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Winter '24

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AYLLI CORTEZ

                                       A long time not never. Healing
                                                   is
                                                     precarious. Place the wound
                                     on a lower shelf. Along the far wall.
                                             Anywhere is good as long as
                                         it can breathe.
                                                     It will be a living one
                                              in a long list of deaths. In a long line
                                       of long-haired old ones, a last one.
                                             Like nerves in the lungs. How long
                                                   you can stretch them outside the body
                                           and lie before longing
                                                                           not to.

                                                    Before piecing the room together.
                                             Waiting in the long hours from dust
                                                      to dawn. From ash to long arms
                                         and the smoke that comes
                                                            too quickly,
                                                 longingly in the morning
                                                                       when
                                                                                the bed is empty.

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When my mother cuts my hair, she holds my life 

in her hands. Cradles it as she lifts the scissors 

to my temple and snips close to the skin. This is

the dream where I cannot lie. Where I greet her

touch with no resistance.

She asks me to straighten my back

and I do. To raise my chin and I can. The hairs fall

away like bits of paper from a snowflake 

a child makes. Is proud of. What’s left has become 

art by virtue of having been made.

In the mirror, my reflection is material.

Everything else is light.

Aylli Cortez (he/they) is a transmasc Filipino poet studying creative writing and theatrical performance at Ateneo de Manila University. His collage art and poems have appeared in HEIGHTS Ateneo. He is based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Find him on X and Instagram @1159cowboy.

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