TWO POEMS by Carlina Duan

/ / Issue 16, Poetry, Uncategorized


my lips weren’t chapped. the candles: unburned.
what if they’d stayed like that all year: whole, slender
sticks, separate & shy. what if the ants didn’t
run in slow lines across the table, didn’t crush
to dark soot beneath a stray thumb. 
if I hadn’t touched the cake: unghost
the icing slipping through a fork. if I’d crammed
sugar into a plastic box instead. if I’d gone to bed 
on time, if I’d showered, if I’d combed
through each strand of my wet & blackest hair. 
would I have seen what I saw that night? 
across my phone screen, those grains of salt 
& rosemary rubbed into the roast chicken? 
your hands and her hands curled
across the knife? slash, slash. cut
me up. if I hadn’t known you or that year
we plucked apples from the branch, I 
would’ve laughed. chicken thigh 
on a blue plate in the kitchen I’d once 
loved you in. the candles lit. your hands
and her hands. flashing knife. and ants.
damn, those ants. scuttling beneath.
black as bolts. craving whatever: grease,
the hurry of lips over skin. 
a single, stupid crumb.  



respect me. you slim,
slimy insect I try to trap
first with a jar, but you
glint, real sly, then slide
beneath the ratty blue
rug. you slinky spasm.
you thousand-leg. 
make me squirm
‘til I grab the lavender
spray, lift the rug,
then spray a ferocious
cloud for minutes,
wetting your antennae
to the linoleum floor.
still, you live. 
body bigger than
a nickel, pointed
like a stick of lead,
stuck beneath my
glare. Just use
your clog, my sister
texts, yet something
about your whip-
thin body I cannot

once, in a public park, I watched
the man I loved pare a fuji apple
with a knife. skins curled and fell,
lazy ribbons onto a lap. months 
later, I stood at the intersection
where green trees erupted 
& the park began, grief in me
whirring like a pest. o, old 
love. I cannot smush you 
with a shoe or douse
you in a clean scent. try to
violence you out yet still, 
you stay. a silverfish atop
my bathroom floor, shiny as
scrap metal. pulsing with
the dust, & stuck.