december 13th, 2016

the confirmed count of 85 civilians dead
by the hand of government forces in east aleppo
was previously reported to be 82. I pictured
the 3 who had vanished from the data
as if they had risen from the ruins
and swept from their legs and chests
the cracked stone that had been chewed
by inhuman teeth. stood tall. stepped hard
on their shoes to fit them back on their feet.
picked up a potato that had spilled
from the bag. put it back without looking.
knew they were late to return home but wondered
if they should finish their shopping,
their ghosts having already been pinched
into fine newsprint pattern, bright blue
broadcast. the dead cannot rise
faster than their count. I watched the camera
clasp to its eye a line of bodies.
hands that stay in their shirtsleeves.
bare feet, some. how many tried to stand
before the numbers came counting
towards the other side of the world. how many
numbers are between 1 and 85? one
and one and one and one. capable,
as numbers are, of going on forever.

XIAO YUE SHAN is a poet and essayist born by the Bohai Sea, raised on the Pacific Coast, and currently living alongside Meguro River. Her chapbook, How Often I Have Chosen Love, is forthcoming by way of Frontier Poetry. She also works as an Editor at Spittoon Literary Magazine and Tokyo Poetry Journal. Find her at and on Instagram @shanxiaoyue