Rachael Lin Wheeler is currently a student attending Choate Rosemary Hall in
Connecticut (USA). Her writing and photography have been recognized by
Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and her poetry appears in various publications.
Serving as an editorial assistant for EX/POST, Rachael Lin is also the founder and
editor of Vox Viola Literary Magazine—an intersectional feminist publication—
which can be found at https://voxviola.com. She is prone to 2 am laundry folding.

Carnival After Dark

Winter—& these hills wither into a landscape of snow angels but no footprints. The arcade games switched off, their dark screens like heavy, watching eyes. Garlands of faded lights loop around the bone branches of cherry trees: each bulb so lifeless & inviting you want to plop them in a pill jar, then swallow them down with ice melted & dirtied. In this sky, dull stars throb like baby teeth thrown upward. The gears of the Ferris wheel have rusted. Still it spins & cries. Carts empty & no one there to notice. A knock-off Venetian mask has fallen: golden ribbon frayed, sale tag yellowed & torn. You wonder the price of artifice. Of knowing what it means to disappear without actually disappearing. Now you see me—& now & now & now. The old carousel rests motionless yet the saddles still glimmer. Ponies from the petting zoo lie flat behind the fence & you think they are dead. Then one moves his head of lethargy &, stunned, you walk away. Once, a man told you your body was a myth & you wanted to believe him. But you can feel the backs of your hands crack from the cold while the ghost boy pounds the dirt ground with both fists. O beautiful maze. O beautiful mask. For the first time, you are asked how safe you feel moving through this world—the booth's curtains always did close before the applause. Your laugh: all confetti in the dark. Listen: hear the marching band? Who knew how easily a trombone could become a weapon? Or a casket to carry the last song of the parade. O lovely madness. O soft calling. The children sit in the corner where their parents put them. They pierce balloons with a needle. One by one. Hear them pop like bubblegum. The bright carcasses left in the trash. Hear the lullaby: the same one that played at the deathbed of a best friend. O sweet, sweet sound.

The Fish
after Peter LaBerge

i was six and new to the job
of capturing.

my uncle stood beside me waiting
like the doorman for the hotel's guest,

like the bait was a luxury he wanted
to live in.

the luring: a gold-plated welcoming.
the lake: the cracked glass door.


he had done this before, my uncle.
he was used to the ceremony
of taking

the oxygen from the gills, then
the hook—like a silver kiss's shadow—
from the roof of the pointed mouth.

i felt the pleading tug on the line—the sign
of some scaled animal's mouth betrayed
by its own hunger.


when i first saw the bobber swallowed
by the reeling lake, i wanted
to let go of the pole and dive in after it.

i wanted to shed the bait of my own breath
and feared hearing the fish's mouth move like my own
body when it sleeps.

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