With Love

cross-stitched prayers
& a statue of a flat-headed man holding a fish
or two, i forget

here, a light
patiently cruel
casts shadows of God
& girls

we grew in the gaps
my dearest friends & i
between pews
& memoried
for fingernails & compasses & ‘FuCK U’s
tiny boredoms
tiny rebellions

              Oh Lord Jesus Christ
              who didst give such grace
              to all the good girls

mid-sermon i fantasize about spewing my stomach
out like a dirty blouse
guts scrunched into celtic crosses
with hunger, like a sword-turned-snake
with hunger & so many unnamed shames. On Sunday evenings they are drilled deeper the droning
enters thru ears & bellows thru bellies holy sick swelling recurring adult nightmares
awarded to
the smartest, most excellent
the best
             bad kids

go to a special hell, says The Rev (more politely but we Know
because we are the only ones still awake). These days we laugh
at his grating Kiwi accent & fatherly homophobia
& leave out how
we picked at ourselves after every dinner
tiny Rev(olts)
               tiny Rev(enge)
sinning between blinks

like this, my unholiest friend & i
crawl beyond girlhood
& womanhood
& manhood
but – and this part is the secret – there are no holy girls
& that is fine. like this, decay
into adulthood
with fractured fingers & genders
with love.

Jiaqiao Liu is a Chinese nonbinary poet living in Auckland/Tāmaki-makaurau. Their work has been included in briefAtlanta Review, Blackmail Press and Takahē.

Jiaqiao comments: ‘This is a love letter to a dear friend, without whom I would probably not have survived (Christian) high school. I often think about these lines from Louise Gluck’s August, in the part about teachers pinning ribbons on students: “Our lives were stored in our heads./ They hadn’t begun; we were both sure/ we’d know when they did./ They certainly weren’t this.” We’re both very glad we’re not in high school anymore.’

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