Tonight, we shrink for no one.
Tonight, we are afraid of nothing.
Not torpedoes, not the long
bodies of submarines or tiger sharks
that circle beneath us. Not wilt, not tornados,
not the dark camps moored to erasure.
We will reel them in, shear their teeth.
Their husks stew the sea. Tonight, awaken me
from this dream of apple blossoms, we’ll follow
the kingfisher downstream, forget what we’re
confronting. It’s better this way. To mythologize:
city of endless crayon, endless sod;
boy riding wild horse in Mongolia.
Chimeras cannot hurt us
even if they were once matter, pestle
grinding mortar. Even the abattoir
feels unreal— it’s unlikely that we’ll ever
witness: creature turning
into meat. The duck hangs whole
in the restaurant window. We believe
it is whole. When we order it plump,
it is cut to pieces in the back room.
Even invincible, we envy the luxury:
a room to bleed in, break apart accordingly.
Sally Wen Mao is the author of Oculus (Graywolf Press, 2019) and Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014). The recipient of an NEA fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, she currently lives in New York.
Zhang Xiaogang, The Dark Trilogy Fear: Meditation, Sorrow, 1989-1990. Oil and collage on canvas, in three panels.