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The birds are singing in the rocks—
an old man waiting for a young one at the bus
stop, the whispers of the child of the moon
playing pleasantly. He knew that lady-moth
and her “rattletrap streetcar” that brought her here,
that sometimes, you need the spirit of a heron
lifting from the river to greet you. You know, Mr. Williams
was a poet first and so, not afraid of night:
of excess, oversignifying, being uncontained. No cold
sun for this boy, only the moon: mist over
the ruins and the birds falling down.

The old man waits for the young man at the bus stop.
Maybe he is his son; maybe he is his son’s lover;
maybe they are merely a bus rider and someone
to wait for him. Ink stretches under moonlight,
like herons winging over water, more alive, it seems,
than the gulls, or flowers, or grapes from the French market.

At the boundary of the world is the blossom budding
on the limbs and the boy waiting for you. I would
tell you to be careful, but you won’t listen, or rather,
have listened and will do as you wish, finding birds
in the building with no roof and three sides and ivy up the walls. The old man
waits for the young man at the bus stop and it is cold and only part
of what is needed. You and that moon-boy in the grass
will blame it on the flowering cherry or the rose
or the water lily and the heron, as if we all lay on the riverbank
in Grecian drapes. The old man waits, hoping
someday someone would come off the bus needing to have been waited for
and maybe the young man goes over to him and asks how the old
one is feeling today. I’ll leave you to it. Now, I am abandoned
among rocks and not as young as I once was, so I leave you
to return to the sound of birds in the fallen-down building—

I know the lonely, lovely places, all misty crags and fallen trees,
what they say to frail boys who carry bats. The lilies bloomed and the sun
was weak and I learned how night draws those who love whatever we can get our hands on:
Baroque and Romantic ruined follies, paper lanterns,
chintz, chinoiserie, scarves, dereliction, the heron. The old gray man
waited to become the bus like the birds that sing themselves the moon.
The road goes through the rocks, and even sand can be beautiful,
as Mr. Williams knows, just as he knows not to bleed
into ruins but embrace them. Let me try an illustration:

On the moon lives a very old man with a rabbit or perhaps a heron,
because, like many men—the men in this sort of story at least—
he loved the moon more than the cold sun and that love let him float,
derelict and crumbling, on a cherry blossom to the moon where he could live
forever. The sun threatened to expose him and another man
made of moonlight. They melted, it seemed, when the sun rose, beds
showing no sign that anyone had slept in them, and no one noticed.
What they did notice was that during the days there were two reclusive
bachelors who lived on opposite sides of the city and bore no
resemblance to these men, but who were never seen after supper
by anyone, even the landlady, even if she peeked through
the tatted curtains on their windows to check in.
The old man waiting for the young man at the bus
stop doesn’t wonder if the bus will come. He waits for it.

Tristan Beiter is a queer speculative fiction nerd originally from Central Pennsylvania. His work has previously appeared in such venues as Fantasy Magazine, Liminality, Abyss & Apex, and the 2022 Rhysling Anthology. When not reading or writing, he can be found crafting absurdities with his boyfriend or shouting about literary theory. Find him on Twitter at @TristanBeiter.
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?
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