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Modern Mother-land photo

                             After Qu Yuan

In my country, our insults give benefit of doubt. Nǐ yǒu bìng— 
You are sick—                                              as if there’s an ending 
where I don’t drown that day, where fish form rafts to breathe me,
where I swell to my reflection. Someone walks into my eyes,
and feels no death,      just sickness. Winds a river around my chest,
tattoos my country on my body to stop          forgetting, but time 
washes              even this grip on the land,               even the rice 
poured over my bloomed lips, an aftertaste bleeding from stem 
into orchid, and from outside in,                       tissue corroding itself.

I’ve never met a flower in this motherland—   only skyscraper,
earthquake fisting backwards,               mending itself to glass, 
shame                 deep in a fault never to be opened.     Wounds
thicken the air, hang like fish—   


Today I unearth a different ending, where I fall on cracks of sidewalk
while getting groceries, as if this stop              was written somewhere,
for me, since I was born— a clot choking to my mother’s 
unraveling. I imagine a different origin: her alarm never sounds.

Instead, it runs away 
to the pockets of a stranger on the metro and he wakes up               promptly 
for his interview only to ditch
his mother, clasping her belly to the handle. In another land, 
the sky opens every morning                with no color.

I glare at my fading joints—         
plucking things into and out                           of nothing as if I were still
in a womb,                                   leeching off her land.


image: Laura Gill