I renounce rice when I am nine, the way one
          might renounce Barbie dolls, or multiplication
sheets, or vocabulary quizzes—unpretentious,
          without pomp. Baba continues to serve me braised

pork belly and tomatoes with egg, eyes soft like
          steamed gingered fish, never once picking at the
haggard bones of autumn: how I unearthed dead
          silkworms from the garden, or how I would not touch

the yolk of lotus seed cakes, or how I throttled
          every seditious beat and still could not hear
symphony. I watch mama carry jasmine rice
          from the cooker to the pan, see her add onions, eggs,

sausages, scallops, salt lightly glinting through
          the sheen of sesame oil. How much do I need
to carry home? I must hold my breath and pack
          these away: filtered light, cemetery ash, the emptiness

between characters that swell larger than their
          boxes can hold. Subtraction comes easier than
addition; that is the only truth I know. Mama
          shakes her head when I exit the kitchen, clicks her teeth.

Surely this story ends in absolution, a sobered daughter
          singing herself off the page, running across the
weathered patio like a footnote or a crane without wings.

Vivien Song is a high school junior from Pleasanton, California. A 2019 Kenyon Young Writers Workshop alumna and a 2020 YoungArts Finalist in Poetry, Vivien can often be found cramming for calculus tests or bullet journaling in coffee shops. 

* This piece previously published in Eunoia Review

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.