“Firelight” by Sarah Lao

Sarah Lao (age 15)


April & I fist the days as if 
the calendar’s pages were the ruffles 
on my sundress. I dress the nicks
on my jaw with springs & hands. 
Undress & redress. Make it tick 
in time with the neighbor’s world 
clock. Let me tell you again about 
last Tuesday, when Mama had me 
cut her bangs straight across, 
the split ends forming all the dodged
questions left over on the floor. 
Look, the living room is so full
of old takeout and fossils. How 
honest. In another life, I imagine
the bones must discover themselves
in a sheath of blubber & teach me 
how to backstroke. Feel the river’s
slow pulse & the slick of fish
coiling around me like twine. 
I confess: I want to touch my body 
in the dark. Hands empty & gullible. 
To play cartographer & mark the 
frontline of every frontier with 
red flags. Should I rewind. Should 
I stop the mailman. Should I pick 
up the landline. Then maybe this time 
I’ll see the lightning before
it hits the prairie. Or the back-
hand before its crack.
Either way, this house will
overturn as the cosmos spirals
on its axis. The alarm 
clocks will trip & shatter 
& I will be left holding 
onto nothing but my dazed 
sundress. Here we are, 
the ground in splinters 
of kindling, soot tracking 
the grass. Watch: this sky 
blemished. This field. 
Our two bodies—
everything burning 
like it was meant to.

from 2020 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Sarah Lao: “I like to write poetry because there are no rules. If I want to cut out all the punctuation or make every noun a verb, I can, and if I want to spend two hours writing one line, I can. In that sense, it’s very freeing. I can put all the emotions I’m usually not sure how to express into a set of images, and somehow, whether it should work or not, it does.”

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