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.
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
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
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 junkyard of our ships
how you have replaced
any other body—