The sign for power


li 力
in Chinese,

turned up-
side down

jackknifes into
the romanized

number four,
or death.

I used
to be

a romantic,
I used

a marker
to write on my wrist

the way
J

thinks we
cannot see

the smears
her magic

markers leave
behind

when she tries
shortcuts to

cut lines
on her legs.

She knights herself
without blade, 刀

draws on 
a Cupid’s bow 

some braver source
to mark her growth

in lieu of new scars.
When what is ruined turns

white, the runes will be
visited. Our resident Aztec

doctor,
priest & 

calendar-maker
derives her own

number 四 for
a suicide

hotline—
orange, hot

lines to call forth
power.

Author’s Note:

The three characters used in this poem are 力, or li, for power, 刀, or dao, for sword/blade, and the number 四, or four, is pronounced the same as the Chinese character for death.

Image Credit: Power Switches, Ralph Steiner / The Met.

About the author

Stella Wong is a poet with degrees from Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Wong’s poems have appeared in POETRY, Colorado Review, Missouri Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, and the LA Review of Books. She is the author of AMERICAN ZERO, winner of the 2018 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize selected by Danez Smith, and SPOOKS, winner of the 2020 Saturnalia Books Editors Prize.

Back to Top