3 Poems by Lucy Zhang

Illustration of person sitting on yellow background. Red thought bubble filled with teeth.

Teach Me All There Is to Know

You began as a grain of rice at the bottom of a sack, raw and starchy. One year of congee, fried
rice, furikake rice, plain rice to hollow out. I rolled you between two fingers: white dust flaking
like dried Elmer’s glue, milk bleeding from a nipple, counting droplets a metronome—taping can
encourage lactation, can patch a hole. I tossed you back in, stuck between flaps and threads. I
flattened the edges and wrinkles best I could before fitting the near-empty bag in the trash can,
our Glad substitute. You rested beneath fish bones, onion peels, empty Yakult bottles. Beneath
bloodied tissues, band-aids, Maxi Pads. Hair swept and tangled in clumps, nails split like roads,
globs of skin cells scratched and peeled from eczema-coated hands. Dried gothic-style roses
(used to be fresh, but always dead, yeah? once they’re cut, they’re dead), sponges soaked in oil,
one negative pregnancy test (don’t think too much), a trickle of urine. I fed the world to you.
Flies hovered, like black sesame stars in arm’s reach. Again, I lifted the lid and pressed down to
fit another layer: papery eggshells, cracked coat hangers, moldy excisions of potato. As a grain
of rice at the bottom of a sack, unswollen and unsplit, you stayed.

Cinderella Has Anterograde Amnesia

I wore the glass slipper because my brain shattered every fifteen minutes. I could not recall how
my toes curled in narrow boxes, middle joints hammered and warped. How my Achilles tendon
pulled tight like Saran Wrap, ankles fracturing—like marble, not sunflower seeds—as I glided
over lotus blossoms and cloud-capped peaks. A clean slate: I remembered the fish in the pond,
flesh later filleted and doused in hot oil, magic bones tossed into rice patties for crows to
scavenge. The crow ate a bone and the bone severed its throat and its body flaked into layers of
feather, soft as dust, enough to construct a dress: eyes dried as globes, bones crushed as snow,
the ethereal element. I remembered the dress. But whether I had run down the staircase, crushed
my shoe against rocks, deposited the other in the walkway, I did not know. I ran up the stairs to
start again.

Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Pollutants on Behavior in Later Childhood

I imagined passing down the frizz of my hair, not a dose-response relationship between
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and white matter surface reduction. I’ve got the illusion of
narrow, cat-like eyes, an inclination of the canthus. Imagine my fetus grown, head propped in her
hands, dragging eyeliner long and up, more cat-like than I’ve ever been. The sky had only ever
been grey, I’d tell her, our gasoline sky, how it reaches ghost fingers through my placenta,
brushes your head, a whisper buried deep within me, skirting my ears. Neurodevelopmental
disturbances come in the form of a spade impaled in dirt, a flat field of grass, fingers pointing at
the goldfish glub glubbing, a miracle—only we’d drown, sink further than ever from ether;
please, don’t trip over the spade while running. Focus is just ignorance, the chlorpyrifos and
smoke swept under the burning gas stove, particulate secrets dissipating. I imagine her growth
spurt, how she might be tall enough to reach these grey curtains, part them with strong fists, see
how thin the air is.

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Lucy Zhang writes, codes and watches anime. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Contrary, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Jellyfish Review, New Orleans Review, The Offing, Passages North, The Portland Review, The Rumpus, West Branch and elsewhere. Her work is included in Best Microfiction 2021 and Best Small Fictions 2021, was a finalist in Best of the Net 2020 and long listed in the Wigleaf Top 50. Find her at her website or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.

Jeannie Colleene is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, artist, and 1/2 of the noise duo, HXXS. Born in Bakersfield, CA. Raised in Portland, OR. Currently living in Kansas City, MO. She has screamed her way across the US many times over for close to 10 years.  She spends her time making music, making art, and playing shows. Most importantly, she is the mother of one Siamese cat. Find her on Instagram at @jcolleene & @wearehxxs.