self-portrait as domestic fowl

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.

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