Photo: "Finding Myself" by Lynne Schmidt
lullaby, after the dark side
my palms still remember
the bridge-railings of every playground structure,
how to find the pockets of eternity
dug into transition-phase. heartbeats here
flutter skin-thin as eggshell membrane
clinging to the concave curve of your mouth.
the countdown till the next time i saw you
went a little like this: window screen, creaking frame,
shingles dull in the streetlamp light.
you used to shy under the roof at the sight of me
like a child nightmare-struck
until i promised i wasn’t running
away. in your shadow
the boneyard of the sidewalk
young tree skeletons spaced even between
the bird bodies entombed in the snow.
i wanted to tell you
i haven’t seen you smile like that
in years. wanted to apologize
for not looking. for how i spun you divine
into swanglide grace & moonsilk cloak,
dreamed you floating, glowing,
prayed away a name all soft & featherdown
last night, cracked it open
into sliptongue springtime rain
dimming the sheen of cradled snow.
said forgive me until the words
whittled themselves down to stoneshard splinter,
over & over, the whisper of eavesdropper wings
asking if that was what i wanted
carved on my gravestone one day. desire
comes in shades of white light,
honest & merciless. instead of submission
i watch you play voyeur
to everyone else’s heartbreak
before your own.
summer is spent salting the roads
with the ghost-boned aftertaste
of failure, preparing
for next year’s iceslick. it’s a way of saying
you’ll still be around by then.
you tell me about the birds
you reburied in moonwash
after last year’s thaw, your glow
painted across shadow
& stillness. in certain lights
this could be a tragedy. in others
it’s only a child’s love. in moonlight
it was never anything at all.
~ Quinn Lui
later, i’ll smash my phone screen & we’ll almost miss our train
but for now we go grocery shopping & manage not to get lost
on a day so hot the mirages curl off the street & halo us all
in smoky light. when we get back i finish half a box of cereal
in one sitting & all anyone says is well, guess we should
get more of that. i plait tiny braids in brown-black hair. slip
tiny flowers into them. fingers trace the line of a double rainbow
as it loops through the clouds: this was meant to happen,
don’t you see? disney music plays on repeat in the furnace-heat
of an airless room & we have movie nights with all of us
tucked onto the same sagging futon, sweat-slick vinyl sucking
at bare skin. would you walk away from someone you loved
if it meant you both could live forever? & maybe my old answer
would have been yes. but now love is two a.m. texts saying
i can see your lights on, go to sleep. two p.m. texts saying come over,
we’re all napping together. sitting cross-legged on a desk
because there’s no space anywhere else & what’s your deepest
darkest secret? love is how i don’t even think of not answering.
how we go grocery shopping with a wheeled suitcase so that
no one’s arms get too tired. on the way i pick so many wildflowers
i start making you hold them for me. there’s a picnic table outside
the store & there i weave daisies & maidenstears into long chains
before we head inside, crowned the royal court of the frozen-food aisle
in a city we only freshly named home. for now our faces are all
still kissed by firelight. i was a little bit scared of you at first but now
i don’t even remember why. love is holding hands on the subway
so we don’t get separated. sharing plates in chinatown. sharing
clothes that fit inexplicably. sharing clothes that don’t fit at all.
buying postcards for the people who couldn’t come along. buying
double, because what a small cost for a little more joy. we find a garden
where the asters are thick with bumblebees & in the half-light
everything looks as soft as they do. love is look at you, you’re
golden. a sunshine-smile, hands framing the world, the moment
cast rich as maple by summer-heavy air. losing track of money owed
by accident. losing track on purpose. there’s something ageless
about this gold-blushed way of living. how i know all this will dim
as it recedes into memory, but never quite fade completely.
the night before we left, the curfew lifted for the only time
all month, but we all stayed right here & called it home
until the last moment it was ours.
~ Quinn Lui
~ Quinn Lui
Quinn Lui is a Chinese-Canadian student whose work has appeared in Occulum, Synaesthesia Magazine, Half Mystic, and elsewhere. They are the author of the micro-chapbook teething season for new skin (L’Éphémère Review, 2018) and can easily be bribed by soup dumplings or pictures of bees. You can find them @flowercryptid on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, or wherever the moon is brightest.
Lynne Schmidt is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press), On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West Publishing, Spring 2020), and Dead Dog Poems (Bottlecap Press, Summer 2020). She is a mental health professional in Maine and the founder of AbortionChat. Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor's Choice Award, Honorable Mention for the Charles Bukowski Poetry Award, and was a 2018 and 2019 PNWA finalist for memoir and poetry respectively.
Lynne is a five time 2019 Best of the Net Nominee, and when given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.