by Quinn Lui


is a word more esophagus than aorta. no glamour
in the tremoring, no prideful blood-ink
except as condemnation. price-match
for the least expensive brand of bleach they sell here
and apologize, afterwards, to the ruined silk.

mama says the only words we have for beautiful
are mere derivatives of the original. this too
is how every lovely thing learns to exist, carved
smaller and smaller into a succession of nesting boxes
and square-bracketed fitting rooms. so much of belonging
is exploratory: finding the number of losses
before the perfect match becomes a vanishing act.

i learned my bee-stung accent from her mouth, and
afterwards, sliced the vowels that swelled and rippled
over riverbeds into ice-cubes. their flat sides
and right angles ticked against my teeth
bright as silverware on glass. an apology is waiting here
but i don’t have the words anymore.

a girl from australia once told me i sounded british
and i said it’s all in the enunciation. with enough care
everything can be sharpened into a weapon.
with enough practice everyone can pretend to know
how to close your teeth on untouchable horizons,
the unbitten world a liquid tremble in your mouth.