noreen ocampo


we live in an ocean town,

but neither of us is a fish. I am

a universally acclaimed

Tokyo-drifter. You are my noisy backseat

driver, picnic basket-holder,

smushing egg sandwiches

as I triumphantly hydroplane.

Let’s thread rickety mountain roads

and race these monsoon trains.

The ocean loves my wheels but

only enough to chase them. Tell me

a secret. Open your eyes. You say:

keep your hands on the wheel.

When we were softer, you slipped

your hand into my hands

whenever someone else was driving,

and you never liked wheels warping space.

I know how your stomach churns,

even as mountains turn to pasture

hiding home just uphill. I’m sorry

we didn’t get to picnic like I promised

and the ocean ate our gazebo whole.

I imagine she was hungry

with good intent.


it’s cold in the double storm,

curling my feet into three blankets

of snow. some nights, I worry

too much to close my eyes

yet I dream— somehow—

of a boy leaning over me

in his car, my palm a crescent

against his wrist.

night has been something

to recover from. I used to

dream the same cruel things

in succession: ankles folding,

plum-pink, the unwanted heat

of rough hands. he shows me

the way the chest crumples.

last night, I dreamed

a dream within a dream

& could not breathe

a word. by morning,

still the shadow.

Noreen Ocampo is a Filipino writer and poet based in Atlanta. She is the author of the forthcoming micro-chapbook, Not Flowers (Variant Literature, 2022), and her poems can also be found in Taco Bell Quarterly, Hobart, and {m}aganda Magazine, among others. She edits for Marías at Sampaguitas and the COUNTERCLOCK blog and studies at Emory University. Say hi on Twitter @maybenoreen!