[i want to be anything]
Giles Robert Goodland
oversalted medium fries
It came out of nowhere
Like Jewels in the Light
Stone to Sand
Lucy Mu Li
Night Sea Haiku
live action little mermaid
Home is a dream for those who are awake
Wai Julia Cheung
Yielding is difficult for the obdurate mind, accustomed to the rigidity of routine and the desire to lay a ground of firm stability. We beat our paths, we forge our bonds, we fix our sights on unwavering targets — and it gets us far, but only so far, before we crumble under pressure’s weight and disintegrate within mires of our own making. When do we yield? When do we be? I’ve been taking long walks along the river and have seen its waters change across the seasons, from brittle sheets of frozen ice in the winter, to sparkling pools of light under the glint of spring’s morning sun. The same stream finds itself different with each passing moment, but it never seems more alive — more powerful — than when it slips and slides and surges with liquid strength past even the most intransigent boulders. That fluid force is what this issue is dedicated to. ‘Liquefaction’ occurs both within and without us, propelling us into new phases and changed states, sometimes to our relief, sometimes to sheer anxiety. We begin with our head in the clouds, drifting with the ease of a ‘delicate wildness’ as m wilder guides us to consider what it means ‘to be anything’, ‘the shifting insubstantial’ of ‘neither one / nor other’ that Giles Robert Goodland’s protean poem continues to evoke. Kept buoyant by pure potentiality, eliza souers dips us into a stream of consciousness that is as piquant as the ‘oversalted medium fries’ of a greasy diner — but a single moment is all it takes to arrest its flow, as Lee Welch’s ‘It came out of nowhere’ perfectly embodies. ‘Slipping away evenly, slyly’, all that we know becomes ‘nothing more than a fluid pile’ in Abby Moeller’s lyrical lines, and we find ourselves grasping for stability to no avail. That ‘enigmatic slice, that unattainable sliver’, as Silvia Rose writes in glimmering prose, is engulfed by the waves, leaving us ‘undulating with chronic unease’. Yet, there is hope to be found in Lucy Mu Li’s beautiful quadriptych of shifting shapes, which invokes the peace of allowing ‘time to soften us and the tides to carry us’. Waves roll upon open shores in James Penha’s graceful ‘Night Sea Haiku’, while clear waters ‘wash and wake you deathlessly’ in the lucid flow of Erin Clark’s ‘hailmary’. All is well — all seems well, but in the currents there is no stagnation, and we soon find ourselves plunged into the deep, not ‘built to breathe / underwater’ and left ‘sobbing and singing’ in Laurie Eaves’s whimsical fairytale gone wrong. Even so, let yourself fall and perhaps you’ll find a new way of being: Suzanna Fitzpatrick writes with crystalline concision that one can return ‘to water as a sinuous silver teardrop’ to ‘enjoy re-submersion’, and, if stuck in ‘the city of frittered flames’, Wai Julia Cheung’s profound words assure us that even ‘the butterfly learns dismemberment as freedom’. Whoever we are, wherever we think we’re going, life will have its tidal waves — and it can be overwhelming, it can be difficult, but it can also be full of wonder. Amidst glacial chills and bitter heat, the river survives the seasons: it finds its way, and so will you.
POETRY / M WILDER
[i want to be anything]
i want to be anything but weapon hurting teeth, or a wednesday in march on a sunday in february, no hidden knife, no sunless stairwell, just a brief, patient cloud. when sadness beads like pus at the edge of a wound, i could just be water roaming off absent rock into itself. a stone immoveable ‘til found quietly softer, sharp edges obediently vacant and noiselessly unimaginable. i have hung hours on reforming my twisted innocence into an open vase one can sip from uninterrupted. clay sticking to everything, messy handed. bravely hollow. fiercely open to a delicate wildness. warmly unyielding to the tightening throat
GILES ROBERT GOODLAND
Poem lights down touches the ground picks some grass and smells it. Its work is to complete the songs. Poem sails past Byzantium, enters coral waters, interiors. It wants to know whether cloud is a thing. Does song end. Is there a man of constant snow. It leads readers with syntax, for which nothing — speak again — nothing prepares them: the Avernian paved descent to waking’s instant. Poem writes you a letter, sends it through systems, irreducibly. Between it the shifting insubstantial. Poem dreams no more ocean. Asleep inside you its wheeled eyes rotates. The reverse is true, cloud is neither one nor other, neither lost nor foundation.
FICTION / ELIZA SOUERS
oversalted medium fries
there’s a man sitting next to me and he looks like he hasn’t shaved or probably showered in like four days which is fine because I haven’t either but at least I’ve put on deodorant which by the smell of him this guy hasn’t and I know my mother would be incredibly upset with me for not showering for four days but when your water bill is a quarter your monthly income then you rethink your water expense and I don’t usually like to wash my hair that often anyway but when you take a shower it kind of comes with the territory your hair gets wet.
it’s raining outside and I don’t have an umbrella so my hair is already wet but my hair is shaved so close to my head that I couldn’t tell unless someone told me and someone did the teenage cashier said you’re dripping wet and I said nature’s shower and she didn’t laugh probably because she could smell me or maybe she could smell the man behind me I mean he was really reeking and then he decided to sit next to me when there were two other tables open they weren’t clean but neither was he.
so we sat next to each other but didn’t say anything and I ate my salty hamburger and my salty fries and my salty ketchup and thought about my job interview and what kinds of questions they might ask like have you showered in the past three days and I would have to lie and hope the scent of the grease from the fast food restaurant I visited right before the interview was more overpowering than my own b.o. even though neither is an appealing scent at least the grease can be excused.
I would ask is the job cubicle work and then I would think too much about the words cubicle and cuticle and how similar sounding they are but it doesn’t really matter because they are such different words but I would get so distracted by looking at my fingernails that I would miss the next questions and say yes out of impulse and they would look at each other with those crinkly noses and stern eyes that remind me of my middle school librarian who always looked at me like that when I was twelve and I asked do you have any books about weather even though I was supposed to be in there asking for a book about future careers or switzerland or something that was useful to my schooling not the same book on cumulonimbus clouds that I had read fourteen times over but my dream was to work at a weather station and talk about clouds and rain even though I didn’t own an umbrella and I would fuck up my job interview at my local weather station because I would think about words that started with cu like cubicle cuticle cumulonimbus culinary cutlery cum cucumber cusp cubby cuff customary cup cult cut cultivate cunning custodian which is my job currently cuddle curiosity cue —
and miss my cue I say yes to the question they ask which is have you ever committed a felony?
VISUAL ART / LEE WELCH
It came out of nowhere
D rip Drip Drip Drip Drip Drip Drip So many things drip, Collecting in a small pond On the ground, on the skin, in The pit. Blood, water, tears, sweat. It’s all the same. Composed of atoms and Particles that make things exist. Make things Real. Make things tangible. Make things, things. Drips are real. Real scary things, that show how Life can easily fall away from us. how easily it Does so. Slipping away evenly, slyly, beco- Ming nothing more than a fluid pile, Escaping through our fingers As we try to hold onto it For a little while Longer.
FICTION / SILVIA ROSE
Like Jewels in the Light
Waves splash up like scattered stars, fleeting constellations resounding in the echo of the ship’s horn. We peer down and you raise a skinny wrist, a gold chain dripping down, glinting in the evening sun.
‘This is my favourite time of day’, you say, and if I was feeling less generous I would remind you that you say it every time we are together at this hour, which has been many, but now at this moment, as the waves churn the deck, make us float and soar like birds in an oil-heavy sky, I let you muse in your own private glow, I let you think that you have just said something poetic, and I know what thoughts do backflips in your head as you look out into the peach-gold horizon, that enigmatic slice, that unattainable sliver.
You lean down to watch the white foam curdling at the base of the ship, and as you do so an earring falls, a big gold art deco statement that I always secretly thought looked a little overdone, a little too much for your sweet monkey face, but would always smile when you put them on. You let out a cry and I notice people’s heads turn.
‘My earring!’ — as if there was any doubt what had just tumbled into the dark, gloating waves.
You keep peering down, and to each side, and further on to the distance, the innocence of a child searching for the treasure chest.
The evening service imminent, some of the crew begin lighting the hanging lanterns and the band sets up by the bar. A pleasant evening by anyone’s standards, another one to tally off, to throw in the pile of other pleasant evenings soon to be forgotten, recalled only with the smell of salt, the crackle of paraffin, and your presence beside me, undulating with chronic unease.
VISUAL ART / LUCY MU LI
Stone to Sand
An eternal love story between land and sea.
May we allow time to soften us and the tides to carry us.
Night Sea Haiku
night erases sea as paper covers rock but still the sound of surf
POETRY / ERIN CLARK
I have a rosary with skull-shaped beads (a happy little goth heart mine) Yesterday amidst the beech-covered slopes of Epping Forest, I dipped it (thrice) in an insignificant brook, flowing soundlessly and clear. Gratia plena, good guide and matriarch, receive this bath to wash and wake you deathlessly so that you might importune for us who miss the mark now and at our own death’s hour.
POETRY / LAURIE EAVES
live action little mermaid
was a short film: actors aren’t built to breathe underwater. ariel drowned, first day of the shoot. ursula insisted on scuba kit. the lighting director moaned about the goggles’ glare, so the seahag quit; traced a shivering track of stubborn ink to her trailer on the shore. eric stayed land-locked, married a dusty milkmaid from helsingør. leaving just sebastian & flounder, sobbing and singing to a salt-crusted set as the credits floated upscreen.
Hidden in the City of London is a small isosceles pond. Its sides are Guildhall, the bank on Gresham Street, and the church of St Lawrence Jewry. There are lilies, three diminutive waterspouts, and a fish.
She got into the habit of eating lunch by the pond. When she started temping at the bank she had to escape by noon, her head giddy with processes and people. The usual types: suspicious middle managers, pushy new graduates, office malcontents stalking a sympathetic ear.
Sometimes she thought about going elsewhere but didn’t have the will. Besides, she was fascinated by the water. An hour every day, staring into patent black: no ripples, no bubbles. She found herself wishing she could simply exist in its dark calm.
One difficult Tuesday she bent forwards until her lips kissed the surface, hesitated, then let herself fall. As she plunged, her body slid into the form of a fish, returning her to water as a sinuous silver teardrop.
Now, when she is hungry, she eats; sometimes lunchers share bread. When she is tired, she drifts. She loves the feel of the water so much that she often lifts her tail free of it, the better to enjoy re-submersion.
Who is to say that only a human life is worth living?
POETRY / WAI JULIA CHEUNG
Home is a dream for those who are awake
1. Times I’ve awakened as Zhuang Zi’s butterfly to find my wings holed, that even dreaming I am tasselled with limitations. What do I know of obsession but flight away from the city of frittered flames knowing I am bound to it. I know futility from the face in the window, the wet naval of eyes refusing itself. I lick the flickering water only to recoil from the heat. Over & over I make the same mistakes of dreaming for the impossible. Return to the belly of home to find it sticky with mildew. Return to the draw 2. of rot like how I return to the cha chaan teng in Boston. You’d think by leaving I’d have learnt to leave. I mean, 2019 Hong Kong, maa mi says: forget coming home if I ever find you in the babble. My first act of violence is how I surged in her womb like a protest. How she screamed for me to get out. I mean, this cord of ours – heritage or confinement? Did I choose to leave, or am I in exile? Every home 3. is an execution. By the Victoria harbour, buskers tuck their sorrows away from pointed eyes. Voices slurry into a generation. Burning in the water our collective memory. How much do I forget before I become an outsider? How much does it forget before the city becomes an outsider to us? 4. My city howls awake and the butterfly learns dismemberment as freedom. Outside, in Chinatown, someone asks me: 靚女, 你系边度离嘅？
Abby Moeller (she/her) is a writer based in WNY who explores her writing in forms varying from poetry to dramatic monologues to epic fantasy stories and everything in between. Her works can be found published with Sad Goose Cooperative, Black Moon Magazine, The Daily Drunk, and many others. Currently, she lives with her growing zoo of pets and endlessly teetering piles of books, in hopes of one day owning her own personal library. She can be found rambling on Twitter at @abbym823.
eliza souers is a fiction writing candidate in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Akron. Her writing tends to focus on the overlooked, beautiful little things of life, like pigeons and breadcrumbs and pigeons eating breadcrumbs. Her tuxedo cat Poncho inspires her to work hard and well. Sometimes she tweets @eliza_lsv.
Erin Clark (she/her) is an American writer and priest living in London, England. Her work has appeared in numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Oxonian Review, New Critique, Geez, About Place, The Merton Journal, Pilcrow & Dagger, and The Hour. She’s the author of the nonfiction Sacred Pavement (2021, That Guy’s House), and a coauthor of The Book of Queer Prophets (2020, William Collins). You can find her online at emclark.co or on Twitter @e_m_clark.
Giles Goodland’s latest book is Of Discourse from Grand Iota (UK). Previous books from Salt and Shearsman. He works as a lexicographer.
James Penha (he/him) has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry.
Laurie Eaves is a writer from the village of Yapton, UK. His debut collection, Biceps (2020), is out on Burning Eye Books and his work has been published by Bad Betty Press, Fawn Press, Atrium Poetry, Dear Reader, Ink Sweat & Tears, Poetry Rivals and Spoken Word London amongst others. He co-hosts the Dead Darlings spoken word podcast and co-produces the Vogon Poetry Slam and Genesis Slam.
Lee Welch (IRL/USA) completed an MFA at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam. Welch’s work has been featured in numerous institutions including Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University; Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), León, Spain and Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp. His paintings are in private and public collections such as the Arts Council, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane and the OPW – State Art Collection.
Lucy Mu Li is an interdisciplinary artist based in California. Through painting and photography, she tells stories of a world woven together by kinship — where interdependencies are exposed, shared languages are spoken, and love stories emerge. With a loving gaze towards the micro and macro spaces in our world, she illuminates the unifying forces of growth and mutual transformation that hold us in motion. We find ourselves entangled within ecosystems of belonging — united by a single beautiful breath, a single expanse of ocean.
m. wilder hopes you feel better. A youth librarian with bedhead whose words may be found at Ghost City Press, Glass Poetry, Rogue Agent, Surj, and more, you can find m on Instagram, Neutral Spaces, or lying in a puddle of sun near you.
Silvia Rose is a writer and tutor born and raised in Snowdonia, Wales. After years of traveling and living abroad, she has returned home to the mountains, where she runs writing workshops and works as a creative freelancer. In 2021, she published her first poetry collection, Spell into Being, and is currently working on nonfiction projects. In March 2023 she was chosen as one of Literature Wales’ Emerging Welsh Writers. Her work is largely inspired by her Welsh and Serbian roots.
Suzanna Fitzpatrick’s poetry has been aired on BBC Radio 4 and widely published in magazines and anthologies, including Writing Motherhood (Seren), The Emma Press Anthology of Contemporary Gothic Verse, The Emma Press Anthology of Slow Things, Furies (For Books’ Sake), and Birdbook III (Sidekick Books). She was shortlisted for the 2019 Bridport Prize, longlisted for the 2018 National Poetry Competition, won third prize in the 2023 Shepton Snowdrops Competition, second prize in the 2016 Café Writers and 2010 Buxton Competitions, and won the 2014 Hamish Canham Prize. Her pamphlets are Fledglings (2016), and Crippled (due 2024) (both Red Squirrel Press).
Wai Julia Cheung is a poet from Hong Kong, currently living in Boston, contemplating the transactional absurdity and alienation in our day to day living. Perpetually in conflict with herself, she struggles with the distances between the voices she embodies — e.g. working in both corporate and corporage, she’s in the process of figuring out what’s corpo-real. You will likely find her overthinking, or on her twitter, @creaturewai.
Image Credits: Backgrounds and graphics are adapted from open-source images by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash.
Nicole Fan loves exploring critical questions in creative ways. Having graduated from University College London with a BA in English, she is now doing a Masters in Early Modern English at the University of Oxford alongside running The Primer. Unable to resist the pull of old bookshops, sunny parks, and art galleries, she can usually be found wandering around all of them throughout her week.
Jessica Peng lives and writes in London. In 2022 she graduated from UCL with an English degree and took a job in the arts. She writes about culture and other mundanities on her Substack and edits poetry at The Primer.
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