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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:

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00:00 / 01:48

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.

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