Amy Zhou

The Soundless

Back home, we tear softness from the earth,
but we never dig too deep.
           The soil is full of waiting teeth, deep
           under years and tides and light.
When we left the city, it was still alight.
Smoldering under white sky until we spread
           ourselves thin into embers, spread
           our palms open to beg.
Knees folded into our chests, heads begging
for air. The bomb crater: silver
           in splinters and ash. Silver
           rust rolling down bent backs
like tides. Our yells unraveled. Our knuckles cut like coins. Her back
heavy on mine, gunpowder on our teeth. In our gutted city,
           only dust stays the same. We watch the city,
           bodies sharpening like blades, eyes like soundless
thieves. Hungry to steal the night back from soundless
missiles that fly over us like gods.
           Let your hands fall from your eyes. We will find our gods
           back home, where we tear softness from the earth.



Before We Walked on Yellow Silt

We came to eat,
but we broke ourselves
on the banks instead.

There, boy, cast your net.
A fish still swims in the yellow
silt, darting frantically with fins
instead of teeth.

We stand on edges of crooked ankles
on this dry boat, weight on paper joints
that travelled farther than we. Our boat
stopped long ago, when the engine
stopped running on dust
and started running
on our dreams.

Oil leaked
into the river, but then again,
so did we. Spilling yellow
into riverbed, wet with leaves.

Come, boy, reel in
your net, fresh with tides
and silver, flopping gills, heavy
with open mouths sputtering
sand. Sputtering words
stuck in our pearled throats,
flopping in nets that catch
our tongues. We cannot speak.

A boy curls his fingers so gently
           before his trigger blows pretty iron
kisses into a tiger’s temples. It curls
           into itself before its teeth flutter
closed and jaws lock open, pride
           caught somewhere between
throat and chest. Even golden claws rust
           in this misplaced heaven.

Well, it is an old story.
           There was a time when the sight
would have stopped a world. Look, girl,
           tiger spilling yellow into the river.
Eyes puddle with stars and skies
           and the only lies a boy has told.
Stripes sink into riverbed
           as he drifts down grainy
summer tides.

A fisherman reels in his net, heavy with silver
           gills and fins and open mouths
sputtering sand. Here, the naked tiger lies
           pooled in a pile of yellow and trembling
mud. The fisherman spits out a cigarette, bone
           of a paper beast. Another legend,
wet and cold. It is the hunt
           that a boy wanted.



Amy Zhou is an aspiring high school writer at The College Preparatory School in California. She has been recognized for her writing by The New York Times, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and Hollins University. An alumna of Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, she serves as the Editor-in-Chief for her school's newspaper, The Radar, and literary publication, The Steele. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Diode Poetry Journal, PANK Magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly, among others.