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heat lightning triptych

CAS for Database

Ziyi Yan

Riverside, CT, USA

Greenwich High School


heat lightning triptych


i suck myself from the spine of your collar stay, plastic welts

raised from my teeth. the bone between knuckle and wrist.

i reach at a cemetery behind your neck. you flinch. ask me

what i think about heat lightning and i will paw the air

between your fingers–

on the phone with my ex, you say, she might take this badly,

but. your friends laugh the bus into a speed bump so i chew

my teeth into a honeycomb, give you one earbud, and croon

until my lips bleed,     all at the same time.


i cut my fist with my tongue, hope your mouth will spring back

from my fingers. either i accidentally bite my lip, or my hand

is a knife. you pick.

in nine hours we never pass a cemetery, but i point at your collar

and you think i want to touch        your throat. you,

who surrendered yourself to christ, love raw beef,

hate the rich. i say   my ex once suggested

i fuck myself with a toothbrush. i took it like an olive branch.


i don’t remember crying, but i know you wiped away my tear,

pointed at the moon.


since i got home i have been trying to tear out everything

that was never there–          retainers, earrings, tampons.

i forget how you took out your collar stay,

our backs cracking at the same time. how

i laughed  as you whispered of gardens

scorched by lightning, your teeth sharpened

by my neck.           anyway,

my pen scrapes your earwax from my headphones.

i am sick of noise and this endless devouring–

how you burn anything round to a moon.


According to Jane Hirschfield, “The poem carries love and terror, or it carries nothing.” “heat lightning triptych” reverberates with both, and more. Like its namesake, the poem leaves imprints of electricity and imaginary warmth, of desire and its ghost, blurring the boundaries between the physical body and the gorgeous, ephemeral, and heartbreaking landscape it inhabits. Within, a map of touch unfolds.


Ziyi Yan (闫梓祎) is a young Chinese writer living in Connecticut. Her work is published in Poetry Northwest, Rust and Moth, Kissing Dynamite, and Peach Mag, among others. She is also the editor-in-chief of the Dawn Review. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @Ziyiyan___ or visit her website at

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