Like Being in Love

Editor’s Note: We are on pause from publishing new material during August while building our new staff. We will open to new submissions, and return with new material, in September 2019.

by Simon Shieh

He tells me to arrive early. Perched in his throat, a raven soaked
in warm milk. Finally, the sky dries into a painting.
I sit on a drainpipe all morning like fresh snow. I am fourteen. I have achieved
so little. The Rottweiler next door will not eat. Instead, it catches butterflies in its mouth
and lets them go. School is out for Christmas. Boys walk the tree line
in the distance twirling axes. I press my palm into the snowy sidewalk—
stupid angel. I wonder who saved me. My hands are cowbells at the bottom
of an ocean. Here I am. Here I am. Does he even know my name? He calls me Chinaboy,
he calls me son. My first words to him are, morning, sir. It’s true, we take the good
out of everything we name. In the summer, I cut his grass. I paint his house
black. No, I paint his house the same beige it was before. One day
it rains. One day a hive of bees in his gutter makes me their king. He feeds me
red meat. He watches the blood pool in my mouth, laughs at my red teeth.
In his car, he paints my thigh a deep purple
when he tells a dirty joke. I pull laughter from my mouth
like chicken bones. He tells me he had nothing to do with that girl. Nothing.
I don’t ask. I wrap my left hand around my right thumb. He names me
after the glow of the full moon. I look away from the window. Slowly, I take the raven
into my mouth.

Simon Shieh is a poet and educator living in Beijing. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Spittoon Literary Magazine, which translates and publishes the best new Chinese writers into English. Simon’s work appears or is forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly, Muzzle, Passages North, Spillway, The Journal, and Grist, among other publications.