Phosgene [noun]: a colorless poisonous gas made by the reaction of chlorine and carbon monoxide. used notably in World War I.
Before me I watch you barefoot, I
before you, unraveled and tattered
in my mind.
I swim through your oil-spill eyes, drown
halfway in violet grease, it is
in this way that I pass summer
and I see you in furs and drunken
fights with our neighbor’s cat, you
dressed only in four-day shorts and you
planting pretty kisses on tan
alleyway walls, you with bare
teeth. Fissioning unraveled,
oil-spill eyes swim
in my mind.
When you sit on stools, your knees jut
out sideways, angular in strange
trapezoids, but what I notice instead
is the cigarette you chew into shreds, yes
I see plumes of grey and grey.
You say it tastes like salt,
tell me to breathe it in
I will taste dreams
but I do not taste dreams, I taste
But at least you learned to breathe again
after phosgene bloomed in your lungs,
so you fill your throat with smoke but
smoke does not kill, no,
smoke does not kill dead
Disheveled eyes watch the fireplace chew
up chicken bone remains of your dinner and you
do not think you finished all the skin and fat,
I offer you mine but you
call me silly
because even your spit
tastes like vomit.
Like the poppy, we were always more intoxicating wilted than in bloom.
Rain splatters through cracks
of our walls, slips into pulpy floors and I
barefoot sit on a stool and cup lamp oil
in my palm.
I dip hands into grainy photos
of your wife and son (gone) and
vaporize into mists, spread across the room and violet-
Did you always like air so much?
Coal dust coats my feet and it is cold, so
cold I wonder how you do not
shiver in your shorts.
By Amy Zhou
Amy 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.