all month long

I was lonely. I

disinfected the

sink. I spoke

to boys in orange

jumpsuits who

were not allowed

to shake my hand.

for Halloween, I

brought in milk

chocolate bars

and the security

guard told them

One You can only

have one until a

boy unclipped his

mouth and said

Okay okay We

get it already

We’re in jail

and the chocolate

flashed quickly

on their thick


all month long

they asked me

who I was, what

was I doing. I

drew curly letters

on a board and

passed out

pencils. their

eyes hit

the ceiling,

they said No

No We don’t write—

then wrote about

matchsticks and

daughters, wrote

about roofs

and car tires

and sticky sugar

in cinnamon rolls.

they wrote, and

thru the doors,

in came their

old loves, wearing

jeans and red

sneakers, in

came bedframes,

sports magazines,

nail clippers.

in came brothers,

the feeling of

arm hair against

arm hair and

baby’s wrists,

fire, Drake lyrics,

cups of ice cream,

dizzy spins in the

front seat of

a black car.

and in came

my ghosts,

too: pattering

into the room

with mouths

open, dodging

our hard glares,

arms sagging

with all that

had flocked

and gone.

the boys said

We don’t write,

the room filled

and filled.

by the time

I left, the tables

teemed with

a million

basketballs, wisps

of candy, threads

of lightning, loss,

they scribbled

on tall sheets

with their

pencils. they

did not cry.


they blazed

the old ghosts

off of everything.

Carlina Duan hails from Michigan, and currently lives in Malaysia. She has work published in Berkeley Poetry Review, Bodega, The Margins, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection, I Wore My Blackest Hair, is forthcoming from Little A in 2017.