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白蛇传 / transformation

i. you’re pushing out teeth by the hour, spit them pearl-white into

the roadlines of your palms. cradle them like newborns or like tāngyuán

so sesame-speckled with blood that for a second, you think that

they’re dying; forget that rebirth is the truest form of death.

ii. on the first knife-blade of midsummer, the moon drops from the

heavy-browed clouds like a winking fish scale

& the yellow river bends to catch it with shapeshifting arms.

the sky and the long-winged heron scream at you to run,

but you do not hear them. if you had, you would have known to flee—

tripping over the calluses of your own feet to escape.

if you had, you would have known to tear yourself apart—

shedding the silken layers of your loveliest qípáo to find a way out.

iii. afterwards, your mother told you that you’d deafened yourself to Girlhood

& your sister said you’d deafened yourself to terror. you cannot help

but wonder what has made Girlhood & terror synonymous.

(i know Girlhood. she told me i could lose motherhood in her. that’s a lie– if i’m a compass, my mother’s a lodestone. there’s no escaping Her, even in Girlhood. Girlhood knows me like i know sundays, like i know snakeskin, like i know sūzhōu. i clasp Her words, holy, dissipating in the inseam of my bloody cheek and shivering teeth.)

Editors: Blenda Y., Luna Y., Chelsea D.

Photo Credits: Smithsonian


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