Pinnochia on Fire

Lo Kwa Mei-en

Winner of the 2012 Gulf Coast Prize in Poetry, selected by Joyelle McSweeney

There is a line that could make you love me really,
         but reeling, I spend the words like virgin coin for
a real girl on the line. When things got bad, all star

         -light began to prick. So I kept the sky returnable,
sad wheel. My arm the mayday flare, leg a picnic’s
         pyro dahlia—when I go up I’ll keep my head on

a pillow when I can, see back to sea, say a syllable
         is a hook. And the word for my wick of a tongue
you’ll find between my teeth. You want me ultra

         -lingual, ready-maid, but I’m a match head to head
in the gutter, and the gutter creaks above the main
         avenue of heaven. I kept myself bony dry, a sugar

cube of vermouth: I cut myself by the grain, cool
         and slender as a fuse with a sister; I missed her over
over over like a bullet train shooting past myself

         through the tunnel of a broken heart, and on time,
not mine. But I light up like an obscene October
         sky celebrating a stroke of war. When all still burns

from all I see, the taste of ash a horny flower on
         a hard female tongue, say holiday. Say harvest. Stay
back. Stand back, trigger this. I’ll keep it real, go

         hurt something to love it, real, good, find the center
of aurora in me, the second of ignition. Hothouse
         flower scheming the heart of the firework, I’ll hurt

to keep wild tonight. A sky for my savage cross
         -haired wheeling under; a field of soon-cool stars’
temperature and light, so hot, so real, I come alive.