The Lotus Riverside

by Hannah Miao

Misery is a rupture, the wise woman says.
She points to the rice-sifters,
the clawfoot grandmothers with

oil in their teeth, before settling on the tart
bodegas where the farm boys sit to gossip
like a clutch of geese, far away from

the ruler-studded palms of their
fathers. In this village, the silence
roars like a maelstroma chokehold

upon the throat. I wait, but there is no match
to light the cocktail of my words. Absently,
my mouth curls in on itself like dragonfly

wings in summer, the syllables churning
like aged honey on my breath. In this
radio stillness, we wait to be let in.

When my mother returns to the
country she calls home, she
becomes a wicker boat ready to 

set sail, her nets filching gossip
and prawns from the women
nested in sanctified opera parlors.

For a cup of coffee, these parlors will
be polished and scrubbed by the
cracking knees of unmarried mothers,

their ankles bending to their masters’
rhythm. On the last day, I saw a dog
shot down, muzzle streaming factory

fuel. Perhaps misery itself does not create
the fissure, perhaps it is the way the
architect breathes out her

foundations, so that sometimes
there is nothing to do but
watch the temples collapse.


Author Biography: Hannah Miao is a student at Hamilton High School in
Arizona. Her writing has been recognized by Princeton University’s Milberg
Prize and Hollins University’s Nancy Thorp Prize. She was a semifinalist for
the National Student Poets Program, and has been published in the Noisy
Island and Cargoes.

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