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“Ave Maria” © 2022 by Palloma Barreto

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Ave Maria

I dreamt cobbled stone-steps drew me to a meadow with a pagoda. You were playing Ave Maria, bow drawn to the hazy sprout of light on the ground, toes stretched, chest encompassing time and space. Fields of bowed green gripped onto your feather wrist, and each breath was a swirl of wind that threaded my ombré strands and touched my sacrum. Singing, drinking, a squirrel spun deep blue circles over hills and collapsed next to a dandelion. A desire grew from your resolute back, I lifted from earth and called out your name. Your fingers knelt and leapt another octave, you stared at me through the haze, head dipping towards the field. I danced into your warm major chords and velvet vibrato, until I couldn’t separate you from music, and I from you.





the mezzanine

does not welcome you/i.

empty glasses frequent its outer rings,

and eagles, marsupials, eggs

that once lived are packed tightly

in a carpet of underground despair.


I once wrapped a child there for safekeeping,

never mind the express trucks

that take two days to deliver;

I wanted a safer way of living,

a home she could cry and curl into.


They sent me letters from that center,

crows cawing my name, pecking the seeds

nestled in my wrists,

their beaks unthreading scars

that unwrapped and dug,

entrenched in their desire

to flee.


I loved this child in the mezzanine,

but abroad, I loved her more;

at night, the glass steps are silent,

no words from men who leered in subway tunnels

no fathers dragging mothers up its bouncing stairs

no need to apologize, no need to forgive,

to be forgiven.


The last time I saw my child,

she was in a dance over the obsidian steps

in the entrance of the glass desert

her quantum veil hiccupping

before a pair of deep irises,

her slender ankles poised over the edge


when she asked me:

When will you/i be loved?

and i had nothing to say,

no words to respond with,

save a bird that plucked the jewels in my heart

and delivered her the ashes

of my creative fire.

Vivian Li is a writer, editor, and musician who enjoys exploring various artistic disciplines. Her creative works can be found in Uncanny Magazine, The Fiddlehead, CV2, and Vallum, among others. Most recently, she was Longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and received Honorable Mentions from Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize. A MFA candidate at UBC, she currently edits for Augur, and can be reached on Twitter @eliktherain.
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18 Sep 2023

Ama’s arm rested protectively around the girl’s shoulder as the giant bird glided above, its head angling right to left. Violet-black wings soared across a cloudless sky, blocking the sun’s midday rays and swathing sections of the village in deep shadow. Given its size, this argentavis was one of her first, but too far above for her to differentiate by name. Even across the distance, Ama could feel its heartbeat synced to hers, their lives intertwined until death.
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