In/Retrograde – Sarah Lao

Say it is night, and outside, there is a man
lying dead under the streetlamp. Skin tight
jaundice stretched over tissue/socket/bone
like the dried pulp of paper-mache, there’s
hyacinth blooming from skull—an expired
milk carton evaporating to salt—a flock of
geese migrating north. He is dead/dormant/
antithesis until he is not. The weatherman’s
forecast has the moon in retrograde motion
tonight—its maria swinging inwards in an
attempt to mine water, the earth’s high tide
receding to drought. This is not an illusion.
He chains his frame together and looks up:
sees the moon’s glory in glow. They like to
call it moonsickness/mania/lunacy—when
all the world oscillates between technicolor
and grayscale as children wade into the sea
while the men on motorcycles crumple in a
heap. The Law of Attraction will tell you
“like attracts to like,” that positive doctrine
will be a divine salvation, that desires will
meet reality. Now say you’ve dialed 911,
and after a short jaunt of off-key elevator
music, the operator on the line will pick up
to tell you it’s fine, that the quarantine team
is already on the scene.
But say it is dawn/and there is no body/Say
he was never dead/Or alive/Say you are safe
in bed/snipping at strings and/unhitching
your jaw/and still, dying/and too scared/to
want to be saved.

Sarah Lao is a sophomore at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. She has been recognized by Zo Magazine’s Teen Media Expo and is forthcoming in The Inflectionist Review, Street Light Press, Sooth Swarm Journal, and others. Currently, she serves as a first reader for Polyphony HS and edits for Evolutions Magazine.