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once upon a time, there lived two little girls with little white flags | Zero Readers

once upon a time, there lived two little girls with little white flags

by | Issue #3, Issues

Wrap it tight in discord and abaca. To train the bud
from ever flowering again.

The bud is rotten; how do you shake it awake?

When you unspool the petals, each crumbles to touch.
But my hands must keep the bud from unraveling.

Remember when we used to suck out the nectar
from the santan we plucked from the shrubs out front?

How jarring the sweetness has turned.

/

To forgive is royal. Mother said, mother said.
Nothing is greater than blood shared, not even her faults.
Apologies were never a strength:
it’s one thing to be a queen, another to feel entitled to be pardoned like one.

When out there, she slides needles in waiting veins. Pumped blood,
thicker than our shared resentment.
Inside bags meant to be emptied.
Hazardous waste in crops, unbuilt.

/

Pulsing ears keep me up at night. And suddenly,
a bygone ceiling strewn with celebrity centerfolds beam at me.
Her hand reaching up from the gap of our bunk bed.

Moons later, my sister plunged headfirst into pride’s arms.
She relieved herself of kinship and white flags to carve out an archipelago.
Bent the unspoken rules we’d shook for all those nights we courted sleep.

Punched in the silence, stayed for its funeral. My hands still feel responsible
in making space for the bud to bloom in safety. For after she dipped
her toes in, the tides wouldn’t let go.

/

We abandoned allegiance in the hallows of a decrepit parking lot.
Left through opposite exits of a silo.
One marked fiasco, the other haughty.

Our fists clutch separation like petals beginning to crumble.

These feet are tired from dancing
atop orchestrated forgiveness. Ring around bitter apologies
that never come. Radio silence is slick and heavy but expectant.

Come, then go on.

/

When will my ears stop ringing?
When will disillusioned little girls grow tired of holding up white flags?

I stop searching with one eye open;
it gets easier to sleep at night.






Audrey L. Reyes is a Filipina writer and poet breathing polluted air in Manila. Her favorite workplace activity is raising hell. Over the course of the pandemic, she’s had time to practice pourover coffee brewing. She hopes to one day have the energy and skills to follow through on her daydreams.