Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Serrina Zou





Aubade with River Styx

On summer mornings we crucify ourselves
in the tomb of our bed, the white linen sheets
draped like a shroud. We wake to a dawn

blooming & bruising our skin into ash, the
lazy hymn of light warming our nightmares into
miracle mirth. This is how I was taught to see

our sun: a cloak of hydrogen & helium stitched
by a thousand threads of fatality. Mama always
told me that everything begins in the east where

sunlight rises from the void in between silted
windows & dies on the beads of silver dream-
catchers knotted in the west. If what she claims

is true then even death can begin in the east,
its arms heavy with armored embrace, lips
smooth with sedative. Once I watched a bird

swallow another bird whole, beak piercing like
arrow & I wondered when moonlight would lay the
body to rest, forgive the crumpled anterior of

willing a sin onto itself. All this is to ask how
easily we fracture, never belonging to the shadows
we cast in our wake. We learn too often how to trade

aching for longing for survival, rinsing our names
in the earliest skies. This morning, a praiseworthy
aching. This life, longing. In this season of loss,

survival is funeral, sleeping in stillness.


Sappho in New Moon Dreams

In yesterday’s dream, we are sitting at the edge
of a pillar, hands folded perfect like European
queens at high tea. I watch your legs dangling

into mine, your limbs splayed against my arms
like time. Somewhere in the shadows of the
city, everything warbles in neon the way I

always imagined your eyes, violent with
corkscrew ribbons of skylight. I know you
too well. Like a sequence, the knife opens

the pale orbit of the moon, its blade carving
our names into new stars. I still remember
that first night under the abandoned highway;

All the signs reading like Sartre: No Exit, your
favorite play. We can’t do this anymore, you
say. I swallow your name like rainwater, gulping

the syllables into birdsong. With every apology, I
misfire. Together, we stitched the ovum of saturated
summer, fingers pressed like osmosis. I never had

the courage to tell you: I dream in color now.


Origin Myth for the End of the World

& maybe I was the foolish one for
thinking I could cheat death. Forgive
me, for in this life my only vocabulary

was volume, an excess of grief lulling
against the gun barreled down my throat;
I will admit: I am afraid of my body,

afraid of the curves & contours that
soften into newborn crescents beneath
the soil of my heirloom roots. For as long

as I have sought love, I faced loneliness;
no one told me love is simply an act of
sharing your loneliness with someone

else, anyone else. One day, I imagine my
broken body patching the sea with pebbles,
sinking the earth into sand. One day,

the pebbles will fill the waters forever
& I will drink to the end of the world.
One day, I will cheat death & wake up

in the afterlife after dusk, breathing.


Photograph of Serrina Zou by Vanya Vellore.

Serrina Zou is a Chinese American writer from San Jose, California. She has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the US Presidential Scholars Program, the Poetry Society of the UK, and Frontier Poetry, among others. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, AAWW: The Margins, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Palette Poetry, COUNTERCLOCK Journal, and elsewhere. When she is not writing, Serrina can be found feeding her Philz Coffee addiction or devouring a tower of novels. She is a first-year undergraduate at Columbia University. More from this author →