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Silk Bridle

I reached for my sword

and found it lying in a day’s worth

of sand.



Every morning, steam blossoms from your mouth

when you sing. I am finished with anger

you tell me—your eyes, two black stones


in a puddle of milk.

You reveal yourself story

by story.


When you finish telling me

each one, you pull a finger, covered

in chili powder, out of my throat.



I am finished with anger, you tell me.

Before dinner, I wash my face in your palms:

basil and mint.


When you asked me to go it was already

Spring. Your grandfather’s jacket slumped

on a chair in the living room.


I swear, your shadow looks at me

when you go quiet—a fish in black water.

When I’m restless, I shadowbox.



One night, you pointed to the sky

and asked if you could draw me

a moon.


I am finished with anger, you tell me.

I take a sip of red wine and press my lips

against your stomach. I swear.



Red flowers on the piano start to shake

with laughter. My horse darts into the night—

a bright red wound on its hind leg.


You ask what I am looking for

in your hands. I tell you, you know

damn well.


Like a country that was powerful

long ago, you do not stand up

or look away.



Once, when your king was drunk,

you stole his robe off his back. Now,

you wear it only when you are alone.


Nightingale. Sovereign.

Your horse grazes

from its own shadow.



You straddle me on the bed,

apply vaseline to my lips

with your index finger.


Cracked hoof. Blood kiss.

You stroke my chin, open my mouth

like a wound. I throw


my head back.

You pull a sword out of me

like a promise.

Simon Shieh is the editor in chief of Spittoon Literary Magazine--a Beijing-based bilingual journal for writers in Asia--and the Beijing Youth Literary Review. His poetry appears in Kartika Review, the Aztec Literary Review, and Yueyang Poetry 2016.

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