FIVE POEMS by Kenneth Tanemura

/ / Issue 22


The Asian man on the subway punches back at the assailant, his punches pound in a flurry like wingbeats of saw-wings 

or swallows the softness of his swings like clarinet concertos, more mood than thrust, hinting at romance two lovebirds 

chattering under the same lavender umbrella on an afternoon of summer rain, the fast and slow pace of such talk 

then unexpectedly going into the depths of hope, hands fluttering like wings to gesture this, that, fear, longing before 

swooping up again into the lighter register of shared remembrances no threat and the punches don’t land, he’s 

not a fighter, just a commuter on the subway with a backpack packed with pencils and paper, a novice in the city, 

the country, the subway with crisscrossing lines across five boroughs, thrust into a new role suddenly a man-

at-arms with short arms wailing and bewailing, who can say what the intended target was his thrust-forward 

hand missing the assailant’s head by a mile, his narrow wrist resting on the attacker’s shoulder as if pausing and 

loafing there as the assailant backs away from the punch so the punch pierces only air deflated the moment the 

assailant takes advantage of, thrusting the long arm of his rage into the foreign-looking man’s face, into the face of a virus raging across the planet beyond the city the country limits into the far-flung immeasurable unknown loathing 

the untold and undisclosed, contours erased by shadow, a stargazer loathing the unrevealed stars his eyes seething 

with no trace of Iago’s malicious irony, his eyes boiling incensed even after the Asian man predictably passes out, but 

there is courage in going against the fury, in emerging from the untold and telling the clear chronicle of himself.


He kicks the Asian woman in the middle of her body, a body he maybe suspects transports a virus conceived overseas, 

suspects she’s spreading it all over the place like bats, like she ran the marketplace selling live animals, he 

kicks, and she folds in half, a jackknife, if it wasn’t an attack, I’d have thought of Greg Louganis from an era before such 

blows were crimes folding and unfolding before slicing into the water, a razor striking into the cool blue pool, but the 

Asian woman doesn’t unfold crumples to the ground, her dyed black hair off the ground in grainy footage a sign she’s still 

aware maybe can gather herself, but doesn’t before a kick with the left foot into her temple sends her not to the 

ground but to the moment of gathering before she gathers herself, to the moment when she is kicked again now, 

not going down but raising herself on hands and knees, the man done for now, making his escape and when he’s clear of 

view the other men, who watched from behind windows wheel the revolving door all their machismo cultivated for 

nothing for posturing but not protecting, for taking offense but not stopping the offenders, and they check to see how 

much blood, bruises how and how, the cowardice of men who fear, work, know guilt, repent for looking the other way, is 

all we know to judge; we know them they are us on days when the ridges and peaks in the sky seal us off from others 

until we’re so far apart they seem to live in a different sphere with more electrons and ionized atoms and molecules while 

the man on lifelong parole thinks the rules don’t apply to him, and they don’t, we don’t know what to do with those 

dead eyes, those lifeless eyes in the sockets of the man who kicks and kicks against the living as if anger was a 

shallow emotion and fear lay way down in the depths where only the most human of us wait.

The Nothing

The Asian woman past middle-aged is slow and why not, strolling uphill in sunglasses, walking her dog on a 

Saturday morning, a little exercise to keep the blood pressure from rising in mutiny against the citadel of good health, 

to keep the cholesterol low as it was in her youth, the street all houses and trees de-populated of people or pedestrians 

like forests deforested for mines and malls, and with all the logic of the deranged the attacker gets a full head of 

steam, springs with long swift strides into a sprint her hands swaying at her sides to propel her forward common-

sense machinations of the body whose mind’s unreasonable devices throw her off rhythm, she dashes towards the 

Asian woman with a knife in her hand, gallops with hardly a sound of footsteps approaching, nimble-footed and clumsy 

of mind, the attacker is described as a transient and reminds us of life fleeting, of the sprightly strategies of the mad 

who threaten and are threatened by their minds. Did she play it out in her thoughts, the running start, the surprise 

surprise moment of stabbing and stabbing then walking away calmly? It could have been an old harmless woman 

of any race attacked, but who’s more harmless? Who’s older than these women with blank expressions, as if they saw a thousand years go by a thousand years ago and now walk in enlightened passivity having seen the 

pyramids and Pompeii? Who’s more harmless than these women with no soul or backbone, born of cultures without 

guns weakened under the yoke of Confucius? “Like shooting fish in a barrel,” and when I was a kid I did, not 

shoot but fish for fish trapped for children to trap with poles and hooks. The trapped trout were easier targets 

than the wild trout darting through currents in a river and rejecting your lure knowing better than to bite on a 

shiny scrap of metal polished in a boy’s soft unknowing hands. I wonder if it’s culture, brute force against a truce with 

fate playing out on the street? All-out aggression versus tranquil meditation. No, it’s just the mind 

playing dirty tricks on some of us, voices telling some of us to attack, the tormented mind speaking and listening 

and arguing with itself until some flagrant solution is reached, and the Asian woman becomes a foil, her face as 

if she thought no thought and so a little less human for thinking nothing. The canceler walks away like nothing no 

longer there and she isn’t, she walks away before the residents appear shaking their heads.

Polo Pony

His small, budding, middle-aged breasts jut out, a nipple pokes the polo pony in the behind, shoulders squared up to a small 

Asian woman, as if he needed to align himself to handle her oh my god. The small voice comes at a lower volume, he feigns 

walking away, three steps then stops, turns, playing with his prey. He’s not leaving just yet. He thrusts his big, open, American 

hand in the air to make a point and a threat at once. Why don’t you go back to Asia, the man says, as if to register his complaint in 

the annals of American thought. Go back, make the return—to where, there? —everywhere there are men like this, you 

can’t escape them coming or going. He blurts out his full name, the middle name dangled there, some sanctioned ticket to 

rant and berate. The man blurts out his social security number and date of birth, the scared woman’s camera census-taking, 

identifying. He dares her to call the cops, as if color would not make them infer this, that, the little polo pony above his forehead 

a kind of badge. No one’s gonna help you, he says. No one sees these look-alike foreigners and sojourners here briefly 

under the radar, no one cares about either of them standing off here in El Taurino, the smell of tacos wafting in the taut air. One 

used against the other, you don’t forget his stare you don’t forget his voice, a woman says and the other, the woman, yes, it’s the 

woman he hates, the woman in the foreigner and not the foreigner itself, the woman who rejects, like the law the fat, 

outraged, over the hill woman-hating man, milling about, his body slouched and cocked for a fight.


Asian man who looks a bit stooped as he walks in official colors, blue and gray and black shoes; he passes the garbage can on 

the corner, the one with yellow flowers painted on it and somewhere in a museum hangs Van Gogh’s sunflowers, the 

admiring eyes of the beautiful bestowed stiffly in the vestibule of aesthetic space, portico for the mind that rejects the world 

for art, and entrance to an elsewhere, when a man in a hoodie, hands at his waist, thrusts his hips into the shove he gives the 

old man who goes flying almost comically, airborne like Jordan in the 90s, leaping for a dunk from the free-throw line, 

nostalgically the old man falls flat on his face, unable to get up of his own volition as the assailant walks away pumping his left 

fist in the air in triumph as if, his point having been made, he’s done with the business at hand. This happened to me, 

many years before the pandemic, a middle school boy walking the halls of John F. Kennedy Junior High in the Reagan years 

but there were no smartphones, and even if there were, there was no one to see childhood being warped on video, the woof 

sounds coming from their mouths in stereophonic sound, the sounds decades from registering on a graph or gauge. Even 

the idea of recording the event by the seismographic network of a poem unthinkable as the internet and its cultures 

of vultures descending on Van Gogh, on the sunflowers growing in clusters. I was an easy target at 12, no less easy to attack 

than the man made nameless by his race, as we remain unknown and unsung. So let us croon carols now and warble until dawn.


    Issue 22   


TWO POEMS by Aaron Coleman


chances  are by Denise Duhamel


OFFERING by Mike Puican


TWO POEMS by Mark Smith-Soto


WIDOW, WALKING by Betsy Sholl


TWO POEMS by Katie Pyontek


FIVE POEMS by Kenneth Tanemura


TWO POEMS by Michael McFee





GATE by Grayson Wolf





SLUSHIE by Shyla Jones




Odium by Ilya Leybovich


THE SWING OF THINGS by Becky Hagenston