“No, vertigo is something other than the fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” —Milan Kundera

When it is dark / I imagine the world is erasing my body / one bone at a time / like ashes /
spreading in the river / When it is light / I pretend I can swallow sharks / twisters inside
an open cage / My mother says / there is no use being alive / without a body / I say being
alive / makes me want to burn / down a city / skeletons collapsed by light / clouds rushing
ahead like / runaway trains / When I tried to die / the windows bared their teeth / because
that night / our ancestors / escaped their lanterns / to remind us of the sky / how we see it
as an ending / a mouth that never opens / so we left our incense sticks / in the cracks of
the road / smoke rising / like a slow dance / between our steps / spines / hollowed into
rain sticks / That is how we know / we are alone / everything burning / inside of us / like
an old bookstore / trying to hold on / to everyone else’s story / before its own / my father
/ sweeping the fruit basket / off the counter / to make room / for my mother’s heaving
body / slickened in moonlight / & in the old days / when we used to be alive / I sold my
loose tooth / for a nickel / they say never hold on / to the things that try and escape you /
It’s how we learn / to fend for ourselves / a bird’s body stiffened by wire / abandoned by
its own flock / So, god / please tell me there are more / than five stages / of grief / tell me
/ there are people / who raise their fists / for something other / than war / like my mother /
in the garden / scraping dew / with her knees / fists / knifed open / to touch the light /
because I am tired / of cutting my hair / after every heartbreak / cutting my thighs / for
every / opened vessel / because when the hurricane hit / my body swallowed everything /
the fluency of water / the vacancy of glass / Here / I am tired / of being powerless


Helli Fang is an undergraduate student at Bard College. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Blueshift Journal, Wildness, Alexandria Quarterly, and more, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Columbia College of Chicago, and Bennington College. She has also attended the Iowa Young Writer’s Workshop. When Helli is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin and climbing trees.