Bristling black, oil green on black
the carnivorous head bent
with pinball eyes jerking,
glaze of glass

The beast hovers, hobbles
with an ancient gait,
giant from continual dreaming,
smothers everything
in sight of window.

Anxieties brew from
the underside up — coaxed
into skin and liver,
bred into flight from the brain,

on the nervous sill
the dried dragon’s claw
clicks loudly
deluge of feather and
day, gorged by shadow

and rasping reptile throat
come to lead me from my window.
Window and bird.
Large as life,
Someone else’s fear



A note slipped into
the lining of a cheap purse
sewn by deadweight hands,
machines resounding

the automation of life
between four walls
no one else will know
how far away, how

inmates in the Yingshan Prison
in Guangxi, China are working 14 hours
daily with no break/rest at noon

and black faux-leather becoming
an identical cipher packaged
air-tight into boxes are
shipped to the home of the brave

to be pawed at by desperate
shoppers; mall moms
trail toddlers under fluorescent
wash, swim through merchandise,

continue working overtime until 12 midnight,
and whoever doesn’t finish his work will be
beaten — their meals are without oil and salt,

fast, distracted hands run
over pockets and poorly-made
zipper, flip of price tag — “this will do”

tossing purse into cart among
spread of diapers and tv dinners
and gliding to checkout aisle 4

every month, the boss pays the inmate
2000 yuan, any additional dishes will be
finished by the police. If the inmates are sick
and need medicine, the cost will be deducted from the salary.

credit card emerges from the depth
banal beep over laser scanner
items dumped into flurry of plastic

monotone “Thank you” of
name-tag touting employee,
great doors slide open

prison in China is unlike prison in America,
horse cow goat pig dog —

“My heart went into my stomach”
she says, note unfurled in hand —

the outside world is suddenly
a gleam of cars, sunshine,
fast food signs


This poem was a reaction to this news article which came out several months ago.

The Jellyfish


The Jellyfish

The sharp sting heralds
a rush of impending doom.

Blueness of depth gathering,
cloaking the peripherals
of vision, in that vast tightness

the squeeze of blood through
impacted arteries, the hollows
of so much water
so many liquids that float
the body.

It is only chemical, this dread —
poison burrowing and clenching the heart
the way the years amass in late morning
with hours of living to do
until the next tide of sleep

This strangeness of affliction
that is a sea creature’s defense
mechanism —

from the black ocean what
other feelings arise?

A cloud of confusion
over one’s fate — for what
this debilitation?

To soften the struggle,
to walk into the panic of death.

To see with the black tint
of your fellow creature of depth,

have your imaginary gills flood
with liquid of the underworld


© Mabel Lee