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 after Nagisa Ōshima*

I didn’t die 

when I was supposed to. My bones 

slipped from their ropes, dreamed 

their way back under the ash 

of the pear trees on the school-

yard roof where the first sin 

occurred. Should I feel shame? 

Should I remember my crime? Come 

morning, last night’s notions of return 

are absurd. Extant somewhere outside 

of physical space—not knowing where you are 

in the empire, not knowing where you are 

in the body—I know       the only thing a human 

should be scared of is living 

where they’re not supposed to. Although my feet swung 

below the trapdoor, although I almost fainted 

from my painful heart. I want to tell you: 

a poem decolonizes nothing. 

There are four walls to a prison. 

There are two borders to a country. 

Still. You cannot run away from your body. 

A body cannot run away from the consciousness 

that has settled in like the strangled embrace of a mother.


Here, there is no way to exit

without stripping naked. Shot of

the river, like a woman’s waist. How many

have died? How far apart should the fake bones

be? Don’t show anything on the ground

that might be alive! I heard there was a human

market. Translation: the viewer knows now

the magnitude of what is lost by what is

not shown (the academic says).

This way, is the violence really remembered?

Pulling red from red like water spinning

at the bottom of a dyed bowl. The body

of war reanimates on the museum display.

Meaning: let’s put it somewhere the people

won’t see.

Emily Liu is a student from the Chicago area. Their most recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Feral, and The Phoenix, and their work has received recognition from the International Hippocrates Young Poets Prize, Pfeiffer University, Poetry Society, and Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, among others. 

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