide comes in, every night.
The little girl, I begged her, “don’t.”
But when she knew I couldn’t leave
slipped the blade between my ribs
and took, what once
I’d given free.
Little urchin, in the sea,
Sea of streets, sea of lights.
Little urchin, sea of spines,
Tide comes in, every night.
The little girl, I begged her, “don’t,”
but not long after I’d begun to leave
for another place, heard her say
to someone new:
“Come sit with me.”
Little urchin, in the sea,
Sea of streets, sea of lights.
Little urchin, sea of spines,
Tide comes in, every night.
High tide’s bringin’
me in tonight.
Red Tide,
but I’ll be all right.

—Robert Subiaga

Five Haikus

the fall psychic fair
an android medium
cold-reads the living


cold methane rain
gargoyles are busy
breathing fire


the retro graveyard
zombies sing
Hotel Crawlifornia


time travel academy
staff & students
are on permanent vacation


proudly organic
the Mars bistro offers more
than one stone soup

—LeRoy Gorman

Leaving the Shiny City

A Monday and we expected nothing.
There the flashing sirens.
Grayback whale of a road clotting as we heave ourselves past the litterbugs and the drones.
Then the portpuss and its overbearing cyclops.
The concrete canal with no visitors.       Skeletal pitchfork, orange vests.
We head skyward towards a wrong turn.       My familiar angles our body for the exit.
We miss the clouds by inches.

—Ching-In Chen