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victory lapse


Vivian Zhu

striped flag around your shoulders, eyes whet
with stolen triumph. & this era of wanting:

how wai gong taught you to stare the sea straight
down its solemn depths, to cleave chlorine

& pinwheel past red-blue flags, flip turn.
your lips part to cradle an ocean’s tongue

reclaim the scent of wai gong’s sweat
on your skin. try to swallow the sea between you

& the man who fought
to keep your head above the water. remember how

to occupy & be occupied. to lend a name to a body
without want for it back: a loan without a lease

a dog without a leash. wai gong cut you loose
from his scarlet flag but still hoped

for a return form signed promptly: sincerely
your granddaughter, written in the tongue

you had meant to keep, attached to a medal
you had meant to repay. somewhere in southern china

wai gong sold his breath for gold coins, second
chances. somewhere in suburban chicago

you teeth silver between your lips, stand
on a podium built by the blood of those before you

& drown in your grandfather’s absence.

Vivian Zhu swims for Adlai E. Stevenson High School's girls' varsity team. She loves the ocean and taking long showers.

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