YOU SAY I LOOK HAPPY

Aimee Seu

              of the royal blue lagoon of my bed. 

                                                 Wide ashen meadows of Friday nights I somehow crossed

bare feet stripped raw on that heather. Dawn was the tug of stitches in my mute flesh. I was 

                                a badland—heart like that predictable singular cow skull, dry wind whistling 

              through the eye-holes and jagged snout. 


                 To no avail I implored anything but the kitchen knife

                                  to gleam. Each lace panty was a coffin I threw in the sea. 

                                           How the lavender pale 

              eyeshadow and blood-colored blush dusted away 

                                  among imploded letters of half truths

                                                  and truce. 

                                                                           See, I caught your love like a ricochet bullet 

just when I thought I was safe, pouting violently like the bad boyfriends in movies,

              regretful and spoiled. But without even ambition enough to show up 

to your new valentine’s house all leather jacket and switchblade,

                                  without the energy to punch holes through drywall. 

                 My red lipstick stood on the bureau uncapped that year 

a zoo animal chewing its cud, a small giant 

tiger left in its cage at the end of the world. 


                                                             While we were apart, in the shower it was acceptable 

                                  to say your name into the clatter. To hide my face as the train car 

barreled out of underground darkness and became a capsule of light.

                                  For my mouth to fill with venom 

                  if anyone bothered kissing me. 


                                                                                                                             And when 

                                                                               my niece and I walked through the park, early June 

                                  swinging our clasped hands, she hummed that certain childhood ballad 

                  which coasts into dreaming: If I . . know you . . . I know .  . . 

                                                                what you’ll do . . . she stopped suddenly  

                                                and asked where you were. I looked around—each insect lit gold 

                  by the falling sun was a word I used to hold inside me.

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Aimee Seu is the author of Velvet Hounds, winner of The Akron Poetry Prize. She graduated from the University of Virginia Creative Writing MFA Poetry Program in 2020 as a Poe/Faulkner Fellow where she was recipient of the 2019 Academy of American Poets Prize. Other awards she’s received include the 2020 Los Angeles Review Poetry Award, the 2020 Henfield Prize for Fiction, the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize at Temple University, the Temple University 2016 William Van Wert Award, and the Mills College Undergraduate Poetry Award. She was a semifinalist in the 2019 New Guard Vol. IX Knightville Poetry Contest judged by Richard Blanco and a finalist for the 2020 Black Warrior Poetry Prize judged by Paul Tran. Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared or have forthcoming publications in Ninth Letter, Pleiades, Los Angeles Review, BOAAT, Redivider, Raleigh Review, Diode, Minnesota Review, Blacklist, Adroit, Harpur Palate, and Runestone Magazine. She is a Philadelphia native currently living in Tallahassee where she is a Poetry PhD student at Florida State University.