Carp Belly Soup By Amy Zhou

Carp Belly Soup

They say it was earth’s breast who split
too soon, spilling yellow currents into
rivers and mud. Even sky’s spine cracked
and out of his folded back tumbled carp
and whipping eels. In their sleep, they gulp
river weeds and feed on children’s toys
leaping downstream.

But it isn’t long before we gut the river empty.
Wade thigh-deep in riverbed, slippery carp writhing
in our knuckled fists, clutch grain-filled gills with soil-
caked nails and brittle blistered fingers. Only our naked
feet swim cold, trembling under blankets of mud—
the rest of our raw bodies only know hunger.

Open mouths sputter salt and silt as
whiskers fall onto drought-soaked floors.
Carp, clean-shaven, roil in salted heat,
thick backs fleck into blistering oil and fins flap
closed— we have long lost
our wings. Dreams boil thin into clotted froth,
and we coat our war-cracked
lips with fat and grease, slice into underbelly
with chopsticks slick with spit,
eat the carp whole, bones and all.

Our tongues are not used to the taste
of food. We chewed on bark for days,
licked rust off palms spread open
for coins, prayed doglike

with spines twisted into roots.
Foreheads are long used
to kissing the ground clean.

Listen, my father sings:
of good men who become blind deities,
steeped in trenches and splashing
in phosgene streams. Terror-shivers
wash over yellow-eyed boys
wearing mulch and iron bullets,
small fingers stretching to reach the too-big
triggers placed into their shaking palms.

This is where sin blooms—
eastern, cardinal red, streets bathing
in beggars.

By Amy Zhou


Author_Photo_Amy_ZhouAmy Zhou is an aspiring high school writer from The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. She has been recognized for her poetry and short fiction by The New York Times, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, Frontier Poetry, and Hollins University. She has been featured in various literary journals and serves as the Editor-in-Chief for her school’s newspaper, The Radar, literary publication, The Steele, and art magazine, ArtsMag.

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