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TWO POEMS by Lily Zhou


When I touched her / here she said I made her / imagine what I could do / with a pail / of salted fish / I

paled / the green from this city / dreamt

of my five fields / flooded & swarmed / what

does it mean to stand nameless / on the pier / her language weaponed into something / I can’t touch / I

am most dangerous wielding / a pressed blouse

I pressed my ear / to the belly / of the minivan because I wanted / to be saved / because I was thinking

about all the names / that came / before mine

in Beijing / my mother passed / the gourd of water from shoulder to / bared throat I walked into / room after room / the hours / swinging shut / the house rebuilding itself floor / by floor / no one / remember the last thing my mother said / before I left / no one remembers. I listen for the place your voice fails.


Who said anything about being forgiven? I am most

forgivable with my daughters crowned & Sunday

I call my mother to tell her about the slippers I’ve misplaced

wandering from theater to theater in search

of a face like mine thundered cliffside, but even the emptied

fish know better than to hope. The line winds

around my fist. The line orange grace, good ocean. The line

I spit fish bones into any face that could be mistaken

for my father’s. Look. I remember the talon of the dead

bird hurt in your voice, most loveable in pieces:

eyelash, big toe, widow’s peak. That day, as I pulled

away from the curb for the new city, my mother told me

that all she had wanted was a daughter. Just not me.

All I want is the fall of your name against mine,

the city broken before it was flooded, the stoplight

toppled red & haunting over the intersection.

When I touched you here you said I made you imagine

if I walked out of this city & the one

before that, what would be left.


So this is the parable that bleeds my hands

out of dust. & the night slackens. & the girl

slips into the tree, out of sight. How many drums

can I translate out of my mother’s bones?

The girl & the song on repeat. The girl

& the radio counts backwards from the sea.

If I sing the children out of the cove. If the streets

wind around my fists. This story, too wide

to fit on television, on the rearview mirror,

Highway 101, dawn & California. No birds,

no song. Here’s the story where everything

is perfect, but you forget my face. The story

where the radios are soundless & every color

I’ve ever touched turns to wind. The story

where the girl slips out of the forest unseen

& the children drown in miles of sand.

It’s raining now. The headlights are broken

& the coffee is bad & you hate the color

of the moon. I remember the movie

where the plane crash-lands somewhere,

Idaho. The movie where the girl grows silicon

from her teeth & builds a telephone from scratch.

The call connects just as the screen fades

to black. I remember. You were crying

& then the radio turned to static.


LILY ZHOU is a freshman at Stanford University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in POETRY, Best New Poets 2017, Tin House, Sixth Finch, Vinyl, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and The Adroit Journal. She has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.


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