Dispatches

Joss

By PATRICIA LIU 

Image of a river and houses on a hill.

Yunnan Province, China

Paper is thin. In the beginning, still billows in the wind, still petal-like, still grounded in this world 

of living. The incense is the only material that translates the viscera to mist. Early, the fog has not yet 

lifted, and we move through the white drip as if through total darkness. Fish lost in the deep under-

water. It is easy for water to find home in our bodies. How wonderful it is to think my father’s

dead father a translation of our living selves, the water in-between my cells, the same water of

ghosts. Of women and Buddha, of lotus flower and palace, of lion. See the shine of fire, even

now. See the smoke, encapsulated by the fog. My father tells stories of the state’s inexorable beckoning,

the brothers, and the sisters, too, sent to the countryside. What they remember most is the truck

and the dust, the broad shoulders of horse, that first night and its stars, the mass exodus of dragonflies

following the monsoons—but no, exodus is uniquely a human endeavor. My father cannot bring 

himself to anger; he knows it is shame that is the ugliest language. Somewhere, I have lost my place 

in the life-wheel, and the only words I know in Chinese are our names. Jiayu is rain. Jialei is rosebud. 

Only years later do I learn that Jiayu means jade. Only years later do I long for pure, unadulterated 

fortune over the ritual of early rain. Somehow, turn face to sky. Here. In memory, to burn is to revere.

Joss
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Ephemeral Address

By JAMES ALAN GILL

Camper

Tonapah Desert, Arizona

At night from this distance, the twin rivers of car lights, red and white, barely seem to move along the I-10, even though I know from experience they’re traveling upwards of 80 mph. Most people see this stretch of empty desert between Phoenix and the California border as nothing worth slowing down to consider—the different personalities of the Saguaro, some with broken limbs or holes made by woodpeckers, or the colored bands of rock created by volcanic uplift or erosion from some previous era when there was measurable rainfall here — it all looks the same from blurred car windows. 

Ephemeral Address
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The Language of the Body

By SARA ELKAMEL

Image of tents in a Bedouin-style camp at the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan

Tents in a Bedouin-style camp at the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan. Courtesy: Soraya Ghezelbash.

Wadi Rum, Jordan
for Yvonne

 

We pull the black of Rum over our eyes
like skin. God’s earth is vast, vast, vast—but by day

she wrapped her limbs around my limbs and drew
my air. I follow her into the dark, consider saying: Please,

I don’t know what you need—but all I see is red.
At the foot of the dunes I push her, soft as the sin

that tips the scale. I run away like a ghost, a demon, a silent drum
in the faultless dark. Not a quiver of light around my bones.

The Language of the Body
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E.A. Robinson Leaves by Rail

By ABBIE KIEFER

old photo of train stationGardiner, Maine

Raw granite and brick, hip roof like a helmet. At its height, it hummed: seventeen trains daily, lumbering in along the river. I imagine E.A. here with his ticket and his trunk. With his back to the brick, listening for a whistle.

Now the depot is a cannabis dispensary. They keep records in the ticket booth, make brownies in the basement. Preservationists call this adaptive reuse.

E.A. Robinson Leaves by Rail
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Postcard from Rhodes

By A. MAURICIO RUIZ

Busy street with old buildings

Rhodes, Greece

At the Mandraki I saw three medieval windmills standing on the pier like heavy friars with their brownish cloaks, also the statues of two Rhodian fallow deer, a buck and a doe, symbols of the island. A theory persists that Crusaders brought deer to the island because their antlers secrete an alkali substance that repels snakes. Standing at the marina I gazed at the platoni, which are smaller than other types of deer, reaching only one meter in height. Their brown coats acquire white mottles in summer, while in winter they darken. Rhodes’s ancient name was Ophiusa, which in old Greek means a place filled with snakes. “That’s why you see cats everywhere,” one of the islanders told me. “They are the guardians of the island. They kill the snakes.”

Postcard from Rhodes
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In the Garden of Invasive Species, I Offer Gratitude

By JENNIFER PERRINE

Girl in a garden

 

Port Murray, New Jersey and Milwaukie, Oregon

for my grandparents, who did not teach me
how to farm, and yet they scattered these seeds:
How a dunk into scalding water slips
the skin from a peach, leaves it unfuzzed, slick
for canning. How the trick to shucking corn
is one clean jerk. How jars of beet brine turn
eggs to amethysts that stain my fingers,
my lips. They left me to play in cellars
stocked with preserves and jam, in rows of trees
that released chestnut burrs for my bare feet
to find. What would they think of my pea shoots
left unlatticed, free to tendril one noose
after another around other plants,
my slapdash harvest, larder left to chance?

In the Garden of Invasive Species, I Offer Gratitude
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