by Emma Miao
River hunting. The village creased in two.
Seduction: a red kind of mutation.
Stolen girl bending over the river, a patchwork
of scabs dotting her hip. Streets glint with fangs.
Wooden bucket, gashed open. Her hands blur
under the bridge, bubbled fingers reaching for mine.
The men in the village: ravenous. A red disease
& the village feasts. I weave cloaks for the emperor:
irrigate my hands, smooth silk fourfold, braid it with crowns.
The red dot moves in my belly. Neighbors crawl
into the palace. We kilt paper knives while father wrestles
for kin, stain dresses with bayberries as the sky slumbers.
The needle-eye quivers in my hands as the door hinges
open. My bones rattle, like teeth. I tear night-fabric,
skitter down the bank, hip-deep in the stream.
The glistening reeds whisper antidotes to the full moon.
The men’s boots tremor in the dirt. My shoulder
strains against bamboo. Years later, they
called me goddess. Blamed the disease on the girl
who draped her mother’s carcass over her bony shoulders,
who hid under the bridge. Her tears
still paralysed on the green rusted stalks;
her people still pray to a buried queen.