In/Retrograde

Sarah Lao

Johns Creek, GA

The Westminster Schools

Poetry

Say it is night, and outside, there is a man

lying dead under the streetlamp. Skin tight

jaundice stretched over tissue/socket/bone

like the dried pulp of paper-mache, there’s

hyacinth blooming from skull—an expired

milk carton evaporating to salt—a flock of

geese migrating north. He is dead/dormant/

antithesis until he is not. The weatherman’s

forecast has the moon in retrograde motion

tonight—its maria swinging inward in an

attempt to mine water, the earth’s high tide

receding to drought. This is not an illusion.

He chains his frame together and looks up:

sees the moon’s glory in glow. They like to

call it moonsickness/mania/lunacy—when

all the world oscillates between technicolor

and grayscale as children wade into the sea

while the men on motorcycles crumple in a

heap. The Law of Attraction tries to tell you

like attracts to like, that positive doctrine

will be a divine salvation, that desires will

meet reality. Now say you’ll dial 911, then,

and a short jaunt of off-key elevator music

later, the line’s operator will pick up to tell

you it’s fine, that the quarantine team is

already there to clear the scene.

                                   But say it is dawn/and there is no body/Say

                                   he was never dead/Or alive/Say you are safe

                                   in bed/snipping at strings and/unhitching

                                   your jaw/and still, dying/and too scared/to

                                   want to be saved.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

Wow, I loved this! Like... a ridiculously huge amount. There's something really beautiful and transient about Lao’s writing, and the more I read this piece, the more ways I can find to interpret it. Lao is beyond gifted in their ability to craft vivid imagery. The writing is stunning.

Sarah Lao is a junior from Atlanta, Georgia. She is a 2020 YoungArts Finalist in Writing, and her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Hollins University, the Adroit Prizes, the Poetry Society of Virginia, and more. She has been nominated for Best of the Net, and her work appears or is forthcoming in Liminality, Atlanta Magazine, and the Penn Review, among others.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR