SELF PORTRAIT AS CAO CAO
I never wanted to be good,
only fox-quick & monkey clever—
I never wanted to cherish values
like filial piety, or good marriage,
but wanted only to go out at dawn with the men
and their bristling spears, callous
as bramble, and look a deer in the eyes
as it accepted the terms of its surrender.
I called it transformational, standing
on the hotel balcony, tossing
shelled walnuts into the bushes, listening
to the brash sweep of summer wind. I imagined
myself in paintings and songs, reciting
poetry to the moon, reeling drunken
through my lonely rooms, as though I knew
how to kiss, how to love,
how to leave in the morning.
I wanted to be free, after all,
from the womanly
pursuit of yearning.
All through the continent, iron hooves
clip up flayed arrows of dirt. One conqueror
after another, would I one day see something
yield to me? As if it were possible to gather
a world into my fist like a silk handkerchief.
As if, between the creases,
I could find the stone of a peach that, cracked
open, would flood my fingers with ink.
As if ink, dripping from my hands,
would form the outlines of mountains.
As if all this would be more impressive
than any poor drunkard’s sight.
Listen to Jewel read "Self Portrait as Cao Cao" below:
JEWEL CAO (she/her) is a student in grade 11. She lives in Vancouver, BC. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2, SOFTBLOW, and Sine Theta Magazine.