Back to Issue Twenty-One.




after Javier Zamora

Last summer I learned to walk
into an open mouth: white skylines caged
around my neck like a city on a leash.

I think of the way the boy spoke—as if
trying to swallow a plum—& realize
there is no easy way to say close. I’ve

fallen into cathedrals and landed on
my feet. I’ve strung and unstrung
a cello with my veins, still beating.

Because in the dark, what matters most
is how the shutter of a throat closes & not
how empty it is. I still remember the night

I saw a stranger’s hips rise like a scaffold,
his hair on fire— the kind of fire that
shouts the need to be abandoned. So

I left. It’s how I learned to walk away,
they say. My sisters frozen in the field,
palms pressed against a corpse meant

to be mine. When the boy turned back, I
set the maple tree on fire. We watched
from the road. Two bodies split.





Tell me he came from the body
& not from religion. Tell me
how the man inside the bullet

turned into a fist raised up against
the rain. How he walked into
the toothless mouth of the dance

floor just to watch another ribcage
unhinge into bleach-white petals.
I will never know what it means

to be afraid. As in compressing
a body into a bruise & praying
it will never be unclenched. As in

boxing a mouth into a sound-
proof oven, lungs scattering
into a crooked ellipsis. I am

watching this war outside a box
made of mirrors: when I dip my
hand inside, it comes back pebbled

with saltwater, as if swiped against
some stranger’s jawline in need
of another person’s warmth.

In the sky, there are white vultures
circling a blood-lipped cathedral.


Helli Fang is an undergraduate student at Bard College. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Souvenir Lit, Wildness, The Blue Pencil Online, Alexandria Quarterly, and more, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Columbia College of Chicago, and Bennington College. She has attended the Iowa Young Writers’ Workshop and the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program. When Helli is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin and climbing trees.

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