This selection, chosen by guest editor Katie Manning, is from Not Flowers by Noreen Ocampo, released by Variant Lit in 2022.
In which I am cast in a Studio Ghibli film
I am drawn in a side character’s uncertain lines, cursed with flimsy ankles & tipping over. I still bike to school because I have to, because Mom & Pop are running a florist-bakery-café combination. I smell like burnt butter & coffee beans, which makes everyone forget that we also sell flowers. I am seventeen & having a quarter-life crisis that only pays me in my best friend’s exasperation as he sits in front of me in class. He sighs like he practices the puff of his chest in the mirror & is drawn with the charisma of a main character whose clothes are always suspiciously crisp. I have been in love with him my whole life. But he’s stuck in a love triangle with the class president & the news co-anchor whose teeth literally twinkle when she smiles, so I’m surprised when he bikes home with me. One day, he tells me he’s set on moving oceans away after graduation & I pause in the middle of the street because there are only twenty-three minutes until the credits roll & I’m not sure how we’ll patch this up in time. He laughs, sparkling with cherry blossoms & afternoon light, & for a moment, we’re more than a collection of penciled-in lines.
Noreen Ocampo is a Filipino American writer and poet from metro Atlanta. Her collection Not Flowers won the 2021 Variant Lit Microchap Contest, and her work can also be found in Palette Poetry, Sundog Lit, and Depth Cues, among others. She holds a BA in English from Emory University and currently studies poetry in the MFA program at The University of Mississippi, where she is working to document and elevate stories of Filipino Americans in the Deep South.
Katie Manning is the author of Hereverent (Agape Editions), Tasty Other (winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award), and six chapbook collections, including How to Play (Louisiana Literature Press) and 28,065 Nights (River Glass Books). Her poem “What to Expect” was featured on the Poetry Unbound podcast, and her poems have appeared in HAD, Poet Lore, SWWIM, Stirring, Thimble, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Katie is the founder and editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University.
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