Jingwei and the Ghost Aquarium (2016)

Stephanie Chang

The moon, the red ache of its carcass

          I could almost carry. In the souvenir shop

I raze my body into vulture, strip away

summertime & all its lonely trinkets. This story

          marred by stories of screams

sharpened underwater. We set new records,

invent a sunfish state of mind. For decades

          I betray every small disaster I believed

could save us: Once, a boy marooned

on a 1991 satellite. Once, two foxes ferried

          by a coral reef. When out at sea, another day

looks perishable on poor teeth. The searchlights

grow paler by the minute. These days

          I stake my eternity on every pretty thing

I could kill for pleasure: Fish scales exfoliating

across glacier faces. Cruise liners with sheets

          spilled over the balcony. Lovers already

double-bodied in the dark. Already

sawing sea glass off each other’s backs

          & what does it mean, if one scatters

kelp from bed to breakfast table?

Color theory: Blue Ice beer, at least four cans

          for the beluga whales. I search

for rafts to sink, pluck the stowaway ghosts

from their past lives. My last memory a crime

          spoiled of romance: Dangerous Stunt Gone Wrong

or Lead Actress Dies in Drowning Accident.

Color theory: aquamarine on its best behavior.

          Look. I witnessed every creation myth

backwards, lost the soundtrack of this movie

to mermaids. Color theory: stoplights in the dead

          of dawn: Cherries swilled of cyanide.

The film reel mawed to pieces by mackerel.

Color: theory of what pissed in my mouth

          signs of life. Every stone I bestow Mazu

shivers out of monochrome. Blossoms in spite

of its ache. Moon-broken, a treason of light

          that turns me murderer, hands me a girl’s

good intentions. There are no words

for this clarity. This story, but with

          a better body: I press my palms against

aquarium glass. My body backlit

by exit signs. The display reads Filial

          cannibalism. My body a consequence

of every organism it’s ever touched,

emptied into the ocean’s open grave.

          Off-camera, my stunt double laughs.

Cue the birds. Drowned everywhere

we keep beginning.


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