17 and already dying

Kyrsten Su | Art by Olive Li, Maya Swaminathan

I wake to a figure looming overhead. Be not afraid. A bird skull the size of a horse’s head sits atop a man’s shoulders and stares back at me. I do not fear. I recognize the twin moles on his forearm and his yellow-green irises under dark eyelashes. I remember the girlish feeling: hummingbird heartbeats and soft lips in the soft glow of midnight streetlights and I beckon him closer. I am not afraid. In the dark we embrace; and the grooves of the expiration dates on our chests fit perfectly together; 17 and already dying.

Mushrooms like flesh in the dirt line the trail to Eden. We live and die in a cemetery of wildfire-ravished tree trunks, branded with I WAS HERE’s by pale little creatures chest-beating and hollering just to hear the echo. My small voice sounds tinny among them. Is anyone there? Anyone there? There? Black is the sky above and the soil below. In between: a flash of lunar light, reflected in my eyes. There.

In a copse of redwood trees my corpse lays, wishing the Earth Mother was mine. The fallen branches, half rotten-soft, half canine teeth, blanket the weight of all I could’ve been and all I once was. A girl is a fig tree is a girl. When I was alive I drank potential like sweet milk; belly full of possibility, I chased like a rabid dog on a trail because even then, I knew the meek would inherit nothing. Do I deserve it?

                                                                                                                    Well, do I want it?