Dictations of the Great Mao

look deep inside the eyes
 of the people who taught us
  to bury the dead. you will see
a small clutch of plum blossoms
open like a fist. ground them. soak
  them in water. pour this tea
for your nai nai. let it spill
  across the table
down to her feet. you will drink
   once the skin stops burning.
no cups. only hands marbled
 with the blood of our flag.
nai nai will collect the leftovers
 in spoons, so bless each drop
with holy water, recite lines
from the treasured red book:
it’s always darkest before日出
  but morning never came
for her. mourning did,
walking over the rice fields
with a leaky umbrella,
yet this time, the fluid
 will have already shred itself
into the shards of a hammer and sickle.



People call him by his mother’s name:
凤 which means phoenix, or in another context,

wind. Are they not the same thing,
just one without its cheongsam?

He wants to remember
how to turn off the darkness, feel the sunlight

envelop him like the walls
of a mother’s womb. He knew that soon

the gates would tear apart. For now,
he’ll shake away his feathers. For now,

he’ll let wings swallow wings
so that all that’s leftover are the speckles

of ashes. He’ll want to feed them
the imagery and the lyrics of a Tang poet

hoping that in their flight, 凤
can also mean the ink on a parchment

seeping into a new poem.
This is the ritual he should have been born for.


Adam Zhou has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in the National Level and his works have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Review, What Rough Beast, The Kill List Chronicles, Eunoia Review, Blue Marble Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others. As a high school sophomore, he has been subject to the wide array of exhibitions cultural perspectives, and aims to share these through writing.