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The ocean is a library of skin.
I cross the paper waves and printed sands
To charge a royal copper from your hands,
To stun the groundlings of my London inn.
My master has an pretty tale to spin:
He crowns me painted princeling of my lands,
A manuscript no reader understands.
He lies for me. I take it on the chin
Until I perish. Scholars flay my hide;
They long to read my secret alphabet.
Yet I shall not be bled nor mummified—
Now I decay. My ghost defies them yet:
My ink and flesh are scattered close and wide,
My absence haunts poetic Internet.


This poem is inspired by Prince Giolo, aka Jeoly (d. 1692), a Mindanao slave who was exhibited for his tattoos in London, where he died of smallpox. His skin was preserved in Oxford University, but appears to have gone missing.

This poem is a datasonnet, a literary form of the poet's own invention: a strictly metered and rhymed sonnet which readers have the liberty of rearranging in sequence. You are invited to go to the linked document and randomly alter the order of the lines:

Current Issue
29 May 2023

We are touched and encouraged to see an overwhelming response from writers from the Sino diaspora as well as BIPOC creators in various parts of the world. And such diverse and daring takes of wuxia and xianxia, from contemporary to the far reaches of space!
By: L Chan
The air was redolent with machine oil; rich and unctuous, and synthesised alcohol, sharper than a knife on the tongue.
“Leaping Crane don’t want me to tell you this,” Poppy continued, “but I’m the most dangerous thing in the West. We’ll get you to your brother safe before you know it.”
Many eons ago, when the first dawn broke over the newborn mortal world, the children of the Heavenly Realm assembled at the Golden Sky Palace.
Winter storm: lightning flashes old ghosts on my blade.
transplanted from your temple and missing the persimmons in bloom
immigrant daughters dodge sharp barbs thrown in ambush 十面埋伏 from all directions
Many trans and marginalised people in our world can do the exact same things that everyone else has done to overcome challenges and find happiness, only for others to come in and do what they want as Ren Woxing did, and probably, when asked why, they would simply say Xiang Wentian: to ask the heavens. And perhaps we the readers, who are told this story from Linghu Chong’s point of view, should do more to question the actions of people before blindly following along to cause harm.
Before the Occupation, righteousness might have meant taking overt stands against the distant invaders of their ancestral homelands through donating money, labour, or expertise to Chinese wartime efforts. Yet during the Occupation, such behaviour would get one killed or suspected of treason; one might find it better to remain discreet and fade into the background, or leave for safer shores. Could one uphold justice and righteousness quietly, subtly, and effectively within such a world of harshness and deprivation?
Issue 22 May 2023
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Issue 10 Apr 2023
Issue 3 Apr 2023
Issue 27 Mar 2023
Issue 20 Mar 2023
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