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On Mornings
Michelle Li

Before they die mornings taste like mint toothpaste. 

I had been asleep before, safe from sad news, 

rocking myself dead by the sink. 

The splintering of smoldering water 

snapping like guitar strings in the marble bathtub 

& autumn’s peach light through the slant of patterned window 

tug my eyelids open, pink and thinning like rice paper. 

News from the radio downstairs and the metallic clank of oven plates. 

A male voice: the earthquake in Afghanistan 

and Israeli soldiers in Gaza. 

Over a thousand dead, he says. But first, Trump’s plans for 2024… 

My feet are cold. I am sorry. 

I let the water run and a tiny voice inside me goes on 

and on & on, narrating the color/texture of the sky/ 

the strands/location of hair on the tile floor/the scent of warm garlic bread. 

I cherry-pick the ripest words, their insides fresh with tangy pulp, 

pluck them from my brain stem, trace them in the palm of my hand. 

I tell myself I can write this goddamn poem. 

The water is running and draws up in white wisps & 

I look into the sweating mirror and by habit, tell myself to stay alive today, 

forgetting what I think of the sky, the hair, the bread, 

and no, I suddenly cannot write the goddamn poem anymore. 

Ridiculous how depression takes the place of beautiful thought. 

At least I have the dog-eyed faith of God. 

I’m telling you, love is almost religion, and writing is love. 

I remember begging him for a talent and he handed me a life 

And I took it as a sign. 

Whatever. I will not forget next time. 

Downstairs, an ad on Pantene shampoo. 

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