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 was shortlisted for the Gollancz & Rivers of London BAME SFF Award in 2020, graduated from Clarion West in 2018, and is a speculative fiction writer made in Hong Kong. Ewen’s work can be found or is forthcoming in UncannyFusion Fragment, AnathemaLiminality, and Voice & Verse. Ewen lives in London, where they research visual cultures while working as a theatre deviser and sometimes-filmmaker. Catch Ewen online at or @awenigma.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment. You can register here.