crossroads conversations between a story about death and a story about time
by Quinn Lui

say you had too many secrets and i clawed my way
out of mine. saw promise under the tips of my nails.
sometimes i am tempted / sometimes i dare 

to let myself forget this bleeding-out kind of tired.
this bled-dry loneliness, all cold-desert wasteland:

every inch of skin a mouth in the wind, weeping 
out glasswork pieces of past. 

your hair was a shadow mesh in the wind / in my hands
and i thought of ice and other languid things
that would wait to cut brightness open. thought to expel

this memory that lives not in my mind
but in the faint pressure on my mouth. the cold melody 
of a childhood music box, stuttering to slowness 
like a baby unlearning how to walk. the crib once outgrown 

left a revolution waiting where the skull met 
the skin, spine shifting like snow dune, like wavelength, 
like serpent.

there was a wish in the making / a wish waiting
two thumbprints above your collarbones. every word 
was a slice of shiver in your mouth, replenishing 
in ice-shards, in laboratory-grown cold. 

i trailed a hand over the ricepaper planes of your face, 
over your eyes, old as a corpse’s. in the hollows there
every lost winter evening still wandered. still wanted 
to be tempest-shaped, coloured like nightshade. 

say i flicked off the lamps to tell you a secret 
and the wind teased it out of my mouth serpentine,
forked it open in unwanted honesty. said sister
said daughter. said girl, every word

a fault line cracking through my sternum.

the character you named after me

grows into more of a farce of violence each day / and i have to wonder / whether that is how you see me / or how you see i could be or / if i am reading too much into a story / that i am supposed to have a hand in writing / anyway. we already figured out the ending / but you keep coming back to

the character you named after me. how she dies / in a helicopter crash. how she dies / in a firefight. how she dies with her body / the sheath of a poisoned blade. how she dies / again and again and again / and how she kills the same way. always looks / like a teenage boy’s wet dream / turned nightmare. / if you take off the silicon skin / the most exotic thing remaining would be / the weapons shipped in from round the planet, but she / doesn’t need them. it’s a joke, by which i mean / she is a joke, by which i mean

the character you named after me walks into a bar / and all the men / are staring. drooling, even. / the asset has assets / and she knows how to use them, / by which i mean, sure, / here’s a wine-rack full of weaponry / but she is already deadly enough all on her own / and isn’t that what people would pay / to see. damsel-induced distress. girl / married to a myriad of endings. i know / all this probably means you’re just afraid / of things you can’t control. i don’t have to wonder /  whether you were ever afraid / of me. we already figured out the ending / but i was supposed to have a voice in her story too, / so one stormy night in a tucked-away alley / i meet

the character you named after me / and hand her a plane ticket that’ll take her across / the ocean. i call to make sure she lands safely. no, / i don’t know what she wants, but you / don’t either. you only know / what you want her to want / and at some point you forgot there’s a difference / between the two. this way / she gets to decide. / this way when she leaves

the character you named after me / uses a name / you will never get to hear.

Quinn Lui is a Chinese-Canadian student who spends too much time talking to plants and too much money on bubble tea. Their work has appeared in Occulum, Synaesthesia Magazine, Half Mystic, and elsewhere. They are the author of the micro-chapbook teething season for new skin (L’Éphémère Review, 2018). You can find them @flowercryptid on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, or wherever the moon is brightest.