Size / / /

I hear the argument outside the house

each time my grandchildren arrive:

must we smile, must we thank her

even though she never gives us sweets?

Even great-uncle Hansel gives them cake

and cookies. At home, they eat desserts

and candied snacks, begin to whisper

I am the witch and not the victim

from the news, the not-quite-scary bedtime story.

They think I cannot bear to have sweets

in the house, but all these years,

I've shown restraint.

My brother, fast asleep, homesick and weary,

naive and blessed, never tasted that house

at sunrise: sugar stucco, caramel latch

that melted as I lifted it, dripping.

He snored. The witch gave me a spoonful

of pudding, exquisite, unlike anything

I've ever known. The hard sweetness

still burned my throat as she explained

the recipe, the flesh of youth cooked down,

and I must swallow, or choke. Ready disciple,

I learned I was a coward: too timid to push

my brother into the fire, too afraid to pull

the witch out when she fell.

Sweets still have their special taste:

gasoline, sometimes chalk. Vidalias

can get to be too much in allium season.

Still arguing, the children knock

and enter. Quite soon, their parents

will leave them here, alone with me,

the way my husband never let them be.

In my hunger, my lifetime abstinence,

I have long understood the frosting of deceit,

the ease with which one can believe

anything of gumdrops.




Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets. Her poetry, stories, and nonfiction have appeared in The Cascadia Subduction ZoneShenandoah, and Sky & Telescope, respectively. She can be found online at http://www.pantoum.org.
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
Issue 15 May 2023
Issue 8 May 2023
Issue 1 May 2023
Issue 24 Apr 2023
Issue 17 Apr 2023
Issue 10 Apr 2023
Issue 3 Apr 2023
Issue 27 Mar 2023
Issue 20 Mar 2023
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