and in this city some deity of peace has died. yesterday
mama’s junkyard car was killed again, its face cracked open
with the glance of a crowbar. this time she might be
dead for good,
only harry from next door kept telling mama
she’d be fine, because harry has wanted to hold mama’s hair
in his haggard, drawn mouth since february when the last sparrow
back then i thought you would take me away,
because i still saw myself as a princess at seventeen, even though
my snow white costume from third grade had been given to goodwill and
i only dreamed of turrets when the foggy old vodka went to my head
and mama had to burn the mattress because imperialist flies had invaded again,
their corpses crisp, falling to the ground like leaves trapped in a hurricane.
when i met you i was wearing shoes i nicked from the department store on third
and a dress made out of mama’s tears. once a boy told me no one would ever love
a girl with slits for eyes so i held my eyelids up with masking tape for a month until
mama saw burns on the sides of my face and held me while we both cried. i dug the tape out
of the basement for you and tried to reshape my eyes again but they stayed put, and for a week
i wondered how frida could live while dying and i wanted to die while living.
back then i still wondered
what bleach would feel like on the cracked planes of my arms and
sometimes, when mama was asleep, i would sit on the fire escape and dream about tracing
a chalk outline of myself on the pavement. here,
girls don’t die—they live forever
in someone’s mind, at least until he picks her up and finds loose ashes instead of pearls.
last week i walked to your linoleum square and bit my nails into bleeding ribbons,
dreaming of a revolution. i’ve always been an incorrigible thief, so i slipped into
your apartment and your deserted island of a bedroom and your last suit jacket
and found myself reborn.
when i was three and spat up burning tears hourly, mama prayed for a son.
dear god, let this son be born with a switchblade in her hand.
Kathryn Zheng is a senior at Tenafly High School in New Jersey. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the National Council of Teachers of English. Outside of writing, she enjoys learning languages (currently, her passions are Turkish and Spanish), immersing herself in the world of politics, and playing the ukulele.