Poetry: Love Poem by a Cynic by Xueyi Zhou

We often wonder, what are fresh and engaging ways to approach the lush tradition of love poetry? Xueyi Zhou’s poem is a gorgeous example of this—unexpected, driven by a compelling voice and constant, charged turns.

Love Poem by a Cynic

Eventually, it expires. The vulnerable
becomes vulgar; tears reek
the scent of oil stains,
but we’re not there yet.
I’m still a cynic, I reject future tense,
and it feels immoral to say you’re cute:
after all, we haven’t met.
No, I know you’re not here.
I already know you without asking.
How you end the word “bitch”
with a footnote of apology,
or the way your lips mow my skin
by grazing guiltlessly, until
we’re both sunburned in rain.
Sometimes I imagine your death
in order to draft a good eulogy
so our promises could outlast us
on granite. It’s hard for a cynic
to write a love poem,
to talk about fire, fever, forever,
to forget the inevitable—
as soon as I name something,
it begins to die. Therefore
I’m not your love, darling,
love takes too long to vanish.
I’m your match, babe,
so pick me up,
                            to light.


Xueyi Zhou

Xueyi Zhou was born and raised in Foshan, a city of manufacturing in Guangdong, China. After she earned a BA in Translation and Interpreting in Shanghai, she returned home and worked in a stainless-steel company. She is currently pursuing her MFA at UNLV. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Guernica, Waxwing, Passages North, Chestnut Review, Tahoma Lit Review, AAWW The Margins, Best Small Fictions 2022 and more. She was a finalist in 2022 Black Warrior Review Flash Contest and was shortlisted for the winter Oxford Flash Fiction Prize 2023. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in BOOTH (runner-up of 2022 Beyond the Margins Prize) and Frontier Poetry. She is fiction co-editor at Witness and prose reader at Chestnut Review. Find her at: https://www.xueyizhou.com/ or on Twitter @xueyizhou.

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