Qu Yuan (340-278 BCE): an ancient
Chinese poet, drowned himself in the Miluo
River after the capture of his country’s capital.
in summer, your country falls & you’re left
with nothing but koi fish & sunlit insomnia
miluo: the quietest tributary, the off-cut you
cast yourself into, ripples expanding into rhymes
one day you wake & find yourself in the
kingdom of sons. the sons tell you instead of names
we count people by the rice grains we’ve swallowed. eat
as little as you can. your body is already defined
by water. a mother, not yours, calls i’m going to sing
for your slow breaths. reply yes even though there’s
no question mark. your body: it’s always bluing
begin with: i greet sorrow & its unopened flower bud
a boat, creaking with dreamlessness, cuts the current
end with: i slip away with my heart in between my fingers
exiled parts of my body
my last name dwells in my throat. 汪, meaning
a lot of water. enough to drown myself with
myself. we’re cold my body says to me far too cold.
the hairs behind my ears are always raised.
they are waiting for a flower petal. what falls
& never forgets. belonging lives in soft pink.
the distance between china & america lies in
the constellations & what counts them the hand writes
one: you were born where your ancestors weren’t.
目: two slashes through a box, chinese for eye.
i almost understand it: eyelids half-closed like
a sentence. the pupil: it expands into a period.
if you spread your arms my mother says the wind
will close its long-winded lips around you. no wonder
i can’t fly. girl is featherless even with the long l.
insomnia brushes against my shoulders. i hug it
so it twitches like a child who believes she will
live forever. it hushes into the base of my neck.
add a dot on top of 目to get self. 自: an eye
with a single lash measuring me. i see you
so i can open your loneliness. let me 飞飞飞.
where does water go? it tends towards ocean,
where salt is the mother of every question. let’s go to
where you’ll dissolve my body murmurs, already blurring.
Jieyan Wang is a first-year college student at Harvard University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Passages North, Baltimore Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere. She is also a reader for The Adroit Journal.