Scorched Earth Aubade
On the day of Light and Peace, I asked my mother where my father went, but she was never well-versed in the truth. By then, I learned silence could stretch long enough to weigh more than words. The trick was to try on faith like a second skin, the type of hope that evaporated slow and sticky as the hot barley tea we rationed for Sundays. There are no more fathers in this town and the next and the next, and they warned us about the explosions. My mother warned me about the men. When the soldiers came they burned the farms first— then I learned divide & conquer meant dividing nourishment from necessity. I asked if this was natural and my mother said no, war is never natural, it used to be but we’ve gotten too good at killing each other. She told the story of our people trapped on the top of a hill, a halo of fire circling its shears closer and closer, burning the crowd down to man. That night I dreamt a soldier held a match beneath my mandible and told me to answer, so I sang until my flesh bubbled as I rubbed napalm from my eyes, the knife of my voice quivering against my teeth. Its words anything but my own. I was taught to kill anyone that entered me until I found my breath thinning down the barrel of a rifle, time measured by gunshot. This ruthless currency. I was woken up not by the soft crackle of flame hurling into the sky, but by a hunger my mother and I passed between our tongues. I chiseled myself into a spindle of bone, straight and brittle, flossed my teeth with unripe wheat. When I heard a knock on the door, my fingers wired themselves into father’s hunting rifle. I looked at the man and fired.
Heather Qin (she/her) is from New Jersey. A Best of the Net Nominee, her work has been recognized by the New York Times, Narrative and Hollins University, and can be found or forthcoming in Sine Theta Magazine, Whale Road Review and Diode, among others. Besides writing, Heather loves classical music, reading, and watching soccer games.