Back to Issue Twenty-Two.

obsessions #12: i confuse mother for pocketknife


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.

richmond (III)


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.

richmond (IV)


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.

Lily Zhou is a high school senior from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her writing has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Poetry Society of the UK, the National YoungArts Foundation, Gannon University, and Columbia College Chicago, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Her work appears in Sixth FinchWinter Tangerine ReviewThe Blueshift JournalSOFTBLOW, and on Verse Daily.

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