Building a City with No Heart by Emma Lee


Building a City with No Heart


He dreams of architecture: brutalist

streets designed for efficient

movement of waves of people, funnelled

through insomniac streets of narrow culture.

He needs to find a way to represent it

in a stream of fluid machine code

stripped back to green on a black screen.

But how to make it look like a city

that never sleeps? Ones and zeros

trickle like rivers but have no visual depth.

He shuffles to the kitchen, assembles 

udon noodles, wakame seaweed, bonito flakes.

Picks up his wife’s recipe book

to check an amount. The text swims,

comes into focus. He cooks, eats, sees

the book on the counter when he clears dishes.

Tired eyes turn the kanji green. It flickers.

He slips the book into his messenger bag.

Where love is frowned on, food will do.



Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs here.

15 June 2022