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“Iron” by Siqi Jiang

Poem by Siqi Jiang. Originally published in the POWER issue, Jiang was the winner of our 2017 Creative Writing Contest.

Image: “The Half Hour Library of Travel, Nature and Science for young readers,” pub. by James Nisbet & Co., 1896.


Arguments, they are like rock-paper-scissors.

As surely as rock beats scissors;

Beasts,

They are weak to my sword.

Sharpen yourself, and they will come.

There is nowhere else to go.

Professor V.

He thought I was a goddess in the classroom.

You thought that I was a goddess in the classroom.

Solar flares erupt in my skull, I sound the retreat

A defeat? The instructor, he is horrified.

That’s right, I can’t be wrong.

Lest the stars shift

To accommodate my silence.

I have been devouring them for so long.

The galaxy, it does not know the debt

That it owes to black holes.

(You saw the machine, and I: its sole occupant ghost.)

You bring your weapons, unaware

That I am still here, flesh.

Teeth bared.

Damnatio ad bestias is best enjoyed

In the company of friends, and

The view of my dismemberment

Is probably better

In the expensive seats.

Popcorn?

It’s really quite unfair, you know.

That I

I should bear the weight of Damocles alone.

See how the silver shines

under the freckled moon.

You watch, and you think:

You are seeing the secret to storms

An ingredient that some

Thunder-god

Has been keeping from us.

With all our learning,

Are we not only soothsayers

Howling in opposition to the sun

Vainly hoping that it was wrong about us all along.

My friends, they are good, but not close. Never close.

It is one thing to realize that I am only gilded gold

An imitation at a dusty discount store.

It is another to realize

That I will cost you in pride,

The only blood-currency that an Oracle

Would risk himself for.

You think that imperfections

Should move some cosmic sorrow? The gentle rivers, forgiving

They smooth even stone.

Cruelty does not have to draw blood.

I stumble––as all tyrants must.

HERE IT IS, my neck!

I am EXPOSED

My face is EXPOSED

 

The wolves,

They don’t need any telling.

Survival does not require a guiding hand.

They leap; their mighty jaws give them mandate.

It is not murder,

To bloody a hart in the woods.

I say:

You can’t have thought that I would die so easily?

Come, my nemesis.

Blame me,

Soil my name, and

Surrender your ill-gotten legitimacy.

There is nowhere else to hide.

Even a despot can be

A champion for the people.

Surely there were citizens

Who wept at Caesar’s funeral.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

I cannot become gold.

But iron?

I can do that.

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