Home 9 Issue 9 To ___ on the anniversary of our growing apart by Hannah Shu En Ling

Hannah Shu En Ling, age 17


I wrote this back in March or April. It began in the International Workshop in March, where we were given prompts to build a self-portrait poem. As I worked on it, it evolved from a self-portrait to this – an ode, sort of, to friends who grow apart.

To ___ on the anniversary of our growing apart

Running is an act of creation.
Genesis unfolds in the afternoon field
two minutes from my front door –
shoes bear us through bent grass to where the earth
stops and we return to dust,
spooling in reverse past each frame.

I am a glass of water about to spill,
liquid to ice to vapor in a breath –
this is how I am created.
In the bottom of concrete ravines and chest-high
drains a ribbon of oily water makes my face
a breathing stain and each eye
a frenzied atom in a heated space.

We promise over a stream. Creation is
manic is fireworks at the end of an era and
we have nothing to say but hello
goodbye I’ll see
you I’m sorry
you go first.

(No, you.)

Fans blur the air above and between
us and silence.

I imagine a cemetery like a garden of bones:
white cement, leafless frangipani bleached at noon,
dry-barked, petals anemic cream peeling from a yellow heart.
It smells too sweet in here.
If I remember all the things that did
not last, I fill cardboard coffins
and water each one,
planted in places I cannot lose.

This ground is ours to destroy.

Your eyes catch the sun
translucent earth burnt into marbles
and we see clearly our mirrored selves:
each other, the mold under the sofa,
long grass crisping against a closed window
like blurred brown glass.

In a black box stage lights are the fourth wall.
Exploding stars dissolve the audience, the stage, wings –
no magic box to pull photographs from,
no upside-down children. This is power
expanding in different directions from the same
blade of grass in a field
at the edge of the world.

In its sap we hang metamorphosis,
unmade and created,
pulling the womb shut over our
sleeping heads.