THIS IS NOT A LIFESAVING DEVICE
declare Amelia’s inflatable water wings
in heavy black type. She wears them like
arm badges clearing her for the deep end.
While in Shenzhen a girl Amelia’s age swims
in sweat, neck-deep in the mechanical purr
of factory. She breathes smog, burns palms.
I watch Amelia’s thin limbs flutter. She floats
on latex lungs filled with air from my own organ.
I hold my breath. I pray to angels; I remember
That Christ was both god and child. But a mother
in Shenzhen knows no savior. She wraps
her child’s scarlet fingers in scrap.
Bows her head, bites her tongue,
knowing there’s nothing to be done.
Amelia pulls her body from the pool
I hear the wet spat of doughy feet on deck.
Then a dry skid and a siren cry–she falls,
Skinning her cantaloupe knees on concrete
while the black-tongued conveyor belts lap
up latex and spit out sex dolls, condoms
and bubblegum-pink Barbie pool floats.
I plant a latex Band-Aid on her bleeding skin
like a tiny cartoon kiss. I coo all better, knowing
bandages only cover wounds they never heal
and to that tar-mouthed belt in Shenzhen
every item tastes the same–like burnt rubber,
hot metal and a silent child’s singing skin.
By Rachel Leonard
I am a recent graduate of Indiana University Purdue University where I studied Spanish and Creative Writing. Since May, I’ve put my career on hold to travel. Currently based out of Sydney, Australia, I plan to spend the next several years exploring myself and my writing. Other work can be found in the Indianapolis Review and Genesis Literary Magazine.