Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 40
Spring Equinox, 2021

New Works

Naomi Ling

Daughter in Three Acts

In all my past storylines I am the good daughter. So I play puppet master instead, yank on the strings of my marionette doll mother. IN THE FIRST ACT I am performing on a grand piano, gauzy silk oating inches above my skin. Every spotlight redirecting onto me. IN THE SECOND I don't yet know how to run away. I think that's what every daughter wants: an away to call home. So I trespass the borders of night. I crescendo upon the keys. Glissando. I am tired of shedding skin like cicadas, of playing this role. Moths search for a home in sheaths of uorescence. My mother stares in the front row like a stranger. Then, the city splayed before me like thighs, swathed in Technicolor lights. I balance myself in blackness. Ivory keys quiver beneath my wrists. Good daughter. Good daughter. I am not alone: A boy I met a few nights ago is with me. He, too, can't be trusted. [Men, I sigh.] Beethoven turns like violets in his grave. I anger the line of poise. We hold hands in the river, blue blue blue rushing past us waist-deep. The next day we'll end two bodies on the news, drifting like plankwood in this very waterway. The spotlight is so blinding that I can't find my own hands. My mother's gaze, cauterizing itself. We'll realize that we could've saved them. These bodies, I say. They could've been us. He turns away. We should go home. The climax is near: I feel it in my palms. Fortissimo. Accelerando. No, I say. We can't go back. I don't want to face the leering predator of the childhood door, the wood splintering between my knuckles as they meet it over and over. Crash. Crash. In my dream the piano collapses in on itself, every key shattering. The audience rises to their feet. He says, this is stupid. Let's go home. Heat blooming in the marshes. In a stroke of good daughter / bad daughter, I pin him, thrashing, beneath the foam. He sinks like an anchor. THE THIRD ACT: the auditorium is an echo chamber except for one seat in the front row. It is only my marionette mother and I, her strings taut in my hands. His body gives into the rapids. I almost think I hear someone beg encore. Long after the audience disperses, I still see his limbs leeching rivulets of red onto the riverbed. My mother is but a skeleton, wasting away into the fuzz on movie theater seats. I shoo away the lies from her carcass and realize this: There is no marionette doll here but me. Finalmente.

Naomi Ling is a Sino-American student writer on the East Coast, USA.