There are few spaces she feels safe: an untrimmed meadow, where she can fall from a branch and land on her feet. A bedroom’s shadow, warm with the window open. A train nods off in the direction of elsewhere. She thinks of hotels she’s inhabited: the tin-roof house in Minca. Mosquito net spilled over her face, morning aria of roosters and cicadas. The purple room in Paris. Eggplant wallpaper. Flies fluttering at her toes. It was autumn; the Pope was visiting. His face followed her through the city. Skylights and satellites stuttered. Most of the cities she’s walked dry up into empty wells. How to reconcile: an outstretched arm recoiling back. The indecisive longing of all seasons. There are gestures too impossible to crave. Horizons made of brick. Too many ways to cook an egg. She wants to steam it, but she’s missing the scallions. She wants to stir it, but she’s missing the ladle.
A headless fly lusts
for something unspeakable:
its own missing head.
Sally Wen Mao is the author of Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014). She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Kundiman, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Hedgebrook, and Vermont Studio Center. Her work is published or forthcoming in Poetry, A Public Space, Tin House, Black Warrior Review, The Missouri Review, and Best American Poetry 2013, among others. She was the 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence at the National University of Singapore and is the 2016-2017 fellow at Dorothy B. Cullman Center at the New York Public Library.