ma crossing the sea sightless,

bare body braiding mannequin to family

heirloom. she soft boils her tears

into the red of her qipao

suctioning her breath, her

grandmother’s jade boning her wrists

into cold moonlight. when she unbuttoned

the red of a country against a god

in revolution i dream her hands

calloused into boats, her dreams

marooning her arms into prayer dance

the way fire simpers before it fans

away flame, light echoing shadow.

twenty years in america and she

drags her english against the

confessions; on my eighth birthday

she pushes me into the altar

of god’s house, wishes me salvation

dripping holiness from priests

who taste the unripe syllables

of countries recessive to sin, who

blind themselves to fault yet

gouge their body on the willingness

to fatten during the fast. they teach

me how to calligraphy god’s

epochs, teach me fire from flint

from god from heaven from a body

in thirst so long as its worshippers

prayed to it. i finish sloppy fire

characters and see a woman waving

her arms in plea, a funeral dance;

the next week ma walks me

to children’s bible study; outside church

all the unasked answers

stammering in her broken english:

here is a country that wants

you; here is a church that loves you; here

is a people who see you the way they

could never see me. i am still learning

the language of longing,

elegizing god as loss.


Serrina Zou is a high school student at Basis Independent Silicon Valley in San Jose, California, and a 2019 California Arts Scholar in Creative Writing. Her poetry and prose have been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Just Poetry!!!, the Asian Pacific Fund, and the Bay Area Book Festival. Her work appears or is forthcoming in the National Poetry Quarterly, In Parentheses, The Rising Phoenix Review, Bitter Melon Magazine, Manuscription Magazine, The Battering Ram Literary Journal, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. When she is not writing poetry, she is either catnapping or avidly devouring novels.