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self-portrait as domestic fowl

WRITTEN BY NICOLE LI

father said  that great grandfather got  mauled

coming home  from the apothecary  in the night—

big black hound broke  its rotting teeth on his arm until

ginseng and gingko  spilled,  fused in the air  with fear.

(his wife’s half-moon belly  survived  but he did  not)

 

i’ll tell you these  truths: passion  is a li(n)e of

A’s splattered  down paper, Tchaikovsky  hidden

between first chairs and   varsity letters collected.

ivy-rimmed throats  spewing  honey words, honey souls.    

don’t you see this is the currency  of the future?

 

there were fourteen of them  in a space meant for two.

their  matchstick ribs heaved  in the  jiangxi cold. they

shuddered  into each other—could feel an  animal

hunger  wrapping its fist around the room,  squeezing until

seven were left:  darwinian theory  at its finest.

 

behold  the antlers  growing from my parents’ heads,  one

above each eyebrow but  they’re bark  instead of

bone.  branches to the past. one for  a fatherless baby who

became a grandfather.  many more for  babies that

never  became fathers. mine at the end,  ivory and whole.

 

i’ll rule kingdoms greater than this—search 

for history  under every clover  and in every alleyway

to have more  than the vestigial remains  of something

fleeting  something gone. something  unlike the colossal

concrete  world outside my window  right now.

 

how can  chickens  clamber to lay eggs  for someone who

will never  make them anything  but fat and stupid—

after all   they were dinosaurs  not so long ago.