by Jenny Wu
Art by Catherine Hwu
Issue: Serein (Summer 2016)

I had forgotten
that skipped rocks sink to the bottom of the ocean;
that even oceans, stretching farther than I can see,
can get hurt.
I hadn’t even bothered to realize
until the same rocks
had been thrown at me
how terribly I must have hurt the ocean,
though the water was always clear
and the surface always glistened
like shards of a broken mirror under the sun
and I forgot that even in clear water,
when it’s deep enough,
it’s nearly impossible to see.

Now I don’t watch for how many skips I can get.
I watch for the ripples as the rock inevitably falls in.
I shape my rocks
smaller, smoother, thinner,
more like paper,
dissolving like nothingness into the water.

They clog up my throat now.
Gradually, over time, before I had even noticed,
there was a giant rock of pebbles
I was trying to swallow.
            Or you could just spit the rock out.
I can’t.
I can’t.
I can’t
spit the rock out.
Even pebbles will sink to the bottom of the ocean.

I am heavy with the rocks
I chose to carry with me.
I am heavy but at least I know
these rocks are mine.
I carved their ridges.
I smoothed their spines.
I am so heavy with rocks
but I remember
so is the ocean.
I will be heavy so that
one day, when someone finds
the bottom of the ocean—
the real ocean, miles away from
anything but ocean—
he’ll discover more than just
mounds and mounds of
ugly rock.

When I wasn’t careful, rocks
slipped out.
            I know you have more than just these pebbles to offer.
I don’t know.

I turned the rock,
the pebble—whatever
it was—
over and over
and felt its weight
outside of me, for once,
until it began to feel like
it couldn’t possibly
harm anyone.

I had forgotten
that the lump in my throat need not be swallowed;
that once upon a time, I had done something else with it.
            Yes, and you can do it again.
I can’t.
I can’t.
I can’t
do it again.

I remember
the rocks you gave me—
            They didn’t hurt—
They didn’t all hurt—
            And they don’t have to—
I always thought
that inevitably, they would—
            Don’t we all
            at one time find rocks
            to be the worst part of ourselves?

Even you?
            My rocks are the boulders and stones and pebbles and sand.
            They are in no way inherently good
            yet not inherently bad.
            We keep more
            than just the rocks
            that hurt us. We are more
            than just

A person sits crying, with arms and legs tucked in. A shattered and jagged mosaic of words like "dumb," worthless," and "stupid" surround the person.