Josephine Wu

Water Prayers

water prayers

the shadow of the tree drips

black fruit on forest floor. fruit,

sounding like water country in

chinese, blooms from the mouth of my tai-

po’s child. in the crook 

of the canopy’s armpit, she

sucks on the peeled bark of

a pine tree, lets the baby teeth on

the white cracks of her knuckles; for 

the sound of tears can echo the dip of

skin cradling bullet, and yet

she pleads Lord please forgive me for

my worldly needs. my tai-po 

was twenty when the japanese arrived 

in nanjing. she fled the city with a baby

on her back and a stolen rosary her wrist,

asking if the crime kindled the missed

meaning of her prayers. and almost

a century later, i worship the altar

in my bathroom with the seat cocked up:

uncovered the way some things,

like open caskets, ought to be covered. please

allow the water clouded with lunch to

forgive me for the wood under tai-po’s

tongue. for i have punched a hole 

in my esophagus. for i have stripped 

my stomach, inflamed my intestines, and 

prayed over the porcelain bowl. for i 

have unreckoned the same fruit 

that dangled over my tai-po a century

ago. burning for cold water,

i remember the funeral and her face with

eyes closed throat closed lips closed 

over browning teeth. in my mouth,

my gums hurt with acid. i wonder if 

chewing on tree had caused her decay,

whether living off dead flowers for

six weeks had metastasized her throat 

cancer into a carnivorous necklace.

will the raw ridges of my gums give

me mouth cancer? i imagine tai-po

fingering her flaking beads. she told me they

belonged to the neighbor who sold

lao po bing to the japanese before he 

was crisped into the kind of ash

that mists over grass, reminiscent of

dew. so do forgive me for

my throat probed into the shape

of my finger. Your kingdom come unlike

this fruit. so my tai-po shivers within

the skeletal hold of shadow, bids baby

to drink the sweat under her nail. she

thirsts though her ruptured lips

kiss the snow mounted over dirt.

kneeling on bathroom tile,

i feel the scrape of grout under my knees. 

Lord forgive me for how thirsty i am.

"Be Sweet" by Ashley Hajimirsadeghi

Josephine Wu is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying Culture & Politics, creative writing, and computer science. Her work has been featured or forthcoming in Humankind Zine, Bitter Fruit Review, and Kalopsia Literary Journal. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably finding the best iced chai latte or listening to Taylor Swift.