“Murder Ballad” by Ailin Cao

1.
your skull is a subway tunnel –
all your friends
rattle through
ear to ear – they
seldom rest.

i didn’t want to wait
for your teeth
to drop
like baby shoes. i didn’t want
to wait. i befriended you

and named each complaint
with a pickaxe clink –
nail to
clockglass.

2.
and so we walk the iron
now, and so we sleep in emptied
hollows –

we thin
the light like soup and feed the fug,
hopscotch the ribs
and have no need for
attire or articulation, we
scavenge –

the lanterns

along the bridges,
the widow’s coin, the
rattle, dropped
in the crevasse. the cradle,
creaking,
the scattering of ribbons.

3.
and when we rest, mercury is tipped
from the thermos – it ebbs – it cries itself a dozen baby moons –
now orange with sodium
light – now silver
in your
ear.

your skull is a
hollow nest, my friend –
we sip, we sweat, we
seldom rest.

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