July, 1913 
Annie Cao

Honorable Mention, International Young Writers Prize, Poetry

Lately I’ve imagined prettier iterations of
my body turning cold: gleaming pearlescent,
floating quietly towards the shoreline. Kneeled
before a bird’s nest, cheekbones dressed with
blood. One night, I found myself lovelier than
ever, torn to pieces all over the bedroom floor.
Something is flickering in and out of sanctity,
set aquiver beneath this vicious midsummer
stasis. In the dark, the slow burn watering like
mother-of-pearl, and I pale daintily as the days
slip by. My youngest sister says I’ve been talking
in my sleep, that my hair has started to smell like
rosemary and crematoriums. I want to tell her
about the things I’ve seen: animals split open,
smeared empty on pavement; the girls they found
bloodied, halved, laying still against grassland
or riverbed. The truth is, dearest, that I can’t stop
thinking about slaughterhouses: a daughter stumbles
into darkness and re-emerges as slivered lily, red mouth
tilting open towards the skies. In feverish reverie,
I make a fool of girlhood—butcher my sisters,
cut off my hands, muscle the crimson armistice into
something unholy. I leave the wraith empty-handed,
weeping on its knees.

Annie Cao is a high school writer from Colorado. Her work is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review & The Apprentice Writer, & she has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize, & Ringling College, among others.