Pinocchia, you must not stop for a friend

            There is a valley in the story I can’t leave until
I admit I did not attend the burial beneath it.

            Drop the pencil with no hilt—arrow the page—
I’ll become what it leads to. The histories have claimed you

            but none will speak your name. Whereas grief: all
prophecy, no lies. When this is a fantasy, we both

            live to discover our true names. The desire ends
in you or lives on in me, just a worm I can manage.

            In my fantasy, what’s funny is how nothing is yet.
I wrote myself here so you can be, too. I’m standing

            right there so my shame can see your love’s shadow.
You float like the stars, ice from a sky, a crossroad

            rising over the sea of failure. My heart avoids itself
like a moon once married to the sea. The crossroad

            asks what I bring to the tale. It’s a good question. I wish
I did not know but I know how to tell the truth

            like a demon bleeding in the basement. And under
the basement, two children fight to make mercy

            last. You push harder, but rain floods the vehicle
that rises from the corner to take one of us home.

            In the story, the world is familiar, then bright–
distant bells screaming for salvation—but you

are gone. I am sick, and holding the violent

            breath of my need. I am somehow—though
not at last—alive and well.

Copyright © 2024 by Lo Kwa Mei-en. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.