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Edifice | Gavin Yuan Gao

For twenty years, I’ve been breaking my jaw on the laws

in my father’s house, which is as large and hard-shelled

as his sclerotic heart, until my teeth are dethroned

from their cheap seats and turn the colour of early dusk.

I never ask my blood Why when I see it—a bright-red

treacherous smear on the white wall—afraid that

it’d be the wrong question to ask. But isn’t any kind of

questioning wrong in this house, every desire of mine filthy

and illicit? My father regrets my birth, his mouth birthing

the verdict of guilty against everything I hold dear.

Always, concrete and cinderblocks meet my bones

when I try to teach my body to be tender. Always, I pledge

and press my mouth to the light I’ve invited in through

the window before realizing it’s the wrong kind of light (Fire!

Fire!) and it slices through the skin like a scalpel. I shelter

every lovable thing under the hot coal of my tongue—the navel

of another boy coiled like a serpent, asleep, his luscious

nipple the only fruit I was forbidden to eat—but nothing

ever stays still and it aches the way the sky aches on

a clear day for the rain. My father says the house itself

is an answer, a revelation that cracks clear in broad

daylight like lightning through a willow. But why is it

that I still wake up every morning with a monolith

tethered to my diaphragm, my breathing tied down

by the foundation of this edifice? I see my father’s sword

sitting sharp and agleam on his mantle, daring not to imagine

what he has severed with it, and what he hasn’t.

Gavin Yuan Gao is a Brisbane-based poet who was educated in Queensland and Michigan. His writing has been Highly Commended in the 2018 SLQ Young Writers Award. His work has appeared in Outrageous Fortune, Poet Lore, Michigan Quarterly Review and elsewhere.

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