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2020 Poetry

Gavin Yuan Gao

ALYSSUM, HONED

The dream where your mother made you practice
the oboe all winter until your blood hymned mercy
was the same one in which you learned to disown
the snow. Sure, this was years after the burial. Long
after that whisper in the dark had unlaced her body
like gauze, & you’d swallowed every mirror in town
just to feel clarity like music through your bones. But imagine,
for a moment, the sorrow of salt. Its papery flutter against
the tip of your nose like the embers of a long forgotten
song. The one your mother hummed as she drew
from the soft cave of her throat the thin shard of glass
she’d honed her voice on. Imagine the snow in her arms
like a bouquet of sweet alyssum as she walked down
to the water. Imagine her freedom as the river—quivering
silver under the moon’s lips—stepping inside her, too.


Gavin Yuan Gao holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from The University of Michigan. His poetry has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes and was recently shortlisted for the 2019 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, The Cincinnati Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Journal, Nashville Review, Hobart, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere.