Essays    Reportage    Marginalia    Interviews    Poetry    Fiction    Videos    Everything   
Three Poems by Jewel Cao

“Anthill,” “Jericho,” and “Tofino”

Poetry | poetry, Poetry Tuesday
June 7, 2022


The wheels on the feather-black motorcycles wind up like clocks;
I submerge myself in the current of evening.

Each year it gets harder to guess what is happening
outside my body. The world is a series of scales,

and this summer has been sinking. Because you remember, I ask—

Do you believe in a place with a little more life?

But when I slip through the gap between the bamboo,
which yellows upwards like old paper,

it’s only the sound of shedding skin, shedding skin.

One day I’ll be small and naked enough to build
snowmen on the front lawn. Black seeds will stud the snow,

and once I solve their bitter cypher, the spring
grass will grow back sweet. You know how I love

the bald chrysanthemum, the wilting jasmine.
If I plant one on my palm, will you know where to return to?

I’ll take you back to where I began so you can never lose
me again. It’s all you ever wanted

but it’s only the sound of a knife rocking,
rocking, back and forth.

The pinch of cut scallions bursts into the cooling air.
How can I love you more than I do? I do,

but I am just a colony;
I don’t understand anything.


In your eyes I forget all instances
of leaving. You pin me in by the waist
like a wave to shore. But still herons stand
scalloped along the horizons of us.
All our moments gleaming fish
dangling from their mouths.
In these counting months, silver scales 
rise like pillars under the water. Translucent pinbones
spin like corkscrews. The sky lapses. I must be
a star moving through time, to be so wanting.
I think all the earth is leaning towards us.
I think you want more than all the life
I can give. When there is nothing left for me I will break
the bones of syntax. There is a marrow in this
that I will drink to remember.
I’ve found a restlessness in you
that I’ll never forget.
I’m a gull now. An albatross.
I’ll elope with it instead.


Once you go to the edge of the water you can never stop
witnessing the raw coast of stars, free from civilized light.
So I hold Andromeda under my tongue every morning.
I like to pretend that everything bitter is medicine, and
that silence is a little songbird fluttering under my lungs.
And I like to think I’ll let it go. I never take pictures
and I’d rather look at a blade of grass than people I love.
I’ve diagnosed myself with delusion surrounding memory.
One day I’ll get a chair under the hood of a willow tree
to convalesce and confess, one of my confessions being:
I can never say how happy I am with you, because I know
you will never understand. Don’t blame me, if I think
I want to live forever. I am so afraid, and also truly disgusting.
I can’t help it. Once I imagine you dying I am yours for life.