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After Steven Duong

I want to hold a moment in my mouth 

long enough to suck out its flightpath. 


As if a jewel or drop of blood, trembling.

I am tired of deriving the limit of my body 


before arriving at pity. Today, I walk alone

into the museum, along the velvet roped aisles. 


Life is measured in these lanes: the red wind 

westward, the car door jagging a line 


down my face, the butterflies 

spilling out of the car windows. 


In the museum, there’s a calculus to hurt: 

angle of the rain, flirting with the claws of the sky. 


Dead butterflies pressed in golden-framed bouquets.

& I think back to Japan: how I snuck out


of the funeral, hid in the flower field, danced, 

the wind lifting me


like a vertical tangent. Behind glass, the butterfly

migration cut short, buried in the dirt. 


Like my mother’s leg, twisted in the accident, 

the movement carved out. The cracked vase 


on the kitchen floor. Those years, 

I whittled into anything but whole. 


Butterflies plaster the floor, the walls. Some flutter, 

proud and weak. Some are still. The clock 


is paralyzed: two arrows pointing up into

the night sky. Night, or sky: the limit 


of obedience. My hand against the glass,

echoing in the empty museum.

Emma Miao is a poet from Vancouver, BC. Her poems appear in Hobart, Diode Poetry Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, Atlanta Review, Rust + Moth, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and The Emerson Review. She is the winner of the F(r)iction Poetry Contest, a commended Foyle Young Poet, and an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. She is sixteen years old.

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