The children pick the peeling yellow paint from the bathroom pipes and lick it while Mama is gabbing on the phone with her sister. Papa returns from work at four and takes the yellow plastic strap out of the second dresser drawer and whips their thighs since Mama has delegated punishment for their transgressions during […]

Jesus Wears a Puerto Rican Flag on his Jacket and a Flower in his Hair

in college, the men i gave trembling permission to scurry inside of me, would, more often than not, send me hobbling to the student clinic. the nurse, as incandescent as a light bulb with rage, tells me that sex is not supposed to require three tylenol. my roommate, eyebrow raised at the troupes of grubby-nailed […]

A Definition

mother 1. noun. presence, as in constant ex: “the mother is here.” see also: mama, mommy see the child cry out in fear, in loneliness see the presence quiet the child see presence beyond himself   2. verb. to rear, as in to create ex: she mothers and mothers and mothers until she is no […]


Christine Imperial is a queer Filipino-American poet. She is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at CalArts. She won the Loyola Schools Award for the Arts for her poetry in 2016. Her work has been published in NoTokens,Heights,Rambutan Literary,among others.

Triptych of the Adobe-Cotta Army, los frijoles ya se quemaron, & Apology to Her Majesty, Queen Cardi B

Triptych of the Adobe-Cotta Army East Palo Alto, Circa 2000 AD My fingers are desperate to unearth the ruins of my countrymen. Only to find a Tesla on the second floor of our apartments —now a parking garage. The Amazon logo smirks above me, like a biblical cloud. * Out here, hooded saints tore the […]

Not Your Color

I am not a girl who is pretty in all seasons. With the russet of fall painted on my mouth the scar across my face (climbing from the lip) Splits the silence with a noise less like Mozart, Closer to clanging; Rock metal, metal and rocks. Winter blues recall the time, Drowning in surgery, waves […]


אמר רבי יודן Rabbi Yudan taught: פעם אחת חזר על כל המניקותOnce, Mordekhai searched but ולא מצא לאסתר לאלתר מיניקהcould find no wet nurse for Esther, והיה מיניקה הואso he nursed her himself. • My breasts judge a handshake, have five-o-clock shadow. I know the proper verb for a deal with God is   To Cut. […]

Sasha Fierce asks ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’

Today I find comfort in the thunder’s holy growl. Hunger sometimes smells like petrichor: dead bacteria awakening our most primal sense to the promise of replenishment. All this while, I’ve been singing along: Honey, please try to understand it’s time to love your woman. Maybe it is time to make me your woman, to let the […]

Q & A

—Do you have a fear of losing people? I once rustled moonlight underneath the blanket and threatened to keep it. I unwrapped it slowly like sand loosed by waves, a child with one present come Christmas morning. —Do you feel that being black makes you a target? If shooting holes into darkness was not a […]

Portrait of a Slave-Owner’s Wife

Light folds around her       yellow-silk like a pillar-candle Shadows round her cheek             curve between lips press below her nose On her left a thickened impasto of fading paint and varnish layers obscure shapes and it’s hard to see a dark boy in blue livery bending brown skin      black hair   without a stroke of light to […]

Architectural Integrity & Aretha Franklin Has Died

Architectural Integrity My floor could possibly be coming apart but I’m hanging on for now & for good reason Catastrophe should only be used as the name for a fragrance that only exists in a fictional universe One where a person starts every day with a montage full of clues I’ve spent the past week […]

Mayhem—Arrival and Departure

Rally (n.) 1650s, originally in the military sense of ‘a regrouping of renewed             action after a repulse’ I confuse the armored buses for deliverance                a line of colored steel     some tarnished            some spit— shined  My surprise at this release of white bodies              Their flocking together Their delivery of          renewed action the guns hanging […]

In Champaign, Illinois

Up the stairs coiled around the hotel my new friend Frank and I are lamenting that there is no gym after all—he lamenting— I going along—at my door I half stick the key in, he asks again about how to iron his pants, I have these pants with a crease—he uses his hand to saw […]

Elegy, yet again

Not a pyre, but a chimney, a beetle shaking mercilessly on top of my doormat to the sound of its own catharsis a tongue my neck both hands shaking exactly the same. My teeth as antenna & my cords wings Sing I watched a beetle die today; not a crate not a crypt not a […]

Poem in Which You Are the Church

Real boy the love I have made to you is unremarkable, as it should be in a perfect world, impossible to tell where you end and I begin. Real boy I have recessed in your nation, your looted land, pronounced it dead, & closed the borders I once bled for. Real boy I dream of […]

Can You Remove Your Necklace During Work Hours?

And the first words out of my mouth do not buck into a shield, do not blast his ears with refusal, not never, in my quiet defense something un-proud: it’s not even Muslim, as I convert that s to a z, and twist, twist my hair all of it uncovered for his ease and a […]

Plaza Hospicio Cabañas (Guadalajara)

perched in a cricket cage the canary waits to read your life you stand, sunbound eating mamey, guanaba favas con chile, pan dulce drinking agua pura y piña drop a few pesos in the guira the marimba comes to life two men like a wind-up toy or well-trained spider monkeys play Guadalajara, two mallets in […]

black boy calls shotgun

without permission or probation. if you can judge the pedigree of a windy day in April you may just get this. the same boy endless and radiant and doing exactly what a title as smooth as shea butter would suggest. sprinting across what little grass the west side has to brandish the opening of the […]


She wishes she could beat the dust mites out of the rug of this world. But she’s a woman, and her body is the inherited fabric men wipe their boots on, woven and patched by generations of furious women. Her hands are an ancestral tree, she names each branch of herself on her fingers: wife, […]


Most mornings I deliver my child into the arms of strangers who will lead him through passages papered in apples and rainbows, pencils and stars, each holding a single name, the names’ owners a crush shouting cascades of syllables, furious energy heating the room, swallowing my joyful son. Not safe to play outside today —shadows […]

Do Architects Name Their Buildings

Three minutes before the mudslide, I sit in the gardenshed of you— woodrot, pardoned given to the carpenter ants. I peel at plywood, name my body a townhouse built to be the walls of someone else.     One minute after the mudslide, I am asked to qualify what happened give it a name: this […]


Picture the big windy-soft midcentury rain rinsing the windows of the San Fran hospital where it’s the goofy John Cage’s job this afternoon to babysit a roomful of kids whose parents just doors down are dying, so silently with his spindle arms he mimes first a fast breaststroke against the window’s water then, even better, […]

Learning to Leave Home

I That spring I counted hydrogen ions, followed waste through porous membranes into silent bio-soups, waited for the nucleus to wake. It was late in the last century: pale blue moons and sugar cereals, Baghdad statues coming down, anti-aircraft tracers loverly in the amniotic night. II Can you guess where I’m calling from? The county […]


“look, we don’t know each other, but we don’t have to—” just give me your careless, normal hunger— i know we saw each other on that gay app we won’t ever mention out loud irl— i’ve served you the coffee breath that lives, sometimes, in another man’s mouth— you’ve seen me bloodshot and rude— maybe […]

S/c/h/i/z/o/p/h/r/e/n/i/a/ & American Boy Shares Death Metal with His Abuelo

I never think of my uncle as a man with rabid mouths burgeoning inside his skull. I’ve never seen him draw his teeth like burning hatchets or pull dead wolves out of his head. I’ve heard the stories; man leaves the hospital door ajar & wakes up peeling mothwings off a hospital floor. Man removes […]

Latex Ball, 2001

I nearly die laughing you’re a hunter in costume—Eckō Unltd. Pepe Jeans, Timbs with the tag an official member of the House of Decoy in the cab you’re pungent—consumed by the Michael Jordan Cologne I gave you inching close, you affirm you’ll shield me from the freaks two tabs of Love dissolve under my tongue—it […]

Mother Tongue

Lengua de mi madre, have you forgotten me +++++in greenness of your green Havana palms, in your thousands of orchid +++++blooms, in woven shades of your mango trees, flamboyant trees stretching +++++like a brocade or aged fishing net? When did I lose what I never received from you? +++++Some part I’m missing or some part […]

this is an offering

we, the grandmas practicing tai chi
in the public library, we the aunties gossiping
over mahjong and tea, we the pacific mall karaoke /
queens, we the tender queer who finds self care
in astrology, stakes their dreams on something bigger. /
we the kid who crosses out her poetry
so she can become a doctor.

Elegy for Don Lalo’s Gold Tooth

The streets near abuela’s would crumble with each step so we’d run the two blocks to Don Lalo’s bodega, where we’d snatch tamarindo and Rancherito’s from plastic shelves within our reach and pay with smiles and small-handed pesos. He’d smile back, his gold tooth a flash of every hissing summer we’d spent chasing frogs around […]


I stand in the closet choosing which of my father’s belts my mother will beat me with. Bridle, latigo, braided or smooth. His tastes contain so many fashions. Night cow hanging on top of the hill breaking grass— when they come for you do not give your skin. Countless children depend on your escape over […]