Ava Chen

The Doppler Effect

A boy swallows what he’s told are vitamins
           and fails out of calculus.
                      In a CVS parking lot
Ziploc bags exchange hands
           like quarters. A boy used
                      to swallow himself
into the moon, cratered
           with different names
                      for parts of the body:
eye an apple he carves
           a bowl out of,
                      stomach the flickering door
between hospital rooms,
           hands blades sharpened into
                      blade wounds, blood
the color of a mirror:
           only reflecting the mother’s
                      sorrow for a failed child.
The years scatter on the sidewalk
           like bits of leather caught between
                      animal and diary,
diary and deity
           peering through a wineglass
                      refracting a flatline
into the curves of a beating heart
           as if to say: something will
                      stop the truck.
Something will cradle sparks
           back into the sun.
                      Callouses used
to coat his speech, laden blue with
           alleyway promises,
                      the difference between
how every color of dirt makes dirt
           but every color of light
                      whitens into an unpaintable canvas:
the day before, the lamp
           had chiseled tiny wolves
                      into the hollow of his throat.
With a thumb
           he mothered the shadow
                      into splaying, but not enough—
as he lifted his hand
           a creature lifted into embryo into
                      the whine of tires splitting the horizon



Ava Chen is a student poet from Massachusetts. She serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Sophon Lit and edits for Polyphony Lit. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming with The Penn Review, The Mantle, The Dawn Review, and elsewhere, and has been recognized by Columbia College Chicago, The Adroit Prizes, The Poetry Society of the U.K., and more. Ava was a 2023 Poetry Mentee in The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program.