In the rigmarole of lucky living, you tire
of the daily lessons: Sewing, Yoga, Captivity.
Push the lesson inside the microwave.
Watch it plump and pop and grow larval
with losses. Watch it shrink like shrikes
when they dodge out of this palatial
doom. On the sky’s torn hemline, this horizon,
make a wish on Buddha’s foot. How to halve,
but not to have—how to spare someone
of suffering, how to throw away the spare
key saved for a lover that you don’t
have, save yourself from the burning turret
with the wind of your own smitten hip.
Do you remember how girlhood was—a bore
born inside you, powerless? How you made
yourself winner by capturing grasshoppers
and skewering them? You washed a family
of newts in the dry husked summer, wetted
them with cotton swabs before the vivisection.
That’s playing God: to spare or not to spare.
In the end you chose mercy, and dropped
each live body into the slime-dark moat.
Today is a study in being a loser. The boyfriend
you carved out of lard and left in the refrigerator
overnight between the milk and chicken breasts.
Butcher a bed, sleep in its wet suet for a night.
Joke with a strumpet, save the watermelon
rinds for the maids to fry in their hot saucepans.
Open your blouse and find the ladybugs
sleeping in your navel. Open your novel
to the chapter where the floe cracks and kills
the cygnet. Study hard, refute your slayer.
Copyright © 2014 Sally Wen Mao
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.