Poetry: Abecedarian Under Aquarium Lights by Nova Wang
Dexterous and riddled with danger, Nova Wang’s abecedarian is aquatic in its deftness, darting from image to image as the speaker gathers pieces of their “small histories” and offers them as an exploration of personal wreckage and its origins.
Abecedarian Under Aquarium Lights
After the wreckage, I search for new things to love:
bodies that exhale and know the hollow as instance, not
casualty. Pre-apocalypse. Jellyfish that never
die, instead aging in reverse—becoming a body with no past, no
evidence to hold to the light. I can’t look at lakes without
finding all the ways they swallow: unleashed like guard
dogs, gasps bright as flint. I’m avoiding water without glass to
hold it in the walls. Alarm systemed and too thick for teeth.
Investigation: carnage on ground floor, but cameras only see footsteps
jagged with wet, bodies blue-faced without a
killer. The placard says mermaids are just drowned girls turned ghoul, turned
lightning in the dark. Ruin that announces itself before it hits.
Make no mistake. I am gathering my small histories, I know the species
native to my disaster, I carved their taxonomies
over my palms. Still, I wish for the depths of summer, ozone
pulsing the window, self-contained in its heat. Months of cupping
quicksilver and wondering if my own
riptide is elemental, evolution, predetermined by gene. Scientists designed
silent rooms so people would face their heartbeats,
their nerves buzzing like wires. Dry air breeds electricity, flames.
Under these blue-green LEDs, I tuck my blades in the walls,
vacate the butchery of cleavers, braid tripwires into veins. I live
wire into a shape unknown to human hands: monstrous daughter, chipped
Xerox of a girl. The reports say original copy lost to water damage, searches
yield an empty fist but I know how the ink runs. The
zeroth iteration—how I hold it under the waves, crusting my mouth in salt.
Nova Wang is probably thinking about ghosts. Her writing appears in publications including Gigantic Sequins, CRAFT, and Narrative, and she tweets @novawangwrites. You can find more of her work at novawang.weebly.com.