A Cause Postponed

By SIMON ABRAHAM ODHOK AKUDNYAL
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

The teacher, Ms. Nyiboth, was tenderhearted and gorgeous, with a small, proud beauty mark on the bottom of her left cheek. Her features added to her charm, and as for her voice, it had some hidden magic; whenever we heard it, we were tickled by a kind of madness that made us go still and quiet, as if a gentle breeze had blown through the class. I remember the time fate smiled on me and I got a perfect score on that month’s test; you wouldn’t believe how happy I was when Nyiboth came close and patted me encouragingly on the head. Her hand was soft, her warm touch enveloped me, and there are no words for how I felt; it gave me goosebumps. And now here I was, being beaten like a mangy donkey in front of her. How degrading!

A Cause Postponed
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Workshopping the Elements

By MERYL ALTMAN 

—after Pindar, Olympian Ode #1

Water is best; and gold, which shines like fire
burning at night, says this is a very rich man
like nothing else does; and when you need
an image for the thrill of victory, what could be
stronger than the sun? there can, one supposes,
be poems about the moon, or a good loaf of bread,
but no one searches the empty daytime sky
for any fainter star when the sun is shining;

Workshopping the Elements
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Papel Picado

By A.J. RODRIGUEZ

Right before her twenty-fifth birthday, Chacha shaved her head, shearing the long black hair I’d known my entire life down to tiny-ass stumps. Having not spoken to my half sister in months, I learned about her haircut through Cero Reyes in the hallway of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where I was a sophomore. He was the little brother of her number-one homegirl, Cici, and had been there that past weekend at his parents’ hacienda up in the North Valley, banging on the bathroom door while our hermanas conspired Chacha’s new look.

I had to take a fucken piss, he said. Real bad too, but they spent over an hour in there, all giggling n’ shit.

You got a fuckload of bathrooms, I replied, gathering books from my locker to show the huevón I had other priorities. You coulda pissed in any of them.

“Cero” was a nickname that translated to nothing. It had carved this wiry, tacuache-looking vato since the day he could talk. Dude blabbered so much as a baby, stringing together words in an order that, according to his parents, made zero sense. He belonged to a family that made a name for itself in Juárez through some maquiladora empire. They’d moved to Albuquerque once his mami announced her desire to start a turquoise jewelry business. A couple years later, Cici popped into their world, who then met Chacha in a dance class for toddlers, and next thing you know they form this lifelong bond, a friendship so strong it forced me to spend too much of my childhood on a giant estate where I couldn’t help but wish my parents never divorced—wish we had enough skina to get out the varrio—wish my mother wasn’t such a pinche gringa and my pocho father spoke better Spanish.

That ain’t the point, Cero continued. It’s my bathroom, cuh. They used my shaving kit. Your sis’s hair was on the sink, shower, mirror—even the fucken toilet seat!

Papel Picado
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A Slippery Coffin

By AHMED SHEKAY
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

I hear a sound at my apartment door, and I just know it’s her. I follow her down the stairs. As I put my left foot onto the first step, I see the tips of her curls as she rounds the bend and, a moment later, glimpse her sneakered left foot as she takes her final step between the stairs and the exit. Then she’s swallowed up by the trees in the Ostpark. I tell myself, Good for Ababa, getting some morning exercise, and run after her, looking for her among the trees and in the forms of the other people out jogging. Every time I see a thick derrière, I’m sure it’s her and no one else, but when I get close, they start looking nervous, fear visible in their eyes, and jump out of my path. It takes me a full hour of looking to figure out why they’re acting this way, at which point, I’ve almost frozen from the cold. My breath has left frost on the tip of my nose, my tongue is parched, and I begin to cough violently. But I have absolute faith that she knocked on my apartment door and then ran away: Who else would do that? She’s the only visitor I’ve been wanting.

A Slippery Coffin
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My Freedom

By MARIA DE CALDAS ANTÃO

 

 

My freedom is not
to answer the phone
or open the door. I don’t care

if I’m not liked anymore.
I’m free to be that, disliked, to sweat
to be that—take flight, from like or dislike.

My Freedom
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Indoles and Aphrodite

By LAKSHMI SUNDER

Aphrodite was whipped from the sea, spun from the foam of Oranos / Uranus.
In science class, I’m laughing at Uranus / your anus. Now, I’m cornered in timeout.
He wants me when I’m fresh, for my curves. He wants me when I’m fermented,

for my composting capabilities. I can grow something made from him.
But the daughter would be born with the worms, and it doesn’t take much for
worms to molt into Medusan snakes. Aphrodite was worshiped as a goddess

Indoles and Aphrodite
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Sunnyside

By JANUARY GILL O’NEIL

                        —for Joseph O. Legaspi

And when you whispered under your mask, I don’t think I can stand these two young lovers, bright as the low winter sun shining through the dingy subway car windows, I knew what you meant: maskless, giggling, boy holding girl by the waist, taking selfies on a gray seat made for two. We sat across, letting their tenderness reflect on us: her back to his chest making a hearth of their bodies while the train snakes its turn over the elevated tracks. Hi-rises loom over gentrified streets, the graffitied walls, a sign for $0.99 pizza—how old neighborhoods create a new belonging. Nothing jostles these two as they attend to their own happiness, not the train’s hard lurch, its rumble and squeal, this couple at the beginning of their desires, you turning to me with your brown eyes in the day’s last light as we approach our final stop.

Sunnyside
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Human Trees Are Not Moved by Wind

By ADAM YOUSSOUF
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

The Mango Garden

Birds of prey circled in the distant sky, watching the Earth’s surface: nothing, just warm air and a hot sun that spilled its rays angrily, recklessly. Sando jumped over a stream of dirty water and walked briskly down the road until he saw a group of young boys squatting on the road, defecating on piles of filth. He paid them no heed and continued a bit farther, where he saw another group playing football, bathed in thick dust, creating a commotion as they ran after their small ball. They yelled excitedly, calling each other after famous footballers, bellowing frenzied orders and laughing. One boy whimpered over his scraped knees, and others stood outside the circle, cheering and whispering.

Human Trees Are Not Moved by Wind
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Patron Saints

By KEVIN DEAN

Part One

It was winter by the time Mina and I met. I was on my usual afternoon stroll in Garden City when I saw him coming toward me by the United States embassy. He went slowly along the compound’s perimeter wall, his hands in the pockets of his brown leather jacket. I’d just purchased some oranges from a fruit seller on the street, and I took one and began to peel it. Mina didn’t look happy, and I was unsure if I should say hello to him or not.

Patron Saints
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