i do not mean/ the sweet crescent-shaped thing in the sky/ from the cartoons we used to watch on channel twenty-four/ that glowing thing the princess drifts to after she swallows the magic pills/ and becomes immortal/ after the bad guy breaks into her home and gravity breaks/ like window pane/ i say moon and mean the moon the old poet bids his brother to look at on the nights they are not together/ the nights the moon cracks into two faces and falls out of/ old vending machines/ i saw the moon hanging by the skin of my heart the second time i broke it in the sink/ trying to make it paler than it is/ in the stranger who watched me watch him flit in and out of the subway window/ as it shudders and tilts to one side & there’s one night every year when my mother does not cook dinner/ she stays in her room with the door closed and watches the moon rise and set on the back of her eyelids/ i imagine it must look so peaceful/ and so white like my grandfather when he entered the room in an expensive suit/ and came back out in a metal ashtray/ i saw the moon sitting cross-legged on his femur when they pulled him out of there but nobody else did/ because there was so much water in their eyes/ dandelions bloomed from their sockets & i watched them get smothered/ by hands on which their carnage left an endless trail of ruined tutus/ i wrote a poem on my hand today and/ it too blossomed to the size of the moon so i/ get it if you don’t want to hold onto my hand anymore when the subway/ shudders/ i promised someone i would miss them today you see/ but i’m not sure what i mean when i say these things/ like when i say immortality i do not really mean the one who hogs all the seats/ who chews with his mouth open and gets off one stop too late/ anyway it is getting late in the station now and gravity/ is snapping each femur as the sidewalk/ bends/ so here/ take my swollen hand and what fingers you can still find while/ i hail a taxi and pray that it arrives before the streetlights come on/ and i explode into one thousand dandelions
*Cultural note: The beginning of this poem references a Chinese folktale. A princess and her husband are gifted with pills that make them immortal and enable them to fly to the moon. They promise to eat the pills together someday. One day, a jealous man breaks into their home and forces the princess to hand over the pills, but, in the moment, the princess swallows all the pills so the man will get none. She flies to the moon where she lives forever without her husband.
Henie Zhang is a high school senior from Shanghai. She is the editor-in-chief of the Zeitgeist Literary Magazine and can often be sighted fiddling with a camera or trying to keep her plants alive with debatable success.