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By Jun Chou

an old woman meets my pace as i’m walking along a road in Taiwan (a country where i was born but not where i was raised) and starts speaking to me in Taiwanese (a dialect i’d understand if i stayed but don’t because i didn’t) and right as i am about to politely, pitifully excuse myself, a moped whizzes by and barely knocks us over; as she stabilizes on my forearm i exhale “are you okay” in my broken mandarin and she nods, smiles, and pats my arm gently, shocking in the way it evokes my grandma (who lived and died alone in Taiwan, with whom i communicated primarily in gestures and expressions and touch), and i think of how odd it is for our elders to reassure us (when they are the ones with the frail bodies closer to death) and as i gaze up at all the illegible neon signs above us, i silently mourn this familiar space between feeling like home and feeling like i will never truly belong (anywhere)

Jun Chou is a writer based in Brooklyn.

Art by Jun Chou.

By Huina Zheng

Patience, a gentle simmer, no rushing, my mom reminds me in a sacred litany,

bestowing upon me the art of soup-making, more profound than mere culinary skill, a

lesson in embracing slowness in a breakneck world, much like her insistence on

knitting sweaters each winter, defying the lure of store-bought ease, her hands

weaving threads of love, each stitch a testament to maternal affection, echoing an

ancient Tang poem that sings of a mother’s care: “Threads in the hands of a loving

mother, garments on the wandering child, stitching before he leaves, sewn with fears

of a delayed return,” a reminder not to rush, akin to not helping a butterfly from its

cocoon, for without struggle its wings won’t spread or harden, unable to fly, mirroring

the essence of making soup, where turning up the heat to save time is a sacrilege, for

Cantonese soup, unlike in other regions of China, demands a slow cook of four hours,

often a whole day, to achieve the “old fire soup,” a thousand-year-old Guangdong

secret for nourishment, all contained within this pot, and soups hastily boiled

elsewhere are mere shadows.

Huina Zheng, holding a Distinction M.A. in English Studies, serves as a college essay coach and editor at Bewildering Stories, with her stories featured in publications like Baltimore Review, Variant Literature, and Midway Journal, earning her two Pushcart Prize nominations and Best of the Net nods, and lives in Guangzhou, China with her family.

Photo by Peiqin Guo.

By Charlotte Newbury

When God first approached me in the joinery aisle of the hardware shop, I was twenty-four years old and very tired and thought she seemed somehow both too tall and not at all tall enough for a cosmic being, but when I opened my mouth to say something to this effect she held up just one finger and laughed (like the sound of a train brake screeching a whole town away) and I knew she’d already understood, so instead I said “I don’t know what I’m doing here,” somehow already on the verge of tears in that stupid, brightly-lit store filled with people all consulting their incomprehensible lists of 25mm copper-coated and w56 h76 and aluminium 50 per s/m while I stood and stared longingly at the wooden planks and prayed for some kind of divine intervention to show I was even in the right aisle, despite knowing I didn’t belong here at all, not in this spot or the shop as a whole; I wasn’t prepared, hadn’t even measured the space I needed to fill, had arrived with only the hope that I’d intrinsically understand the perfect measurement and end up back home a hero of DIY, an unexpected talent - and during all this pondering, God handed me the timber I needed (quite large) and said, “Darling, you must simply cut it to shape.”

Charlotte Newbury is a queer writer from England who knows next-to-nothing about DIY, life, or everything in between - though it doesn’t stop her tweeting @charnewbpoet.

Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado living in Oregon, by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.

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