mother told me that great grandfather got mauled
coming home from the apothecary in the night—
big black hound broke its rotting teeth on his arm until
ginseng and gingko spilled, fused in the air with fear.
(his wife’s half-moon belly survived but he did not)
i’ll tell you these truths: passion is a li(n)e of
A’s splattered down a page, Tchaikovsky hidden
between first chairs and varsity letters collected.
ivy-rimmed throats spewing honey words, honey souls.
darling, don’t you see this is the currency of the future?
there were fourteen of them in a space meant for two.
their matchstick ribs heaved in the jiangxi cold. they
shuddered into each other—could feel an animal
hunger wrapping its fist around the room, squeezing until
seven were left: darwinian theory at its finest.
look at the antlers growing from my parents’ head, one
above each eyebrow but they’re made of bark instead of
bone. branches to the past. one for a fatherless baby who
became a grandfather. many more for babies that
never became fathers. mine at the end, ivory and whole.
i swear i’ll rule kingdoms greater than this. i’ll search
for history under every clover and in every alleyway
to have more than the vestigial remains of something
fleeting something gone. something unlike the colossal
concrete china outside my window right now.
i chew on individually wrapped almonds wondering
how chickens can clamber to lay eggs for someone who
will never make them anything but fat and stupid—
after all they were dinosaurs not so long ago.
Nicole Li is a high school junior at Shanghai American School who loves words in all their forms. She currently reads for Polyphony Lit. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, as well as appeared in Polyphony Lit and Germ Magazine. When she’s not writing, she might be debating, daydreaming, or discovering strange new podcasts.