Cresskill High School
You heard no birds that summer until late August,
well into the days of sudden thunder
and rain. Then they stood affixed
to the ledge at a window—clear, patient, ringing out
into wet heat. And in the sky, dull hues buckling
beneath the sway of little clocks, pulling
back into great, quaking plumes of dust.
In that time, we ate like two starved swifts:
blood ties eschewed, waiting
at the riverbank. You’d sit
and spit grape skins. These grapes were seedless
and their skins were thin,
but we look for things to spit.
This time, you wake
first. You begin to see
how everything seems to spit this body
back: the greening creek
disgorging fish, the yellow yielding
to dusk. You begin to see, which is
to say all your sweet words
are spat. They know this,
the blue-eyed virgins
at the riverbank: their long hands
pressing soap to sun-soused sheets,
the cotton hems soaked in wine. Their ablution
but a song: how
heartlessly we feast.
The muffled wish: all you want
is to bend the body—those bleak outjuttings
of stiff bone—and you fake it,
and I fake it
all again. Each evening laying sheet
upon laundered sheet, gently marking
the tail end of a week. By dawn,
we siphon out the dust,
the dusk, the song, and I see it
through cold wombs; I take it
from your lips. I yawn. Say
this is why I name myself
with children. Say, this is just
one world in which we feed.
Gag Reflex has all the emotions of a hot summer and a failed relationship. It’s beautiful in its anonymity—offbeat and truthful and bursting with life.
Isabella Jiang ('20) is a student at Cresskill High School in Cresskill, NJ. Her work has previously been nominated for The Best Small Fictions and recognized by The Poetry Society, Hollins University, The National Federation of State Poetry Societies, The Growing Stage, and elsewhere. She edits for Sandpiper, Opus, and HerCulture.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR