Stella Li

West Windsor, NJ

CAS for Database

West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North


I read once somewhere that figs are inverted flowers. Female wasps crawl inside of

male figs to lay their eggs and in that process their wings and antennae

snap off. No escape route. Life at the expense of a splintered

body. I remember briefly panicking at the thought of having consumed

wasp larvae before reading that humans only eat female figs, which by shape and

nature cannot hold wasp eggs. Which is to say, if a female wasp is

unfortunate enough to nest inside of a female fig, it can neither reproduce nor

escape. A barren marriage or a broken one, depending on how you look at it.

When you asked me if I wanted children and I said no, it was in fear of

raising everything you’ve ever wanted and not knowing what to do with it.

That is to say, raising hell or high water to wipe that Pittsburgh blaze from

your eyes, to tell you through the indigo morning that it would be

a boy. As if you were in childhood again, dissatisfied with the first two

verdicts you coaxed from the lips of the fortune cookie genies so you cracked open

a charmed third and—Congratulations!—as if one day, you would come to

grind my marigold crumbs under your heel and into dust, too. And you did, on those

smoke-filled nights when you came home smelling like soy sauce and twenty dollars of

tip, flames and the perfume of foreignness adorning your temples. In the sleepless

midnight I contemplated how one might tell one’s son about everything one had 

never asked for: I imagined what it might feel like to set myself on 

fire, like the moths that danced spasmodically by the porch light, or to sing myself to 

death, like the cicadas that bejeweled my willowed throat. What would it feel like

to make my body multiple choice? To reign over this dimpled wilderness? 

I thought that choice, perhaps, would be the most painful death of all: burn or

be burnt. Birth or rebirth. But in my haste I had forgotten the female wasps 

burrowed in the female figs and the shards of wing smoldering in their sacrificial

pride, and in the glare of my error I began, at last, to build myself a fire escape.


Marvelous imagery here. This author managed to turn something so scientific and clinical into a metaphor that bonded with the emotional nuance of this poem.

Stella Li attends West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in New Jersey (Class of 2021). An alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and an editor of Ephimiliar Journal, she has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Kenyon Review Short Nonfiction Contest, the National Poetry Quarterly, and her mother, among others. When not scribbling angsty poetry out at 1AM, she can be found in her bed, under the covers, dreaming about dipping her feet in the Temple of Dendur water pool.