Poetry by Margaret Zhang, Grade 10 Castilleja School. Photography by Somi Jun.
We’re sitting in the choral room,
mouths in O’s and lips stained rosy,
when I find myself misplaced among
quarter notes and bar lines I don’t recognize,
and so I fasten together my lips
like closure and ask, Where did we start?
You gesture to a note the same
shape as your unguarded lips, but
the minute you pull away, I forget
which is which. And if my flowering vessels
knew what it meant to slumber, I would
ask you these questions until my lungs gave out,
until my windpipe ached with cavities and soot.
Some days, your perspiration
smells of rain and the lime-smeared
bloom beneath your cardboard skin,
and as we trod up and down the hummocks
of this overcooked town, weave left and right
through powdery houses we used to know,
I want to ask you, Where did we start?
When we grow wrinkled, I’ll unlatch my wrists
from the shackles of your squeaking
ribcage, let myself become my own.
For you, I would carry the weight
of the world, but I only have two hands.
an itch I cannot scratch away
when daybreak creasings
pull to sync, passing life as I rattle through mine,
the girls rip venom from their throats and shriek
not to disquiet. they could divide their
stratagems but lurk
in sable corners rather, like the voices
clinging to my sleeve: just barely inaudible. when
all four corners of my vision
crumple and distort degrees, swiveling
thirty, sixty, one hundred fifty,
five hundred and forty three, you’ll dwindle away like
the years, not shrinking but growing progressively
longer. I wonder if you can sense it,
the hot, black coals that scorch into my eye
sockets—if only you would tell me who
I am, the stranger of a girl that exists
only when the lake is winking back. we hid
and sought, and then you left and I hid and
sought alone but never found myself, not even
in the down-reaching rims of where I thought you’d never
neglect. it won’t be obvious where I’m heading:
you’re the itch I cannot scratch away.
you smiled at me and vanished, and I haven’t
found you since. I know not how I lost you.