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The Box


in the photo, it is my fifteenth 

birthday & i am opening 

the navy, palm-sized box

i imagine the silver bracelet inside 

once looped around my mother’s 

wrist when she was my age & her hands

were too small to hold 


onto river water unspooled, its surge

heard but never felt 

a history unopened is imagined 

as weightless, yet it pierced 

through the center of my body 

before anyone realized 

it was there 

think gilded blade severing ribbon, or mouth

filled with water & smoke: another song

lost & buried in silt 


like any empty room, i am tired of mourning

the faces in photos i cannot name 

when i was still nameless, 

i was found 

in a box left on summer-hot steps

somewhere in a country 

whose language lifted ghost-like 

from my tongue 

before i ever learned 

its taste 


beside me: powdered milk 

to stave off 

some predicted hunger

i wonder if the woman, who i imagine

has the same hands 

i do, or the same voice—all rolling

marble & thick bell ring—i wonder

if she remembers my birthday




The two of us sit on the dark lawn

beside the terracotta terrace, soft

lit amber straying from the one

open window of the farmhouse.

We speak outside of ourselves,

this stranger & I. Those inside,

whose voices I could not assign

to faces, lie alone in the lamplight

of their unlocked bedrooms: drift

from thought to thought & from breath

to breath as if each were only some

passing fallow doe, none of which

they will recall—& none of these

fleeting selves will leave the privacy

of their own bodies—once morning

waxes above the cypress & above

our little lives. The woman

beside me offers stories of her

sister, her childhood city, but

never what brought her here.

I imagine each story falling

into the nets of grapevine fields

below, or sent to the sleeping

cinta senese down the path as if

they were lullabies. To believe

those animals also need someone

to listen to. To know each story

is evidence of our own survival.

Tuscan Nocturne

Rachael Lin Wheeler is currently a student attending Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and her writing and photography have been recognized by Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Her poetry appears in various publications. Serving as the editorial assistant for EX/POST MAGAZINE, Rachael Lin is also the founder and editor of Vox Viola Literary Magazine—an intersectional feminist publication—which can be found at She is prone to 2 am laundry folding.

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