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Vol. 2: 

On Identity

Unpainted Quilts

poem by Junpei Tarashi

I wonder if our history is erased like this,
Day by day, murmur by murmur-
The way we never heard of Maryam
and her fingers holding on tightly to her hard-won
Chador like a lifeline, walking out
with the highest symbol of femininity, a victory of protection past
the same guards whose spit and blows still remained
as ghosts of a recent memory on her body, the same
body who came with shoes wrapped around its neck, begging
for shelter from refusals, on the borderlines of knowing to be one thing
But perceived as another-

I wonder if the words cut robe get whispered
like a prayer, a premonition,
Between bathroom stalls, bedrooms with
closed windows and curtains,
anonymous conversations with another
faceless contender, fumbling fingers narrating sweet nothings letter
by letter; How we never gave ourselves the space
To daydream between the lines of history
About an emperor more content to cut apart his precious robes
than to awaken his precious lover
And the way we’re content to believe
if it’s Asian, it can’t possibly be queer-

I think of Ni-Chome, bright fluorescent lights and bodies
too-tightly packed in bold, brilliant colours
And I think of my father by blood dragging
me along to an off-white coloured bar with only four seats:
A bottle of Smirnoff hanging lazily next to a banged-up
radio playing something from Arashi, a handwritten sign right
underneath, tended to lovingly by highlighters marking the Mama
as FTM, as though an afterthought, and I pretended
to not see the burning glances from the woman
sipping whiskey from the next seat when
my mouth opened to pour out broken words of a secondary
language that is a forgotten birthright
To tell this never-seen reflection of myself that I dream
Of the same incisions, the same weekly shots, the comfort of existence-

I could be telling you about the horror-show, of course, I was so
tempted to string along the most mourning flowery of words to break down
the way me and my father compared scars
On the way back, with nothing but the
stars and the frequent streetlights as our witness
But that’s the part you already expect, that’s the way
Every fucking queer narrative goes:
Centuries of breathing and loving and metamorphosis boiled down only
To the moments of bashing, a gun
shot, another fucking funeral.

But there’s every other moment of just boring, unpalatable living there, too -
I told of how my brother had bought Brokeback Mountain by some Irooni
street vendor, thinking it a Cowboy Westerner, and how
Love and realizations both can transcend half-understood English words
And he told of his Yankee days, the way pompadours would get in the way of
hidden making out sessions, holding onto waists during
late-night motor rides, blowing to cool hot Takoyaki bought
from stalls, stealing warmth during the cold Osaka nights-

Where do all these stories go, at the end of night?
We’re not the first of our kind to exist
And exist in relative happiness, so why is
guilt a sole companion in sharing the parts unbloodied and content, as though
They make up a lesser part of mine, of ours?
We wonder how it would’ve felt growing up
In a maze of mirrors-
We turn on the TV and every other happy queer
is another cardboard cutout of the same white cloth
When the clothes of the Emperor, the black linen that Maryam spent hours fighting for,
an entire quilt worth of untold strings of generations
are lost amongst the border of tragedy and disbelief,

Anchor 1

Junpei Tarashi (he/it/they) thinks that humans are pretty cool. They have some weird words published or upcoming in After Happy Hour Review as well as Chambers.

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