Jessica Zhang is a student and writer from Boston. She reads prose for The Blueshift
Journal and edits her school literary magazine. Her work appears in The Tulane Review,
Winter Tangerine Review Summer Anthology, and The Marble Collection, among others.
Boy in Blue Glass
Boy knows this familiar swelling. Boy doesn't forget —
wither, a crinkled peapod hunching in shame, in place
of the moon. Boy whets a tooth on longing's white edges.
Root canals slither in his chest: Boy wishes he could slip
clean-cut hooks all down his throat: like his father used
to take him fishing, like he used to watch their mouths
open: surprise! Boy isn't startled when his legs close.
Boy won't be sad when night sets, lashed white
with meteor trails. Boy knew it was only a matter
of time held in place with sharp fingernails, of a girl's
natural dreaming, of youth's propensity to toe the line
between implosion and the ocean. Boy doesn't forget —
to be Man he will have to. Break trails through pining,
cast a line into virility: this forest of his mouth, or not.
Poem for Parasite
That was the summer we were swallowed,
mostly by mosquitoes.
With you it was always the premise
of cooling the itches of youth.
Your mother had the habit
of leaving the watering cans half full.
That house was a home for mosquito eggs
webbed thinner than your hair.
Or it was a home for the poison
you spat, roping into my mouth.
I swallowed it like silver, like the hulled light
of dawn when the dew clung silent
to the grass and watched, as mosquitoes
left Braille on the backs of my legs,
as my knees kissed the ground, as I learned
every floorboard in your bedroom.
Proboscis: an elongated vehicle for the transport
of venom to one, nourishment to the other.
That was the summer I learned how to eat
myself from the inside out.
I once walked in on my blind grandfather in the bathroom.
I thought that I was missing something, that God
had lent a careless hand when he built me.
Down there was like a gutted fish, or a smallness in reverse.
Nursery school playmates would say it had fallen off
in transit, and I would curse that artless stork.
I grew like the rest did — around a hollow space. Boys fished
for redemption in that void. But you would lust instead
for fullness like yours. I could offer only a hook
or silvered folds. Who was I to change you when the world
took so long allowing full to love full — when for so long
you kept this secret, who was I to break its vigil?
The need to know, the need to meet. Also empty: a cathedral,
or something like it. An ocean named human is so thin
it takes no space. We both only wanted to be filled.
I once caught a fish, about as long as you were long. Two silver eyes
stuck to me like the rain. His mouth gaped hollow, lips open
like a prayer. Why I threw him back:
His was an emptiness
that I could understand.
Here is the aloe dusk of seven p.m.,
a confusion of silver woods in dismay.
She asks what year were you born,
the year of the tiger? She wants to write
an obituary for your heritage.
She wants to know if she holds chopsticks
like whiskered swords or ghost fingers.
She lilypads up the stairs, blooming
a haiku of too many syllables.
Chinatown grates against a beating sky.
This is where I would like to live she says
though she is milk-faced and thin, white chalk crosswalk.
The stairs swell down: she has the privilege
of agency over her descent. You could ask her where
she came from, she could say here, chew
and swallow. You could say the same
and they would spit it back: but where
before here? The dragon's mouth inquires.
Here is the city as an installation,
as the body from above,
the scaffolding that aches for home.
Here you pulled out a vein: it bled fast and in headlights.
Back to Front.