Stateside

On Mondays, we eat Chinese food and pray
for sleep to come fast and well. When it does

we drift off with bellies full of noodles instead
of fish eyes or cash, green that balls up inside

and makes me ill. When I was young I split
cookies with my tongue and swallowed the

thin slips of paper like penance, maybe for
the orange peel I opened like a rose, maybe for

the white wings of the takeout boxes that folded
up like swans. Wooden chopsticks, oil

drippings – I hungered for it all. Even the receipts
Peter Choy marked down by hand – out of pity

or love, I couldn’t tell. Now Peter lives above
the store and writes the fortunes by hand.

I keep the rice paper pinned above my bed,
all the ink I can’t read, strange as butterflies.

Strange as the lanterns that swim the ceilings
like rivers of fish. Strange as the old woman

at the factory years ago, winter in San Francisco,
with her basket of broken chips. The one I took

was as papery and round as the moon.
In the dim she grasped my hand and asked

Do you see now? Do you see?

Eliza Browning is a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Connecticut. She is the editor-in-chief of her school literary magazine, Sidetrax, and the founder of the Janus Review, an online publication aimed at promoting diversity in the arts and amplifying the voices of high school and college students. Her work has been recognized by Hollins University and College Xpress.

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