Stefani Tran is a senior at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines,
currently working on a poetry collection for her bachelor's degree in Creative
Writing. She was a fellow for English poetry at the 13th IYAS National Writers'
Workshop, and a Temasek Foundation LEaRN Scholar at Nanyang Technological
University. Her work has been published in Heights, Transit, QLRS, and CURA.
She lives in the hope that one day, Senpai will notice her. Find her here.
The Day I Asked if You Were Afraid of Dying
You put your mouth to my ear and said come on,
let's go flip some tables.
I had no choice but to follow. Parting the crowds
with your body, you marched up
to the huddle of unwashed team jackets
and two-toned blowouts;
palms out to the snickers, nodding left
and right—excuse me
—and with all
your strength, let loose.
I got the whole thing on tape: every single
soda can and smartphone; the airbrushed faces
in the yearbooks and the commas
on the college applications—freed into the air.
The noise when they hit the floor,
crumpled together like an apocalypse. The losing
in their eyes, their round, laughable mouths.
It was only when we were running that I noticed
my hands were shaking
with want—for things to be neat, or a chance to tell someone
I was sorry. But you grinned at me like naked gold.
Your face glowing with mischief
as though you’d invented it.
Saying, Didn’t I?
after Joshua Ip
This prayer is all-natural, free from any bias, buzzword
or Big Guy; addressed to the trees, and the seas, and the mist
and the rocks. All you birds of the air, all you aardvarks
of the savannah, all you cheeseburgers on our tables, thanks for exist-
ing! This prayer's got a vocabulary so clean
you could eat off it. It's made with words like "care"
and "joy" and "peace," easy, single syllables,
so smooth you'll barely feel they're there.
This prayer wishes everyone, and we
mean everyone, a Happy Year of Rain and Summer.
It's waterproof and leakproof; no line to jerk
a tear here. You'll never need to call a plumber
again. This prayer has no sharp edges,
so it's absolutely safe to give to your child.
It's slim enough to slip into a pocket or a purse.
The volume on this prayer can be dialed
all the way down, so you don't have to worry about it
drowning out the bass at your next party. Just plug it in
and it will discreetly focus your chi, renew your cells. Here's
our big secret: it's all about oneness, not about sin.
Trust us—a prayer doesn't need any special mentions
when it’s this chock-full of good intentions.
The Love Story
It happens in every
age of the world. He sees her
combing out her hair, or stepping
into a pond or climbing
out of the mud. The white swan
or bull nuzzles up to her
and she, innocent, stretches out
And always, he whisks her away
to the underworld, or else leaves her
sitting up in bed, eyes still emptying.
He can be the coyote and think
she is the moon, or the arrow and know
his mark. Sometimes he is the pine needle
humming in her cup of water.
Sometimes he is the one telling the fishermen
to leave their wives at home
so he will not have to look at them.
Sometimes he is her husband, or looks like him.
And sometimes he is only mist
but he is, still. Thunder of the drum, tight
inside the animal skin. This is what
the god knows of desire: the body cannot be
held accountable. The body
cannot be held.
What You Said When I Asked Where You Were Going
The first portable film camera
was the cinématographe,
patented by the Lumičre brothers in 1895.
It had a built-in projector and weighed
about sixteen pounds, which is roughly
the weight of a sperm whale's brain,
or a six-month-old child.
It was what allowed George Méliès, a year later,
to discover the first special effect—an accidental
camera jam one morning and he was
a magician, flicking through time
like cards in a deck. Time, the oldest
trick in the book.
It's only fun if you choose to believe
that behind that wall, the truck
really elongates into a hearse;
that the gentleman sheds his coat and hat,
steps into a pair of satin heels and slashes
lipstick across his mouth before stepping
back out onto the street
and sauntering round the corner,
doing a little shimmy as she goes.
All faster than you can blink.
This is the magic of the world we live in,
where a boy can cross the street
and be a man by the time he reaches the sidewalk;
where funeral cars are really moving vans
and where someone else's name is just another word
for light. Here, take the crank yourself;
turn it and see. Appear. Disappear. This is how
easy it is to work. This is not how I will leave you.
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