A stranger’s shirt on my back, sweat-sour,
I weave a tangled arithmetic through a sea of ink
to pawn off dented yellow helm and a pair of blue-stained sleeves
for an onigiri.
On the polished arcade floor leaning against a shuttered Westwood you are
shamefully out of fashion, on the borderlands of expiry,
and my lungs are crushed beneath
the sight of you like a mountain of sodden rags.
This is no life for the young.
A razor to the neck would be a swift kindness
compared to cyanide smoke and scraps of second-hand memories,
a future the worth of
a cell, a cage-house, a nail in the coffin.
No one asks to become a battlefield.
No one asks to be the last card drawn in a gamble of glutted gods,
a garish slip of discounted fabric condemned to the teeth of time.
(Have you ever dreamt of this? This empty bardo, this boar’s head on a stake.
The so-called glory of being warchildren
chosen by the toss of a devil’s-dice.)
You tell me through a mouthful of blood that seaweed-wrapped rice the size of
a heart never tasted so good.
Later, in the trash:
a mask, a broken umbrella, a scuttling roach, a white grain.
© 2021 Ewen Ma