Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104

            After Antonín Dvořák

Mvt. I: Allegro

in / the belly / of / the woods / we toss 
kindling into a pit // jagged geometry /
of combustion // strike matches on our skin //
watch the campfire work / its teeth 
through mountain blackness // & I 
am incendiary // north wind
lurching / in from / upper / valley /
no match for the flames / that eat 
forest breath / like praise // for the fire /
            that undresses itself / before 
the eyes of the moon // for the night 
                      that doesn’t give in /

Mvt. 2: Adagio ma non troppo

You come in from the back garden
through the screen door, skirt billowing 

like an elfin sigh. Night lilies 
cupped in your hands. Outside 

the kitchen window, the hermit thrushes 
sing:                leave me 

to walk alone in my dreams. Skin 
swapping sallowness for lustre, your voice 

no longer thick with illness. The moon, 
waxing gibbous, 

           twists its head to gaze at you. 

                      The stars that puncture the sky
like miles of headlights, 
           candles of the evening’s vigil. 

                                 I pluck dreams of you

from my sleep garden until they begin to taste 
less like petals and more like poems. Like ashes.

Mvt. 3: Finale (Allegro moderato)

We drive. The city in the distance 
like crumpled aluminum. Dark 
mountain behind us a closed up shop. 
Bandits on wild Chincoteague ponies ravage 
my sleep, carry away my ghosts 
in sister-skinned saddlebags. I don’t know 
what to expect, but I do know this:
where we’re going, there will be no singing— 
only the sound of the highway mumbling 
in the stiff dark. Telephone poles buttressing dawn. 
The horses’ hooves like drums.


Esther Sun is a Chinese-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poems have been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation and are forthcoming from or have appeared in Euphony Journal, Élan, and Blue Marble Review.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.