Supposedly, there is a multitude of things I should be ashamed of.
My mother keeps all those things unspeakable under the bedsheets,
like she does with the rest of my flaws, except the slippages shed

their casings. So each night, I brush off the snail shells, praying
she will not prod me about the same womanhood. The same rat theory.
I confess: I’m a hypocrite, itching to ask her of what guilt she carries

so gracefully, what dress she owns that will not drape off her shoulders
like a soul clinging to a corpse. I want to know if the blood dripped
from down her legs the same way, if her mute mother was a speech

therapist, too. I thought she knew how emptiness held things together—
bounds it peacefully, without a ravenous touch. My mother, a woman of such
prowess, failing yet another test. In this way did she fall to the shame

with my grandmother’s snail shell. Snail shells decompose, as I’m told,
in the underbrush of our tears simmering in the lemon zest like our skin
does in the red wine. A soft rate: 6.4 percent per year. According
to my calculator, that is seventy years before this identity crisis will end.

Sophie Zhu is a high school freshman from New York. The founding editor-in-chief of The Elliptic Collective and the managing editor at The Lumiere Review, she is an Adroit Journal 2020 summer mentee and a COUNTERCLOCK Arts Collective 2020 fellow. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Half Mystic Journal, The Heritage Review, and Sienna Solstice.

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