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Sheila Dong

The Dreamly Prey

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Billions of years passed and strange
noises began issuing from the caves.
Strange stars burned earthly.
Strange wounds occurred.
Still, I was content to ignore this,

filling my cheeks with meadow grass,
feeling my horns lengthen under the moon.

Back then, I still had a cloud of a hundred
floating eyes that saw everything from ant children
to cloud feathertips to hill othersides. Back then,
the pride of my body was still the nerve-
rich membrane in my neck that deciphered

the choruses in the aurora. Yet their strophes
were numbered, sung over one night

by a voice from a cave. The animal sat
by the incomprehensible light conjured
from wood, trilling syllables beyond me,
this wing-severed bird, weaving blankets,
threading laces through shoes. I moved closer

to the warmth. She crowed in triumph,
summoning the other cave-nester to ignite

a bullet in my hollow chest. My blood
fractured to veins, and the leaden shell
wouldn’t stop reverberating, and this
bullet became my heart. Fire-eyed,
the woman rushed to my flank and snipped

the tendons in my heels, those elastic red
ribbons furling lost up my thighs. After

that day, I would never gallop, but walk.
When my mother finished with her scissors,
my father came with his bayonet. To make
sure I was still alive, he thrust the blade
under my chin, through my tongue, into the roof

of my mouth. My palate hardened, the amorphous
sounds growing skeletons of meaning,

and I could speak as they. Finally,
my mother bound me in a net of fragrant
leaves, where each of my eyes closed,
and the membrane went deaf,
and the horns wore down

and the grass choked itself back up –
a single wild flourishing of green blades

from my mouth, unspeakable
fecundity, and then it was speakable
as I woke amid shreds of the net,
knowing nothing, spitting oaths.

Fox Pup

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I used to have this trick. Paper imploded to origami under my gaze. There was always a wedding party two rooms over where I could finish strangers' crème brûlées. A volcano smoked ominously, only to erupt confetti. I detached my face and underneath were all sorts of cavities and honeycombs colonized by tiny foxes. Some of the foxes were sleeping, while others were swallowing their tails or constructing tinier foxes out of mud and flower petals. I copied Shel Silverstein poems onto my shins. When Sarah Reyes saw and read them out loud to the whole bus, I wanted my legs to fall off. It was sixth grade. The wind smelled like new books, then it smelled like rubbing alcohol, then like steakhouses that failed health inspections. Big slivers of my skin ended up devoured by ladybugs. I hated everything having to do with magic kingdoms. On a backdrop of pink onion domes and smiling teacups, I threw myself a ballet rife with sickled feet and torn-out eyelashes. Pearly. Saturnine. Salivating with sheer loss. I detached my face and my blood leapt up, a forest fire. The foxes died with their little forelegs hugging their ribs, and every night after has been loud with ladybugs scraping meat.


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For you I fill with dandelion tea,
with pondwater, sun-shot, teeming
with a million lives unseen, for you
my honeycombs fluff over with infant bees,
a creek full of tingling, a musing meadow
where birds sparkle on our eardrums
and we scrounge every odd-numbered petal
in the shadow of the pond where swans give chase
and catch hold, berrying our skins with bitemarks
as we flee in an boat round and saucer-shallow
and though we are free I still hear the swans
howling like tremendous kettles, their blue
tongues grasping at speech as if soiled princes
were clawing inside svelte necks to beg for love,
the antidote to the witch’s iris. It’s only a story,
you tell me, as the swans shrink away, and yet
I saw them ravaging their roosts, kicking
a fusillade of feathers over oily water.

Beautiful Hospital

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I carry you on my back to a field where your dress
can lengthen under the rain. Your lightheadedness:

a cloud teasing itself to outrageous wisps. You take
your medication, a handful of bitty silver airplanes,

and I breakfast on your hem: linen and slurped lace.
All the better that I was born lacking an enzyme

that would have let me digest butterflies. And though
you grew up in neighborhoods where back alleys

clanged with rabies, we’ve been roughhousing the shrouds
until they crumple to pale trampolines at our feet.

In your refrigerator you’ve got hard-boiled eggs
next to strawberries and the yellow bulb shines on

both of them like they are the center of something vast
and more important than we’ll ever know. Tonight we will

watch a documentary about geese born without wings
learning to whirl their slender necks like propellers to fly.

We'll switch off the lamp but I'll stagger on your eyeshine:
extra rooms behind your irises where microscopic fish

build mirrors. Outside, the moon will be the brilliant waist
of an hourglass and heaven a pinched corset full of sand:

the light buries us as we make castles. After you get sick
for the last time, your bones will rule forever in the kingdom

of yellow tulips, but I am getting so far ahead of myself. Today.
Today, you are so beautiful that there is no one in the hospital.

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