“Speak Ill of the Dead,” “You Are Still Seventeen” & “A Very Small Wish” by Irene Hou

Illustration of a green and blue figure face down as water drops from a red shower head fall onto their back

Speak Ill of the Dead

when you died I took a shower and laid face-down at the drain,
half-scrubbed skin on my tongue, tasting crumbs half-erased.
no one knows you tasted like snot when we first kissed, clear and sick down the top lip,
swallowing bar soap water, bitter and dry, becoming a dot in the bath, swirling into the pipes. I
spend the night beneath your floating face—is it real, are you real, is it real—when to wake and
when to sleep—fail your classes, learn to lose, kip at the foot of the bed where I can’t smell the
last of your breath—no one knows, I attend no funeral, I have no photos, I am the last between
us, I can’t believe you’ve made me remember our worst kiss alone

You Are Still Seventeen

I fly five hundred miles to see a stranger. The drugstore irises I buy kill themselves in two days

though it drizzled, mud puddling, in carved name—

drenched in sun, they shiver, on your unknown grave.

I’ve come to blow the ants from your vase, where they fall my thumb crushes, indiscriminate.

I imagine beetles boring to your wet tongue,

I imagine your last words until they are gone.

I’m laid in a desert of little white teeth, sweeping away coin corpses as I sleep,

as if at death I keep you clean,

as if at death you see me.

A Very Small Wish

I have collected blue sky for a year,
squares of cut cloth, pale, painted clouds
interspersed with cat pics & pretty plants
a sweater I saw once I think you would like.
when I die, I will bring my phone with me
to show you what you have missed
it is a quilt of photos I have stitched
and we can scroll through my life then, like this.

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A California native, Irene Hou is a Chinese-American writer and poet. She is one of America’s youngest published authors under pen name Rainye Day, and has been previously awarded in the category of Science Fiction/Fantasy at the eLit Book Awards. Irene is currently earning her B.S. in Cognitive Science and minoring in Computer Science at the University of California, San Diego. You can find her online at irenehou.com.

Izzy True is an artist and musician living in Chicago, Illinois. They play their own music in Izzy True and bass in Tenci and make little comics about moaning and longing which you can read here: www.izzytrue.com. Instagram: @izzytrue69.