Analysis of Light

Grace Q. Song

Originally published in Up the Staircase Quarterly

Coney Island, New York


When our thighs are slick with saltwater

we slip on flip flops and mercy. She runs


toward the blinking fair, only sixteen

and skinny. I watch the lights devour her


in sharp angles. Neon never lies, but I can’t

remember her body, the one she shed


last winter. I don’t tell her this. Too much

holds us inescapable, like an iron night.


Half a ferris wheel later, we sway

in this strange anchor, each capsule


a lone, red cell. I pop the top

of my Bud Light and drink


glass shards stuck in my throat. I’m sorry

I love in dishonest ways, told myself


I’d love her more in the dark. I was wrong

about the time I thought she’d die


the time she closed her eyes and fell—

head hitting the edge of the bathtub. Listen.


Full moons lead baby sea turtles back home

but a car, bright as a city, snaps their spine in two.


Like them, we’ll die with our eyes glowing

in hunger or bone-white confusion.

Self-Portrait as a Studio Ghibli Soundtrack

Grace Q. Song

Originally published in Boxcar Poetry Review

after Joe Hisaishi


At the train station, I promise to tell her the truth:

that I’ll never be the rain after a wildfire


or a summer heavy with honeycombs.

In my dreams, ivory wolves slip among us,


and a copper sun devours long grass.

On the side of the mountain where the light


never touches, trees whittle the wind hollow.

A gun blooms from my mouth


aimed at my ugly, beautiful sister.

How do I tell her about my canyon-carved spine,


this heart: a terrible sforzando. That wolves

hunt their prey into dawn’s final drum.


All my life, I’ve chased after poems I’ve loved and hated

and every single one that ran away.


Now I capture our war, the notes red

and slick in my hands, a silver line rising


from the oboe. The train slows. Between us: a platform

or a symphony. A chord breaks loose,


and I know how this ends: my soldier-boy words

marching over the cliff, smoke and iron surging


against a horn. My sister—gone,

the song thrumming away, leaving nothing


but deer roaming through the forest.

Duplex: Leftover Man

Grace Q. Song

Originally published in Rust & Moth

The dead found their way into his fists. 

At night, he held the knife in one hand. 


       He held the chicken breast in the other. 

       I wanted to touch his hard shoes, hard belt, hard wrists. 


He made harder demands, so I never touched him. 

When he played Clair de Lune, I gnawed the song to the bone. 


       Thunder fell like a song and bruised my bones blue, 

       minor chords scattering like horses. 


Dinner scattered across the table, dressed in white. 

I feasted on rice and spring rolls, pork, duck, crab. 


       I feasted like a king—a granddaughter. 

       He never crumbled. He ate my leftovers, 


the crumbs, then he washed the moon away. 

The dead found their way into his fists.


Grace Q. Song

Originally published in Sundog Lit

That summer I fled from polite houses, away from two-car driveways and lawns, straight as teeth. With a bag of pomegranates, I drove out east, toward the splitting tail of the island, the place I believed had been carved open and pulled apart by the mouth of a fish hook. Water scattered onto the shore, peeled back to seaweed, black as nets, and clam shells, brittled by salt. Clouds bloomed into crosshatches. The sky had no memory of storms. I broke a pomegranate in half and ate the red beads, my fingernails darkening under a sloping sun. When I plucked the fruit empty, I had hollowed it into a shape so strange, with so many holes, that it seemed almost alien—the same way this scene would twist into a tube snaking up my arm like a vein, my body drugged, a white space on the x-ray, an ocean in my lung I’d come to hate.

GRACE Q. SONG is a writer residing in New York. Her poetry and fiction have been published or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Passages North, Waxwing, The Journal, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She tweets @grasoceng.