Killing the Dragon


Yesterday, the northern lights looked like strobes,
the kind of flash that glazes the body
just fast enough to capture a single image
of surrender. My mother tongue calls it the green flames
of a dragon’s breath, each puff charring black another
building my mother has already forgotten
of her hometown. But I prefer the forgetting
of what doesn’t beg to be
remembered: nights that know my body parts
for the way they could be anyone else’s
in the swarm. Yesterday, the northern lights looked
like people cascading toward another country.
On the drive back, I let the traffic
illuminate your face on the interior
of my eyelids, imagined the two of us
cascading anywhere but home. Something
we’d never done before. On that frozen lake in Norway,
your memory was compact enough to fit into my mouth,
but tingly, how heartburn writhes its way
to the scalp. To write a poem
about you even after you were gone
would be to admit all that I had lost.
I killed the headlights the way I kill
any other beast: by gouging out the eyes.

Margaret Zhang