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EMPATHY! by Janice Kang

X MARKS THE SPOT. your larynx and syntax are open-winded, words flitting downwards like a map ever-expanding. here is the way to diamond treasure, to sparrow bones and mud. and thus these words are splintered halfway through: cherubic and chthonic — the diary of a child with a knife down their warm pulse. for, in an inventory of dreams, there is no spare air which you can hold in your palms.

SHE REACHES THE X. she takes the other half. grey neutrality, she dons a grey turtleneck and sits among lone wolf sighs, wading in strange breaths. she cannot speak. she is the penumbra of what you cut free in 2016, sun soaked.

you smile against winds. the maiden in velvet pats along the bow around your torso, holding together all of your organs like a corset. you must conform, she seems to say, but hazes lull over you, incohesive fragments. your smile is warm, her hands traversing your body map of thorns and whimsies asunder to the way your lashes point downwards. naught of you can be whole . . . in tonight’s dream, you are a ballerina breaking your toes for the first time. when you wake, you are feral nerve damage. you think: trauma conceives something strange. you think: it stains your teeth and dances to eulogies in minor chords.

in another dream, cast in the in-betweens, for you are never fully awake, you are watching a performance, and the maiden leads you into a dark corridor. it turns into a blue field. you remember a piece of something. a bee kills itself on your skin. you wake up and scream, paralyzed like vitrification has overcome the bout of you.

YOU CHASE AFTER HER. the maiden covers you in papercuts made up of love. honey-naught and honey-rot. it is morning. she finds you tucked under your soft wood table, a camerashutter going off in tandem with the rain showers and your breaths. her gaze is light upon your bowed crown, blue and quiet. you never turn off your computer, because there is an itch wholly interlaced in the dip of your chest. i feel that — but she is gone. you await the next moonrise. a friend tries to speak to you from outside the inventory, faces covered by sheer drapes. rulers of the sun and moon, they say, you think, you fall asleep on the tiles. you have created a kingdom where the trauma brews, a malediction inside your throat. it seems that you must have taken someone’s poisoned apple for your own.

SHE CONFESSES TO YOU WITH HER NOSE ON YOUR SHOULDER, THAT YOU ARE ONE. that i am you. it is her fingers that glue your eyes together so that you are always asleep. so that you are always filled with rotten cigars in alleys, laughter stuck inside your larynx — someone else’s, full and acoustic. she wants the rest of your diamond treasures, though she is but the fig skin against your heels. you chase yourself in circles, compeers and giggling comrades within one soft body, one slipping from a torn viscera. you are out of breath.

when you stare at yourself in the mirror, there is drip-drop agony, but she holds you close and mouths that she is sorry.

WE COEXIST. there is so much space between my arms and sides. i think that there are violent couplet galaxies trying to wrap around my indigo bones, colliding only because she tells them to. i want to put my computer to deep sleep tonight, for this empty epiphany is so dear to my open heart. i hold hands with myself and lay to rest against the dents in my walls. i glue my lashes into one. i wish to be so one that i cannot taste the remnants of anger and aches — so that my dreams are my own, not a labwork of wide-eyed empaths making me blue with windpipe lacks.

(i wake up without a voice.)

X MARKS THE SPOT. SHE REACHES THE X. YOU CHASE AFTER HER. SHE CONFESSES TO YOU WITH HER NOSE ON YOUR SHOULDER, THAT YOU ARE ONE. WE COEXIST

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