green buttons, red sleeves

by Jenny S., 17

I sit on the wall beside the rotten magnolias,

stepped on and squished into juice,

pale moths gathering to drink.

I wear sugar jades on my ankles
that my father fashioned from rubble.

They swish and jangle.

An anxious pendulum.

The woods are purple and the air sighs.

It’s getting late, my father says to me. You should sleep.

I look down at the drinking soil—

ask myself: is my name backwards? as I sleep-walk

to the columns of leaves beside the house.

The red papers are damp in the air, ink
dripping off like sweat.

I pull water in circles—

dip anything in water

and it shines.

My father flies back home.

Left sticky dates

sweet in our kitchen sink.

Left faster than

the milkweed grows in ephemeral streams.

Left the way

the piano was stripped away from his stiff stubby


The gold, winter coat, telescope. Spit and foam

on his cheek.

Green buttons, red sleeves, they gathered before rotten peonies,

and stepped on him.

Don’t tell them where anything is, he said to himself

as his family name was scraped red on his door.

Palo Alto, California