Fourth of July
Men here go hunting in the woods, skin
all the soft things, and in thunderstorm blackouts
you hear their guns in the trees. Every breath
is a breath longer than you are owed. Because
you are alone, and you are young,
because you live in a country that prefers you
dead. They hang the open mouths of murdered animals
in their living rooms, as if to say we kill things
all the time, to say nothing is real until it has hurt
another. You watch a vulture alight on your porch
and do not shoo it away until it has killed
a pigeon. Someone keys your car-- a slur, not even
yours-- close your eyes, mother your rage.
When you cannot find your ancestors, turn the lights off
and conjure them. Even when the men name you
theirs, when they make you kneel, when they take
your past, still, still, you practice your future. Psalm
every kind thing ever said. When they ask you
how you survived, you will list all the things
that made you unlikely, and you’ll breathe as if
it is over, and you will remember everything.
Marionette Girl Replies
Being me, I tear up the dress:
I tell my little sister every love story is
a moth striving toward light,
dead mid-spark. I paint her
in another girl’s skin.
The truth is my first love was
godless. In this story girls whisper
on the playground, float facedown
in the river. I don’t want to fall in love
because when you say you are in love
I change my name on the weekends, sneak out
to see the lights swallow the city,
allowing myself to be claimed.
My sister calls me
young. The girls of the city
bury each other
by the river. We paint ourselves
we light candles on fire escapes,
we masterless, we ungodded,
an apocalypse story:
I let her retell my desire into
a butterfly stranded on the sidewalk,
a wasp pincers-deep
in silhouette. In this story I play Juliet
and wear flowers fistfuls, as if peony were
deadly beautiful. I don’t want to fall in love
because I do not want to be claimed
it is always too late. I tell her that love,
like birthing, is meeting your conqueror.
I imagine picking a country,
hiding soil in the crooks of my elbows,
and I consider shedding my heritage
like a pair of moth wings.
singing, we kill butterflies just to see
them up close. We refuse to be claimed
willing not to be owned
but to be known,
all of us alive, all of us in love,
in love with each other.
VIVIEN SONG is a high school senior from the Bay Area. A 2020 National YoungArts Finalist in Poetry, her work appears or is forthcoming in Asian American Writers' Workshop: The Margins, Cosmonauts Avenue, and L'Éphémère Review, among others. Vivien likes long, aimless walks and overnight oats.