bargain | bin

A stranger’s shirt on my back, sweat-sour,

I weave a tangled arithmetic through a sea of ink

to pawn off dented yellow helm and a pair of blue-stained sleeves

for an onigiri.


On the polished arcade floor leaning against a shuttered Westwood you are

shamefully out of fashion, on the borderlands of expiry,

and my lungs are crushed beneath

the sight of you like a mountain of sodden rags.


This is no life for the young.

A razor to the neck would be a swift kindness

compared to cyanide smoke and scraps of second-hand memories,

a future the worth of

a cell, a cage-house, a nail in the coffin.


No one asks to become a battlefield.

No one asks to be the last card drawn in a gamble of glutted gods,

a garish slip of discounted fabric condemned to the teeth of time.


(Have you ever dreamt of this? This empty bardo, this boar’s head on a stake.

The so-called glory of being warchildren

chosen by the toss of a devil’s-dice.)


You tell me through a mouthful of blood that seaweed-wrapped rice the size of

a heart never tasted so good.


Later, in the trash:

a mask, a broken umbrella, a scuttling roach, a white grain.


Ewen Ma

Ewen Ma writes fiction and poetry, devises theatre, and is a lapsed Visual Cultures researcher made in Hong Kong. Ewen’s work has appeared in venues including Uncanny, The Deadlands, Fusion Fragment, Anathema, and Apparition Lit. A 2018 graduate of Clarion West, Ewen was also shortlisted for the Future Worlds Prize in 2020. Ewen currently lives in the UK and can often be found haunting cemeteries or climbing up walls. Catch Ewen online at or @awenigma.

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