QSI International School of Shenzhen
We haven’t heard the birds since last September
it’s been a wet winter, there may never
have been any birds.
It was the summer I learned God
is a verb, interjection, and a four-letter word.
When we staggered onto the sun deck
at dusk and waited for morning to
clamp its dull over the bayou,
the violet of the wind graced our
we let go of the bottles in our hands
and the screams in our eyes
to drink in the heavy stillness. Hot humidity
measured our weaknesses, splintered
our spines. We crawled to
each other like children.
Like this we were baptized under
the quaking branches and LED lights,
as the swallows called out our names.
Is this an exorcism or an evocation?
I woke up the morning before
you the morning after.
The lotus flower you gave me
shriveled because I forgot to place it in water.
Then you held me all summer, tight as a ritual
like feeding or hand-washing.
I have forgotten many things:
long days, longer nights, your grip and my giving,
the taste of warm lemons;
what it means to touch something godly.
We bend in the wind like stems. We shed
our skins, turn violet when we close our eyes.
You called it redemption and I called it
surrender. It was the summer you recited
all the wrong passages in the text.
We were becoming and unbecoming
in a wave of our own disaffection
and when we woke up again miles later it was all over.
We raise our hands to the sky
crying for rain and the answer of birds.
One feels the sensation of tilting while reading this poem; the images are disorienting—a “becoming and unbecoming”. Time seems to pass in loops, natural imagery bleeds into the artificial, and the presence of holiness flits in and out of stanzas. This poem definitely achieves what its title sets out to accomplish, and memorably so.
Holly Qu graduated from QSI International School of Shenzhen, China in 2020. She is currently a freshman at Columbia University, studying English literature.
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