Lantern Review | Issue 9.2

Alicia Kwok

Self-Portrait as Night City

Superposition: the expanse of bare unscorched earth,
still forgetting, and my shrunken body floating
dreamlike where a shopping mall once was—

or was it where my body once was? Then the mall
must be the dream—a fantasy of exchange in eight stories.

Superposition: the classic dead-living-box-cat question,
a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics—
the mall never burned; I observe myself

and the absence of myself at once. Which is more alive:
the body that cannot burn or the body that can?

Some days I don’t think there’s a difference between
tenderness and violence in this house. Some days
I think I will open the box to reveal there was

never any cat to begin with—only the poison.
Some days I shudder with subatomic love

for the box-poison-atom-cat. Some days
I forget the hungry smoke, charcoal smudge,
a house short-circuits; the city groans—

the silver cost of (re)building. I spit and produce
a future in funhouse mirrors from between my teeth.

Finitude: the parts unscrew, the particles decay
into us. Coda: there isn’t always a shock, a shaking
underneath. Some days there’s just a terrible quiet

and cool white tiles. Tell me, which is more alive:
the ghost or the fire?

Photo of Alicia Kwok Alicia Kwok is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College with a degree in English and critical social thought. She is currently back home in Chinatown, Manhattan, where she spends her time alternating between job hunting and drawing silly cats. • Photo by the author

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