Oleaginous

Isabella Zhou

CAS for Database

Naperville, Illinois, USA

Naperville North High School

Poetry

my mother holds femininity between her teeth, with all

the tightness of a peach wound slick and oily


and overripe in a sticky night. she holds it close, moistening as she would

the spool of thread she used to suture close the flesh-knit


caverns of lustful moons and dried plum meat, twinkling

salty-sweet and pretty in the worn hands of the tofu seller.


august lays rotting in the porcelain fruit bowl dipped a flaxen

teal, its guts glistening a humid red that tastes like


adulating sunflower seeds. and now

we’re seated at this dinner table again, ensnared in its sugar,


playing imposter as i puppet my tongue leaden and

pinched, clacking out ugly little shreds


that would make the syrup-lipped girls back home giggle, their lips born

so hot from the sanctity of belonging. but the fisheyes won’t


leave me alone. the earth still fluctuates under the soles

of my feet, its gums spitting and gnashing


itself anaphylactic at my touch, its drunken and heady soil

so thick with nectar the wasps swarm apple-sweet


along the curve of my lips. i wish i could crack myself

like a salt-streaked piece of chicken cartilage to


sit along both sides of the pacific, to keep both dogs’ gluttony

at bay. her blood churns in


sweat-soaked sheets, choked with fry grease, trying

to get me back to the lotus roots sleeping in the west


lake’s pools. the earth’s viscera are volatile tiger fat in my mouth, replacing

the dried plums as


i spit them back into her hand.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

Whether you’ve tried dried plums or not, “Oleaginous” brings you to the speaker’s perspective as they taste the intricacies of one of these fruits – sweet, salty, sticky, stuck in a deeply rooted cultural tension. The visceral imagery and detailed allusions of this poem expose the speaker’s raw emotions as they face the complex conflict between their individual hopes for expressing their culture and the expectations of society – or worse, of their own mother.

Isabella is a high school student from the Chicagoland area and a member of the class of 2022. In her free time, she enjoys going for bike rides, trying new recipes, and driving around cornfields.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR