Walking through streets of Nanjing

Lanterns speckled by the carbon dust and debris,

I inhale.

Sweet, like the honey Nai Nai keeps

Soaked in osmanthus petals.

The vendor blows molten sugar,

Curling it into thousands of fine strands

Which cling to the next like blades of wet grass

Trying to fumigate the air

As the vendor shapes the sugar in his hands

The blades take the form of bars

And bars to birds, and

Birds to wings that cannot fly

And I see

A sugared prison bird

An imprisoned mind

Stuck in the sick, viscous honey of memory,

Sliding through white and grey matter,

folds of the brain.

Soon it will pass.

Soon it will be free.

But after one hour, two hours, days

Of anxious tapping and ripping feathers out,

Of panic attacks and faltered breathing,

The sugar glass cage shatters and

There it is

Flying through streets of Nanjing lanterns

But this time,

The air is black.

Written by

MIT ’21 / tech & society / creative writing / poetry / art

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