fair exchange

you who bred us for the abattoir,

you who taught us justice

is a nothing-word of poisoned air—

remember us.


you with your honeyed terror and scalpel-lies,

you with a red-soft hollow in your ribcage

in which filth and secrets fester—

here is my eye.


I have plucked it out and pressed it

into this space meant for a pulsing heart, a

peace offering of blood and viscera

when I have nothing else left to give.

take it. crush it. swallow it up.

I dare you.

in return all I ask for is your tooth (for a tooth)

and your claws sharp as fragments of innocence.

for nothing belongs to my kin and

nothing has ever belonged to us—

not our hearts, our eyes,

nor the names torn from our riddled tongues,

certainly not our cheap allegiance.


tell me my sightlessness tastes like sweet guilt down the throat.

tell me it chokes you and keeps you

awake at night with all this seeing,

too much seeing, in the screaming bright.

tell me I am vermin, I am an empty hissing canister, I am

nothing but foul dust in the rain.

tell me something real. now.

since my youth is on the pyre and my future mutilated,

allow me to pawn you a blindfold prophecy

for the price of a song

and the dignity of a good death.


you, my executioner, I have nothing more to say to you.

I am speaking to a crack in a moss-broken wall,

and no words have ever been spoken here.


(Editors’ Note: “fair exchange is read by Joy Piedmont on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 35B.)

Ewen Ma

Ewen is a speculative writer-poet and theatre practitioner. A cosmopolitan cinephile made in Hong Kong, Ewen now lives and works in London as a researcher in Visual Cultures with an interest in crisis cinema and the politics of the archive, and is also involved in independent filmmaking. Ewen’s works have appeared or are forthcoming in venues such as Anathema, Liminality, Voice & Verse, Hot Potato News, and Uncanny. Ewen holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is a 2018 graduate of Clarion West, with fiction currently on the shortlist for the Gollancz & Rivers of London BAME SFF Award.

Catch Ewen online at http://ewenma.com or @awenigma.

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