My Brother Teaches Me How to Sharpen the Knife

jessica xu

I wear the days like fabric. I watch
them stretch across my shoulder. Mother says
I’ve outgrown smaller dreams, the treehouse
& its imagined magic. I find a doe, give it
my name. I stay close to every pockmarked
surface of land, find water-soaked stones & confuse
its sheen for unmarked gold. I could stay godly.
Childlike & unsheathed. Soft & moon-heavy.
Between the river valley & the shifting sky,
with my thumbs pressed against every scattering
of light, the heat like a boil I trap under glass jars
& old crates.

Mother, I can hear the grooves in my voice,
the way it curves & dampens deeper. The way
a boy muscles out of a boy, the way the sky
learns how to bruise & bleed. & so my brother
teaches me how to sharpen the knife, how to open
the rabbit. & so I sinew the shape of my hand
into vein & knuckle. The river crumples
& recrumples silk water, imitates the sound
of everything it drowns. Tonight, the bonfire
feeds on the rabbit & its bones, curls its smoke
into a crueler grin. My brother tracks the doe
within the brambles, teaches me to turn archer
for everything I love.


JESSICA XU is a high school junior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She has been honored by the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, National Poetry Quarterly, the Poetry Society of the UK, and others. Her work can be found in The Ellis Review, Sooth Swarm Journal, The Apprentice Writer, and elsewhere. She edits for Siblini Journal and The McKinley Review and reads for Bitter Melon Magazine.