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Open your bedroom window in the heart of winter.
Wrap the wool blanket around you, the one
your brother once used to pin you beneath
for hours, held down by the chesterfield
and an ottoman. You resisted until
you were underwater, your eyes and lungs
filled with light, and you went to sleep
on the carpet. When you stopped struggling
you were left alone. Alone now, let the night
air in. The snap of it in your lungs like croup,
your mother rocking you in the bathroom, the tub
filled with steaming water, how she sang your name
again and again as if to call you back. Listen now
to the buzzing of electric wires outside
your window, the constant murmur, the way
you imagine the world must work—the secrets
people keep and then tell. It must be like waking
to a room full of yellow roses, knowing those truths.
Bouquet after bouquet from friends—they did not
forget you after all. Like waking to her humming
in a steaming room, life coming back to your lungs.
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But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.
The vast hinterlands of the Global South’s cities are generating new solidarities and ideas of what counts as a life worth living.
Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.