wai po falls sick in penang. through her cracked lips she still calls it
a palate bad-breathed, wu wei-harmonied
to her language, the estuaries she carries in the seat of her spine
pulau for island, for mooned blisters, volcano sores
there is a rhythm to dying bodies. when she bleeds, each scab sculpts a fragile archipelago
fighting to extricate itself from the familiar. she swallows the
rainspit of melon seeds
her body refuses to keep. flattened musk of noses, mouths, pear-shaped cheeks stung to
she lies on a rice mat in the penang-yawned heat and tells me about the strait—
lizard pearls tongue tips shrimp tails to wingspans, the polycule of our wrists and then
there is a rhythm to dying bodies, sunrise pulsing erratic and bloody as
the penang peninsula swells into round ankles.
we thumbnail sandbars of thighs. we splint our calves raw. your river bottlenecks,
slippery and pale and vulnerable; your teeth sink into tender
skin. here i find that
living bodies, too have a rhythm: each limply uncertain gait a shrine of prosthesis
insect legs crawl down wet thimbled throats
water rolls down your back, skin wrapped in wisps of grief. i see you, and i dream.
there is blood, too—red for luck: as if disease is as self-effacing as the stomach it flowered from;
violence betraying the body that birthed it. sludge pours from your scissored-out legs, dribbles
from wai po’s lips when her jaw unhinges so far she can no longer button it back up, everything
given to it decaying in the cavity that refuses to click.
rice-grained cankers and monsoon rot foremothering lao tzu shrill on the tongue.
flies, congee, pudding, sand
our archipelago, our pulau: freckled and shouldered and volcanoed to saliva-soaking altars. her
face cleaves and festers
eats its own flesh as forkfuls of mold
i fit my mouth to your neck. i wait for the island to splinter
bodied into existence.
Sophie Choong (she/they) is a fifteen-year-old student in Vancouver, Canada. Her work is
published or forthcoming in The Margins (AAWW), the Unbroken Journal, the League of
Canadian Poets, Angel Rust Magazine, and elsewhere. In their free time, they enjoy playing
video games, drinking green tea, and watching Ghibli movies.