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a scene from February of a rose


in the night you can’t tell,

‘is that noise a cat yelping

or an unborn child?’

she likes to keep it hush to not wake the others.

go to sleep –

we’ll know in the morning –

but i don’t know mornings,

and i don’t until you’ve left for work

or to the oncologist’s

(i’d imagine his is a white place…)

when the sunlight spoils your flesh

there’s some red bud on your chest

& i tell you,

‘when my nails grow long and strong,

i’ll pinch it off for you.’

it’ll be scabbed, so let it scab,

the night will kiss it and suck it raw,

with the things it doesn’t say.

it is good

but i keep biting them, i’m 5’5” and haven’t

grown an inch since 14 because

i listen to the night, not talking

i think you’re mad for letting your eyes shut,

for listening to our walls that urge


and madder still for not asking about the child

and letting the bud grow bigger, and redder

sometimes, when you slumber,

i curl my fingers around it

& i feel it

it syncopate

                                                                                                                         it beat

it swell like a


it live

its dew wet on my hand

and i can taste how bitter it must make you.

and sometimes i forget your age –

you say

‘i want to do to you what

the redbuds do, to the cicadas’


–and you’ve aged so much.

point at the disease and declare:

‘this is where i carry my love,

this is why it grows’


you’re back at noon and wake me up

‘i love you’

‘how’s the cancer?’

‘what cancer?’

‘that thing you’ve got on your chest, that thing

that takes the dark away from you and you

away from me’

i push your arm out of the way and stare

at the origin of your sickness,

the red spooling

& the little layers that bloomed around it.

Sichen Li is a current high-school junior. In her free time, she enjoys reading literature, writing poetry, exploring philosophy, and taking photos on her analog camera. Her favorite book is the Master and Margarita, and she aspires to be an author someday.

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