it spills, like ink drooling into graveled
roads, hair hanging from the broken neck—
i run—past the smoked houses that smell of
firecrackers on new year’s—but too
heavy—it drags across my skin;
they said the wokou are coming! ri ben ren lai le!
but the peonies dressed with summer’s qipao
told us stay, stay, stay.
did we stay to die here?
his stomach bulged as they forced water
down his throat, eyes screaming mercy—
uncle, your swollen body haunts me now.
and mother, lullabies and village songs have grown
into the pig’s squeal just before the butcher’s mark—
what did you sing to me before? all i recall is,
“don’t touch me there!”
they said “world war”
but what did we do?
i have seen things. pregnant women with torn open bellies,
heads of our ragtag soldiers in target practice.
the red scarf of a schoolgirl.
her body splayed open, dumped in our once-blue pond.
why did we stay?
i did not want this adventure.
my voice has stilled; i am no longer brave like mulan, my hero.
wait, i wasn’t ready.

Allison Chen

Allison Chen is a writer from Queen Creek, Arizona. She has been published or upcoming publication in the Paha Review, Canvas Literary Journal, Shine: Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2016, Brushtalks Magazine, and the Writer’s Slate. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, Mount Mercy University, and Skipping Stones Youth Honor Awards.

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