Tainan Nocturne

Already the river

elides its distance, bruised


as blackened sinews thinning

at the banks’ vanishing point,


where the horizon cuts

a white vertex.


Ye Ye might die tonight,

but I’m more troubled


by the mosquitoes leaving

flat red stones on the back


of my neck, by the family

whose bus blew up


in Xinhua street & killed

all four of them. Afterward


the vehicle’s metal skeleton

peeled apart


like the immolating black wings

of a moth: a gambit,


I assume, all travelers take.

What is the risk


of carrying something foreign

within you, the neon-


shot Hiragana & Roman characters,

proxy rivers where the living


contest the dead, contest dying

& the lighthouse eye slices


a white razor through the ocean


as if to contest its nativity—

I admit, I lack the courage


to resolve myself. Why else

let these helpless hands


pick at the wooden balustrade

while one dim street over


in the building behind me,

the night is falling


on my grandfather’s life.

All the mosquitoes I’ve killed


sink into clouds of algae


& beer glasses, they tug

against the river rock,


some difficult grammar. 菡馨,

the dead are more virtuous than us,


slackened jaws divulging

soil & tooth. Every soft nothingness.


Across blood and land:

a consciousness is not a place of stasis


but rather the travel

from being to non-being.


No different than the last foreign

light pinned to my face.



Emily Liu is a senior at Neuqua Valley High School. They have been recognized by the National Young Arts Foundation, Frontier Award for New Poets, International Hippocrates Young Poets Prize, Poetry Society UK, PICMA Competition for Emerging Writers, and Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, among others. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry, DIALOGIST, The Phoenix, and more.