MATRYOSHKA by JEFFREY ZOU

She tells me how in Russian,
Nesting dolls are like onions, layers unraveled
To reveal more layers
    Slowly
                                           Slowly

Her mother whips the shaft of a cane on the dance studio,
Splintering marks over the wooden floor. She beats tempo into her
daughter’s head and tells her Russian Women are built robust,
Perfect.

The summer in Topeka, she mocked our slivered tongues and crushed rosemaries and honeysuckles underfoot, her eyes were flashing old country roads and we wondered how her curves could cut into her hips grazen like a dead doe perched in the savannah, waiting to be hungered on.
In Russian, the words for intense and fire are printed onto our tongues, yet love makes her uneasy. I ask her if she knows what Babushka means, she only smiles and I don’t see anything.
Submerged, she screams oxygenless, and when she reaches
the surface, her words have already drowned. She whispers into my ear,
language of little girls whose pink toes encrusted into leather-grained
paws that neither I nor her mother understood, so I trace
the lines where the corset unstitched itself and left marks
as evidence, her dry-erase bones soon forgot how clumsy and
foreign they were.
St. Michael hangs under the altar where she finds herself praying and in that year, she believed in gods. she believed in God.
She shifts her feet in darkness, let blood curl into her toes so they can stand on their own.
When she kisses her first boy, sweat pearls into iridescence. In the gown,
She feels naked and scribbles out sex in her mind.
Kansas scares her red and when she reaches down to loosen her corset,
mother still beats time in her head. She kisses the cob and dreams of fields
filled with wildflowers, each petal smudged with passion

/Cracked open/

Her upper lip trembles and I say in English, wildfires and intense
are love, but she doesn’t believe me. We counted the stars
In Fibonacci sequence and raced to see past the galaxies that we could
Only hold in our pupils; I tell her how fields don’t erode but push: we are reckless and cast stones until dusk.
The old barnyard roof where we laid to rest, and crackled poems under sticky summer nights, catching the sea tide’s booms.
We lift the edges off her waistline, and go down to the edge of the lake, the cusp of whelk eats our toes buried in sand, and there I relearn her oily skin on my cheeks, spot pores
plastered lazily on her nose at every angle.
This time; she kisses me, though I don’t know if it means “kiss”.

          Tap Tap

          When she is twenty and her mouth tastes like acid, our bodies devour each other.
She grips the edges of the mattress frame and under the drapes, she smiles again and I see a gangly yellow tooth within a sea of slate.


Jeffrey Zou is a junior who currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona. His writing has been accepted by Bombus Press.

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