Self-Portrait as Postmortem

If you listen closely, you can hear gravity
parting its thighs. My own name a metronome

beneath the tongue. This story goes: once I let a boy
cut my stomach open with an earring

and slip inside like a sleeping bag. Once I lured a rabbit
with my palm & bit its head clean off.

For months, I’ve tried to birth my own ocean,
a place where they call murder

a miracle of nature. Because somewhere
beneath these floorboards lives

the body of my body: the one I sobbed into
tumbleweed: the one where my prayers took refuge

until it broke from the inside out. At night, I look down
from jagged rooftops and watch the windows

close their eyes. It is like a ghost remembering
bone— how it feels to swallow & be swallowed

all at once, a burning honeycomb spitting bees,
each stinger lit to resemble a wound. How I want to eat

every beam of light that passes through me,
like some fire-sucking god, dismantling every blade

too sharp to live inside of us—

“Self-Portrait as Postmortem” by Helli Fang is a Poetry Finalist in Columbia Journal’s 2019 Spring Contest, judged by Tommy Pico.

Photocredit: shando via Creative Commons

About the author



Helli Fang is an undergraduate student at Bard College. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, The Adroit Journal, DIALOGIST, Blueshift Journal, Alexandria Quarterly, Wildness, and more, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Columbia College of Chicago, and Bennington College. She has also participated in programs such as the Iowa Young Writer’s Workshop, The Adroit Mentorship Program, and The Speakeasy Project. When Helli is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin and climbing trees.




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