Daniel Liu

Red Army

I am the boy with the war mouth open
like a young peony, tongue bright red
like a star. My eyes smoked out, the
blood-sun nurses the field. Because a ghost

is only a ghost when no one remembers, I
take the rifle by the throat and fire, one,
two, three times. No one remembers.
The gingko leaves still turn gold.

And here is Father, with his black hair
and tired breath, asking for a prayer.
Here is a temple, barren. Here is a monk
with all the weight of a sea stained with

military waste. They are wanting, always
wanting. I am drinking in the incense
like water, sputtering out curses. Chanting
animals, voices slit open like an underbelly.

In the years of the revolution, we hung family
portraits like men in the streets: loose above the
wooden stalls, wind drying them of their faith,
aphorisms sewn on their bodies, each crimson

character against the humanity. Brother is
gone. Now, they hold us by our tails of silk,
by the red of our pupils. Here is a crucifix, history
nailed and left for dead. The past taught by the noose.

And a hundred years ago this crater was a river.
And a month ago, father had faced the wall, that
brute body of a traitor-deity, and was closed
by his tongue. Two village men brought their guns

to his skull, skin taut like an animal-hide drum,
unfurled their wicked Spring. Two men held
their own bodies like infants, swaddled their
violence, wrapped it in revolution.




I am calling you godlike out of necessity:
honed letters carved from graphite,

                    oiled with white eyes, a twisted flightpath
                    across an empty sea. Mā asks me

to write the word again, to invite shame.
She watches as I fail, wringing out the

                    wrong turn, hammering the wrong nail in this
                    still-warm coffin. No one knows what

we are etching onto our skins, what
foreign symbol has bleached, acid-marred,

                    our yellow hands. Again, again.
                    She is lucky because she

can sputter out ash from her lungs, can make out
some sharp white noise in this endless static.

                    Amah is not so lucky, her wrinkled mouth
                    and ears sealed to the sound of the gun-faced

god, to the bared teeth of this country.
Broken oracle bones. How to face a

                    nation and its ruptured throat.
                    Again, until you get right. Mā believes

cracked teeth is the key to assimilation.
Shattered glass and house fire, we weaponize our

                    cavities, each crater another missing
                    word, another missing fingerprint. Remember

this portrait: a son and his open silhouette
folded over a godless emblem, held on the

                    sharpened edge of a new homeland.
                    I am calling you godlike out of necessity:

this language like a hand-painted grenade.
Again, again, again, again, again, again, ag–



Daniel Liu (he/him) is a Chinese American writer and director of INKSOUNDS, an online interdisciplinary arts gallery. He was a 2021 COUNTERCLOCK Arts Collective Fellow, and his work has appeared in Kissing Dynamite, National Poetry Quarterly, Hobart After Dark, and elsewhere. His chapbook, COMRADE, is forthcoming from fifth wheel press. You can find out more about him at daniel-liu.carrd.co