obsessions #12: i confuse mother for pocketknife
BY LILY ZHOU
I find myself in increments of bone: the ridge
of my spine, the pieces of rabbit that I pile
onto the countertop. In the dark I reimagine myself
as the protagonist of some movie, a Chinese girl
with hard hands & shears for lips. In the movie
I grow a blade from a dead horse, trade my mother
for a cabinet of porcelain. A rabbit I love
wishes its body into the lake. When I’m hungry
I steal the song from my mother’s country,
the meat of it nosing for warmth in a small dead
place. I ask for my mother back. My favorite word
in Mandarin is 珠, the name of any round thing.
I bury the rabbit, then my hands. In the movie
my mother screams at the sight of blood
& I don’t wait long enough to witness the outcome.
There are too many beer bottles in the house.
In the end I 珠 my body, silver my fingers, butcher
the horse & ask for my face back.
BY LILY ZHOU
Hunger, the cold bite of it. Two girls pressing coins
into the backs of their hands. Yesterday I stepped
into the open caress of a man with my softness
bared & made teeth against the bone of him,
thought of you & the rabbits you stacked
in the crossfire. He said he does not know
how to kill, not even to martyr & I handed him
a fish, a sparrow. Small things. I want it
to be summer again, to listen to the sound a doe
makes when it forgets to breathe underwater.
I want to touch the river without it muscling
into the shape of your name. Last night
I dreamt you were made of wine, jawless
& I was silvering my spit into arrows. Instead
I coppered my body into a single hurtling fist
& the man fed me his knuckles because he said
it’s where the heart lives. Last night I dreamt
I was holding you. It was dark out & everything
tasted like plums & light. You asked me
about the coins: the girls & their own undoing.
In reply I named my mouth after a flock of birds
& watched your face turn bone & cavity,
the hardness I do not know enough to become.
BY LILY ZHOU
j& I could have been something more, a better
daughter, robot, river, saint, angel, martyr,
girl. Something you would press your lips to
& worship. Last winter I knelt next to the lake
& confused its sheen for another version
of my hands. Now it is summer & the sky
undresses & falls into my hands like a sheath
of arrows that I silver into bone. I grow a doe,
a knife. I confess: this is the worst thing
that I have ever done. Richmond, teach me
how to kneel in a bathtub without it turning
horror movie or elegy. Tell me about the doe
we found in the river valley, its body soft
& motherless like a wound. We rolled the doe
in sand & you told me about the hunt,
the sharp bite of muscle. & I want
to be remembered as the girl who cares
for small animals & small cities, the girl
who lives close enough to the surface to bite.
Richmond, I only eat meat to hear the sound
heat makes against my breath. Richmond, I licked
around the color of the doe’s tongue, a sweet thing
I pretended was mine to own. The last time
we saw each other, you were holding a torn flag
& I was butchering fish with my hands. I want us
to be like that again: moon-heavy & gutted,
dreaming about the girls we could not keep.