Emily Liu

a moth appeared in my room overnight

fluttering in panicked black circles, and stupidly i thought it must be you. how can you be gone? i

go shopping again. you are in your favorite ice cream, sunset dripping down with bloody fingers, black dress shot through with red bamboo and birds. everyone says you must be free from pain and is that why we always imagine the dead in things that fly: butterflies, moths, birds, skies, because to be free is to be ungrounded, untethered,

but you were not supposed to bring me with you.

but i am untethered all of these days now, forgetting, briefly remembering again, no space between opening closing my eyes but blurred footprints walking somehow through the day, sleepwalking through time – i’m driving my moped and the world glitches before me, shifts a millimeter to the right and back again, sewing backstitches into my bag i’ve had since high school when we first met, which has finally ripped itself apart this morning, too; my necklace broke, the one veined with gold thread that reminded me of kintsukuroi – itself broken, what does that make?

because i don’t know how i’m going to come back from this.

i tried to wear a dress to feel pretty and spilled melting ice cream down my front and wondered if it might be your spirit. are you a spirit or a ghost, a butterfly or a moth, a soul, a psyche,

a sky?

black moths could alight on me as i sleep when i finally do, and i would not stir for things have inverted – days to nights, nights to days, and vivid visions visit me, each stranger than the next –

first the sensation of falling, falling

just asleep only to wake with a great start –
falling and hitting the ground?
or being pulled out of the falling?
or being stopped from jumping in the first place?

then why terror?
your soft black wings tickle my cheek,

next i am pregnant.

nobody is surprised,
for the two go together.

three, stalked and found and stabbed.
(i need to lock my fucking door.)

four, kidnapped and tortured and stabbed.
(i need to pull down my fucking blinds.)

why these stories, friend? they have nothing to do with you or me. stories did us no good in the end, as much as we liked to pretend we’re not figures in a greek myth. you’re gone, you’re not psyche. i didn’t save you with love, i’m not cupid. nobody magicked you into a moth, nobody will magic you back.

the moth disappeared the next morning, anyway, so i knew i had imagined you but that night you returned and i panicked and tried to let you out but when i closed the window thinking your soul released, the job done at last, it followed me through the glass into the bathroom and i screamed when i saw it (black paper wings) lying still on the shower floor and washed it down the drain.

so why does it seem like magic after all, moths,

did i just kill you again, friend?

yes, friend, this is my state of mind lately. so fragile, so false, so untrustworthy –

i don’t know how you died and my mind runs laps, runs loops. i can’t stop thinking of –

why does everything look like blood?
bloody sunset tonight for/from you
bloody dress today for/from you
bloody womb this week for/from you
when i change my tampon
withdrawing bloody fingers

the red sauce from the ramen packet
splattering on the floor like my period blood
on the bathroom tiles

i’m bleeding out everywhere, my mind is scrambled and bleeds ketchup on the eggs. i’m scrambling everything, i keep losing masks or is it the masks disappearing on me, losing me, see how difficult it is to not believe in magic. how can i sit in 7-eleven and lose a mask as i eat? how can i sit in starbucks and a mask loses me as i drink? where could they have gone unless something disappeared them, unless they never existed at all, unless nothing is real. if the young clerk notices me opening a pack of new masks in the store, technically stealing one before i purchase the remaining four officially, he is kind or doesn’t care enough. this is what you’ve done to me, friend. i’m stealing masks and then stealing down the street next door to stand in the cosmetics section for half an hour while i sob, scare more clerks, stare at myself in the little round mirrors trying to figure out what can possibly be real and how i go on living and whether you were ever real at all;

either you were never real or everything is a sign from you.
the way i interpret bloody sunsets, blue expanses, rainy days,
the way i accept these skies indiscriminately.

how you have stolen time away from me.
a day and then three, another month.
you left in october, and i didn’t know until november,
november, what do i have to give thanks for,
and suddenly why is it december?

did you do it, how did you do it?

all of my journal entries become letters to you.
the moth is dead, because i killed it,
so will i dream again tonight?

About the Author

Emily Liu is a San Diego native teaching English in Taiwan. She loves fantasy, sci-fi, and languages. She may be found wandering through grocery stores or falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes.