fair exchange

you who bred us for the abattoir,

you who taught us justice

is a nothing-word of poisoned air—

remember us.


you with your honeyed terror and scalpel-lies,

you with a red-soft hollow in your ribcage

in which filth and secrets fester—

here is my eye.


I have plucked it out and pressed it

into this space meant for a pulsing heart, a

peace offering of blood and viscera

when I have nothing else left to give.

take it. crush it. swallow it up.

I dare you.

in return all I ask for is your tooth (for a tooth)

and your claws sharp as fragments of innocence.

for nothing belongs to my kin and

nothing has ever belonged to us—

not our hearts, our eyes,

nor the names torn from our riddled tongues,

certainly not our cheap allegiance.


tell me my sightlessness tastes like sweet guilt down the throat.

tell me it chokes you and keeps you

awake at night with all this seeing,

too much seeing, in the screaming bright.

tell me I am vermin, I am an empty hissing canister, I am

nothing but foul dust in the rain.

tell me something real. now.

since my youth is on the pyre and my future mutilated,

allow me to pawn you a blindfold prophecy

for the price of a song

and the dignity of a good death.


you, my executioner, I have nothing more to say to you.

I am speaking to a crack in a moss-broken wall,

and no words have ever been spoken here.


(Editors’ Note: “fair exchange is read by Joy Piedmont on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 35B.)


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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