Third Place: Anna Wang


I forget Mother’s birthday on the first cusp
of spring. Outside my window, the geese suit up
in snow and preen the scales of their plumage,
as if to mock my memory and the dart of its body:
a naked salmon washed by the lapsing tide, unsheathed
of silver. They know Mother’s anger is a teething thing,
still too young to cut her like a fish’s one-way skin
smoothed by the direction of water. Mother cuts her locks
and worries the knob; I cut my teeth on Venetian blinds
drawn over their panes like a night slip over
a woman’s torso. In dreams, I fashion Mother into a wolf,
swimming with an open howl against the run
of the river, the thick bunch of her haunches a strange exertion
for the minor act of staying still. Still, I am learning to want
this too: to grip a fish behind its gills, to arrest
the decay of her hair easing a breath
from its braid in airing rooms. All I am learning
is not to retrace my sincerities, wary of confusing
the darker shades of my steps with the places water
has bruised the snow. On the second cusp of spring,
I trek through the yard until my toes nest in the last pack
of wet down. When I turn, I stand beneath my own window,
this vain earnesty a deliberation I can never shake:
to rehearse with my own reflection, to bunch my cheeks and bare
my teeth in its light, so quickly intimate. I wait
as if Mother is there behind the blinds, the opaque
white of noontime glow, watching the geese track their eggs
by the curve in the weeds.