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Sarah Lao is a senior at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the editor in chief of EX/POST, and her work can be found or is forthcoming in AGNI, New Delta Review, and Split Lip Magazine, among others. She is a 2019 Best of the Net Finalist and 2020 YoungArts Finalist in Poetry.

2 poems

by Sarah Lao

Editor's Note: We recommend reading "Nocturne for J. & the Earth" on desktop due to its unique formatting.

Aubade Ending in Fission

How we return from slumber: turning into 

ourselves to avoid the soft adamancy 


of the taxis. Our hair skimming shoulders 

in a smooth grace note. 


Outside, the neighbor’s radio snags 

on a wave and the sky catches 


jaundice, turning as yellow as Christ 

on the crucifix. Let me not forget, Sister, 


of the dream where we cast the last 

of our savings down the well, 


if only to hear the plunk as the receipt 

of some god picking up 


on our wishes. How we stole lychees 

from the marketplace and passed them 


between bites: my mouth the perfect 

replacement to yours. 


Then sirens. How we took the long way 

home and found ourselves 


hiding in a ditch by the creek. 

In the dream, it was brighter 


than it should’ve been. 

I wanted a wool blanket 


and to sing an aria. To fall asleep 

there in the dirt and wake up 


at noon with heatstroke. You told me 

to look up and draw out the veins 


of every constellation. To search 

for my name and reel it down, pulling


like it was a balloon tied to my wrist. 

I held it to my chest for so long 


I never heard you calling 

as everything flashed white and noiseless,


a single nucleus slipping 

out of its shell.

Nocturne for J. & the Earth

Although compared to the night sky it appears very bright, the moon’s surface is actually dark, with a reflectance just slightly higher than that of worn asphalt.

11 pm. The children kept in & the maria refilled 

                                        to its measured meniscus, the planet slick

          & brackish in its remaking.

                                                            J., I must tell you of the years I spent 

                    searching for a new source of light.

How I dug mine shafts straight to the moon’s core

                                                                      & found only fissures 

                                                                                          of silver minerals. 

          In the dark, it is easy to forget the distance 

                                                                    light must travel to reach the face 

                                        of any dying animal. 

    We have received no broadcasts 

                                                                      since the last festival.        

                                                  J., the children have taken 

          to making an orchestra 

                                                                                          out of our old shuttle parts. 

The ringing of metal 

                                    against metal in our sleep 

                                                  & insomnia has overtaken the elderly. I slip 

          used postcards into my pockets 

                                                                      for nights like these. 

                    When the candles burn out, 

                                                                      I fold & refold the letters

                       into the shape 

                                                      of a moving mouth. 

Trace the creases with my fingertips 

                                                                                until I memorize 

                                                  the margins 

                                                            language must observe. 

                      I am thinking, J., 

                                 of the way language

                                                                                evolved for survival. 

What constitutes a large body? 

                                                     Who compiles the dictionary

                                                                                                      of our reality? 

On Earth, you see 

                         a bright lighthouse in the sky       

                                                               while in my mind,

                                                                                                    the moon unfolds 

          into a planet 

                              of dirt & darkness 

                                                                                the way an inkblot settles 

                    into its final form.

                                                                                               O orbit.

O junkyard of our ships

                                                  turning symphonic.


                                                  O maria, 

                                                                      how you have replaced        

                         any other body—

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