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firebird


Elizabeth Li


three-blade razor runs along

rash-red skin

dipping and gliding across every curve of flesh


a baptism

my skin itches

i become clean


you caress my bare arm, pearly and smooth after

days of religious application

of aloe vera

“babe,” you murmur in my ear: baby, your baby

soft and smooth as an infant

your beard prickles my neck as you

run kisses along my jaw


midnight party

you parade me around in front of your friends, men who ogle at

my legs and hips, to whom i bat my eyes

and pucker my lips

and blink demurely in delicate deference

you put your arms around my waist

but i feel Myself slipping away

reduced to flesh and curves under their eyes

and my skin crawls with maggots and spiders

and my smile turns childlike and wondrous and empty

and i flee inwards

and i flee

and i flee


you want to stroke my hair then

throw me around in bed


coo in my ear then

press your hands around my neck

and when i push you away you tell me i want you

that i like it

that you like it when i’m feisty, your little firebird, your little

toy, your pearly little doll, smooth and porcelain

might as well be plastic

better to be made of plastic.


young Dolores spreads her legs,

and how quickly we forget the tragedy to instead

fixate on the alluring innocence in her eyes, the submissive slant to her shoulders, the

infantilized bareness of her calves and

nick ourselves a thousand times

to try and look the same


what if i became a real firebird? not this duckling you dressed in pretty colours

but rather a wild thing ablaze in my own incandescence, free

to grow hair and feathers from my arms

to prick your roving hands

as you try and conquer

this body that is no longer yours, no longer

easy to conquer. nibble my earlobe again and i will tear

your throat out with my teeth.





Elizabeth Li has been previously been published by the Aurora Journal as well as Cathartic Lit. She has also been selected to attend the 2021 Kenyon Young Writers’ Workshop and the Virginia Young Writers Workshop. Furthermore, she has published a chapbook titled “anatomy of wonderland” through Bottlecap Press, which was also a semifinalist in the 2022 Sundress Chapbook Contest.

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