Alexa Penton is a 20-something part-time poet with Mississippi
roots and Beijing wings. She began writing during her freshman
year at the University of Mississippi, after spending many summer
evenings with Mr. Faulkner and his ghosts. She has never been to
prison but isn't ruling it out.

Ring Roads
Beijing, 2017

I did not watch him cross the redlight
that separates our neighborhoods

and when he appeared at my door, it might
have been a visitation. There is only one

way of coming, even in this city
which slips rings of stone around us

in the night and which in secret
dug long tunnels for child emperors

who themselves were not unlike the god
standing at the top of my stairs, the roof

bombed out, starlight and little candles
all around my room.

For all of those small steps we took
out of 2016, it was this final push

more of a catapult really
proving no force

or impact would resurrect my rib
cage, which folds and collapses

into itself such that
I am forever looking down, watching

where my feet go. He won't remember
but from this position I could kiss

his knees and did. I poured a glass of dirty
water from the faucet and watched him

walk off into the night, past the intersection
thought: I'm in it for the long run

thought: Wait for me
and began to crawl.

Somewhere over the Bering Sea, 2017

Thirty thousand feet and six inches
up. Grief is thinner here

and communal, shared perhaps
by a pallid man whose gray smile

drips all over the airplane seats
when the attendant asks if he is able

and not if he is willing.
I blow on the steam rising

from my tea and watch leaves
ebb like drowned bodies.

See: plumes of black smoke
See: little foil bags adrift on the water

Many little things are on fire.
The pallid man's limbs disjoint

and float into frame. Pale fluids lacquer
little airplane parts sinking fast

into pacific oblivion. Prepare
the cabin.
I tap the gray man

and he turns to me. Lips all
melted now, hands melted

now. Do you have a pen
Do you have a plan

All this gravity
it never relents.

Beijing, 2015

Heavy like first sight
and as little known
came you, plummeting

Through the days. A walk
to the emperor's lake,
familiar now, once unmapped

Down old stone alleyways
permitted to lose direction.
I was immense and hemorrhaging

belief. A bright cavern of loss.
But devotion metastasized in me
Learned to live where you did not

Crushed my bone into opal plumes
and dismantled temperance

Until I bedded chaos
unraveled into the night
of an old proud capital

And back in that northern city
in the ruins of intention
came you, symphonic.

Toutiao (Staying at Ed's)
Beijing, 2018

Joe arrives late with hands full of would-be peaches. It is the quiet
and disused hour of night. We trail sawdust all the way to Ed's room
and he sets aside the nothing-peaches long enough to tessellate my body
to satisfaction: stomach down, like that photo of me and Dad
in the pool. Joe has hands like a cherry marionette
hacked to death and hot-gummed back together with tar.
In my dreams, his hands explore my landscape
not harvest it. The luxurious hour expires and the felled tree
on Ed's porch reminds me that I should speak (at least get belly-up)
before the nothing-peaches disappear for good. But we (me and Dad)
know it's too late. He whispers from his place behind the drywall:
Buy any number of peach flavored things.
Build you a peach kingdom.
Still won't be Georgia in June.

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