Inez Tan is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of Irvine, California
(U.S.A.). Her writing has appeared in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Singapore Poetry,
Rattle, and the anthology, A Luxury We Must Afford. She also holds an M.F.A. in fiction
from the University of Michigan (U.S.A.). (Website:

Animating Principle

No one ever told me I was matter.
I listened closely. I was never
heard. The ghosts who kill themselves become
ghosts of ghosts.
That is what I see
behind me in the mirror. That is why
I have not braked
to let anyone cross in front of me
for quite some time.

Goodness is a Fruit

and thus never a lonely
business. Anther, meet stigma. Meet on

the furry legs of bumblebees or
marvelous currents of air. Meet the other

on the other side of the moon, clouds drifting,
hushed sheets. I rose higher still when you

cracked me open and used both thumbs
to coax every luscious drop

into flowing. I begged you not to despise
what comes so easily to your hand.

Romance Novel

Why must it be an accusation? All I want is for the world to be romantic. Attraction. Conflict. Heartless parents. Tearful separation. Doubt. Many long letters, confusion exacerbated by terrible handwriting. Plane tickets, ingeniously obtained at the last minute for a shocking amount of money, but it's only money. Long walks through the city to conduct research for a possible PhD in sociology: thin pretext to extend the stay. Holding hands to run across the highway, the quickest route to the bowling alley but that's not really why. Help picking out a coworker's birthday present. Help putting up bookshelves and Christmas lights. The movies. Significant looks in the spaghetti factory. Aquarium, moody octopus, rotating column of pufferfish. Sharing one cart in the supermarket. Who's better at Dance Dance Revolution? Making out in the back of a taxi. Convivial arguments about commas, singular they, the object predicative. Comparing photographs as children, both wearing the same pair of ugly teal overalls, no doubt on sale that year. Common ground between parents after all. Gruff, sincere reconciliation. Merging collections of books, room enough for duplicate copies. No real dancing, thank God. Accident at the brewery, minor damage only, funny story for the wedding reception. More kissing. Sunlight. Blueberry pancakes in bed. Syrup between the sheets.


Five grams of salt can determine
whether the loaf lives or if I've ruined it. Not

all work is delight. I had a dream once

that a man was standing over me with a stone
he would use to crack

my hips, and just as his hands released it

I turned into a cloud of fishes
and swam free. Out of danger

came knowledge; out of fear, inspiration—

but I awoke on ripped flour sacks,
cold and clenched like a fist. Everything has

to be weighed and weighed again.

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