Back to Issue Thirty-Six

Camille I Adore



Out on the veranda is your date from junior prom,
slick as spilled hog’s blood in his handsome suit. You

are sweeping the hair from his eyes and tumbling into his
arms, you are innocent. In the field of paintbrushes

where I laid you beneath my bare body, there stood
a Babel of subwoofers playing mid-2000’s hits, teenage pop

hooks caught and snared amidst the cicadas’ war-hum.
Our two dirt-caked mouths against each other. Halting.

What we’re doing isn’t wrong, you said, but it’s not
right. What’s not right, I said. In my dreams

there is a grizzled God, the wino
stinking of cough syrup outside 7-11, who could kill

me with what he knows about my future. In my
dreams my mother tells me that actually, the worst part is

I already know what my future looks like.

When I run across the track field to where we once
laid, I cross my mother as a young woman, shining white

as an arrowhead in a dead doe’s ribs. She squats alone
in the soft mouth of bushes under the bleachers,

she wears her face
of crabgrass and crickets from the years before she meets

my father. When she turns to me, her breath
is the rusty hinge of a padlock. She brays, ​Run​. In

a respectable glass-walled office downtown
a printer chugs out all the alternate possibilities

of what life could’ve been in Courier New font, its infinite
ch-ch-ch-ch-ch ticking out a cold heartbeat

for the expanding universe. In a respectable glass-walled office
downtown a man in a starched white dress-shirt reads

all the alternate possibilities of his own life and gouges out
his eyes with an ice-cream scooper. In my dreams

is another possibility where I don’t exist and my mother
belts out karaoke at a dive bar downtown with her college

girlfriend. When their noses accidentally touch
they exhale a soft comma of breath together, so beautiful

it breaks me. My heart
is the rain beating outside the bar, the sloshing puddles,

the wet roads that compel them to stay inside, stay together
a little longer. I want to whisper, Let

me die. I’ll love you before existence. In my dreams
my mother tells me that actually, the worst part is

I already know what my future looks like.

Eight years from now, you marry the football coach of the
local high school, flicking your wedding ring in my face

like cigarette smoke. I run from the venue choked
with plastic bouquets and plastic bouquets until suddenly I

bump into you, two years younger, wiping the blood
from your unkempt mouth. It was me. I hit you, I remember,

I hit you after you said, You know exactly what happens
to girls like us. I want to say I’m sorry now, to say I

don’t blame you anymore, but your face is spilling into
your chest like a watercolor hung to dry too soon.

So I run until the pink brushstrokes of
grass under my feet turn to sterile vinyl flooring, so I run

until I find the printer in a respectable glass-walled office
downtown, still chugging out all its alternate

possibilities, its indifferent heartbeat, to the roar
of the universe. The well-dressed man is long dead,

eyeless body slumped in his starched suit. I pound
every button until the printer spits and jams, until every

sheet tears out riddled with jagged
streaks, until every possibility is broken and suddenly I’m

out on the veranda again, watching your
junior prom date smirk like a slaughterhouse. Because

I need to hurt the blameless for what is beyond
our control, because I need to join my fist to his jaw like

a honey bee to a hyacinth, to watch the slow bud
of blood burst and bloom from his upper lip, I hit him across

the face, hard, while you yell What the fuck?
in the background. I’m running again

and I stop at the field where I laid you beneath me,
the Babel of subwoofers still droning its haunted

mid-2000’s hits to an empty field of yellowed grass
and scrap tire parts. Because I love you so much

I smash the tower to pieces with a baseball bat. Even
the cicadas hush, so I know this time

there will be no unbroken melody for me to love you to,
no wound for us to suck off each other like soft fruit

from the pit. I’m running again
until I cross my mother at the downtown diner. She’s

pouring sugar in her coffee across the man who will be
my father. I know. I say, I love you before

existence. So I grab her cup and spill the hot drink
all over my father, not stopping to even listen to his cries, I’m

running again and I’m at your patio now, watching
your assembly-line husband corral another reluctant promise

from you. So I push him to the ground. So I knuckle
his face and I knuckle his face but really

I’m looking at you, asking if you’ll ever be anything more
than a stereotypical steroid-pumped cartoon-curio

nuclear family. In my dreams
my mother tells me that actually, the worst part is

I already know what my future looks like.

Years later, I meet you in your crumbling kitchen. You
are old and worn now, you

are a potbellied stove. You smoke cigarettes dispassionately
and tap them against dirty ashtrays. You forgive me

for everything I’ve done but wish I hadn’t thrust
a hundred alternate possibilities in motion. No matter what,

you say, it wouldn’t’ve worked. Now we’re stuck
living a hundred heads of the same damned life, other men

and other fathers shuffling through like
busboys while we always hurtle towards the same

grimy kitchen, the same damn end, our fingers stretching further
and further the closer we try to touch. Perhaps

in another time, you say. In another time, we could’ve

I shake my head and trudge out your kitchen door.
Every time we meet I think you’re wrong. I’ll always

try again, again, again. Outside
it is neither night nor dawn and the dark sky sags

like a period of unborn words. The grass under my feet
is still metallic, unfinished. I’m running in the field

where every possibility can be made. I cross my mother
as a young woman, years before she meets my father, and I run

up to her as if to push her down but instead I hold her
and say, I’m sorry. Can I be the one to love you,

can I be the one to make up for all the love
you could never have in this possibility?

She is mute, still a speechless prototype molded from packed dirt,
so I close my eyes and feel my arms empty in this draft.

When I open my eyes again, pinpricks of light shuttering
up my eyelids that I’ll name stars, that I’ll arrange

in the design of my mother, I see you, not yet
with a junior prom date or a husband, only you. You

run up to me as if to push me down but
instead you hold me and say, I’m sorry. I’m

sorry. Can I be the one to make up for all the love
you could never have

in this life.



Lydia Wei‘s poems appear or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, DIALOGIST, wildness, The Margins: Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Sine Theta, harana poetry, and elsewhere. Her work has been recognized by the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, the National YoungArts Foundation, the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts Program, and the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is a freshman at Stanford University and lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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