9.5 / May 2014

Two Poems


seven little scars wedged like an army of ants.
under my arms, my thighs a maze, my
fingernails. i think about it all the time.

he had too much to drink that night, so
he wanted me and i didn’t pull away.
his eyes were closed. when i pressed back,

he was a dead fish. last winter i said
stop spilling yourself into black holes,
stop. don’t kiss the boys who just want

to snatch you out of a printer. two
dimensional. i know i’m not supposed
to sleep in electrical outlets, but it

burns when the water drip drops out
of the sink faucet and i feel something
running through the wires for the first

time in fourteen years. it’s too late
to stop now: needles in my veins and
i am too soft, too colorful. god and i wish

for last june and its waterfall of liquid teeth
and all three of them whose last names i
didn’t know. they were golden and so was

i, except my body was a map and i didn’t
know how to get there. six months later
and you’ll be dead; that’s all i remember

anyone saying. but when nobody tells you
how to climb out of a shipwreck, you realize
that’s who you are: a rocking chair, a nebula.


curtains tilted sideways onto morning soil, thursday sunrise
and indian henna seeping a song into weathered skin: this is
how i remember 4am, the crunch of rubber on gravel, the
taste of prickly pomegranates and gunsmoke swimming in
half-shut irises. the gestures of the women who sell produce

down at the market, roots firmly embedded in native blood,
the ring of dust storms and lottery tickets dancing on pinched
tongues. in the little plastic stalls engraved with the
fingernails of the husbands who work on a road six
miles away, who slit the throats of rabbits with army
knives and comb the spider lashes into dinner, who
hang the remains of rifle victories on a braided string thick

enough to hallow death. it is a natural thing to know when
skipping rocks at night, swollen toes slipping smoke into
the muddy water, last night’s laugh thin enough to slice
open the paved streets of this country. sometimes i think

i love it too much and that my lips are too raw when i
hum an anthem written by a boy with christmas tree
feet. it is the same as knowing that you are nothing
in a frosted glass mirror and then shattering it
a little too hard: you were right. anguish does not
settle the west. even now, we all scrape our hands on
needles as if there is still something sacred in hellenistic

stoicism. but i have known this home for too long,
seed red mouths stripped of the saran wrap that had masked them:

this is the place we go to bury ourselves.

soft and frayed, floating inwards into flooded bones that
spill gravity into rocking chair hearts
this is what i wish i had remembered–
peppered asphalt, if i had forgotten, if i had
not melted into any other path or the insides of
any other palm– at one point, space has the
tendency to collapse into the center.
it’s the only home it has ever known.

Melissa Ho is a sixteen-year-old from Ellicott City, Maryland who serves as co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Penumbra Review. Although she wonders whether poetry is written for catharsis at midnight or for the craft of mask making, she continues to write.
9.5 / May 2014