Aubade with Paint Fumes
I sleep in your room tonight because they are
painting outside. They perch on wooden planks and
wash over our eggshell wall with a new layer of white.
Ma insists that the formaldehyde will somehow kill me,
as if this new air hasn’t years ago.
There is something to it—the bed frame pushed adjacent to
the wall, the orange moon flickering along the stem of your
glass lamp, the heater chorusing like your thumping heart,
the linen drapes that smell of the boy you used to be.
While placing bowls in the dishwasher, you once told me how we
tore down our crumbed walls, how we spend extra hours shoveling snow,
how you walk at night unafraid & alone.
You call this opulence; I call it leaving.
I call it loss.
You’re on the playground,
balancing on the unstable stepping stumps—
still bespectacled, still wearing a grandma-knitted cardigan. You had
forgotten today’s banana in your backpack, browning the baby blue.
You’d let us wash our feet in the same chipped plastic bowl;
our dirt swimming into one, our bodies fitting into one another.
Paint clumps and cracking, its drips leave a trace
along the wall like a dried tear down your scaled skin,
only to be recoated, then recoated.
The first time we fell in love we didn’t know it; or:
the first time I fell in love it framed me
a painting too Daliesque, too sun-drunk, I ran,
I ran towards the white daylight,
the pirouetting spheres,
I ran and woke up.
By Sophia Liu
Sophia Liu lives in New York. Her poems and art appear or are forthcoming in the Perch, Storm Cellar, the Ekphrastic Review, Whispering Prairie Press, Underblong, opia, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the National Council of Teachers of English, Smith College, and Hollins University. She volunteers as a teacher for the Princeton Learning Experience and wants a pet cat.