Family Hidden in Landscape


Landscape in which the World Is Ending

Because the world will be swallowed in your sleep,
your brother grows taller in the other room
& your sister takes someone into her mouth,
sprouts feathers, becomes wild.

All summer long, you find the bucktoothed skulls
of furless voles under beds, over kitchen cabinets.
You & your sister both understand
there are some things you do not speak.

The family navigates through its hunger.
The skulls keep appearing like mushrooms.
You scoop them into your palms,
marvel at their emptiness, their weightless earth.


Landscape with Prophecies

It will be the hunted things
that save you.

Your brother will build a city
from a pile of crooked teeth.

Years later, your sister will be married
& you will stumble upon your brother’s city on a map
& on some days you will find your breasts
cupped in the hands of a stranger.

You will drink from half-closed mouths
& find between your teeth
pieces of your brother’s city,
strands of your sister’s hair.

You will retreat into a cabin.
You will make the woods haunted.
You will hear someone is looking for you.
No one will be looking for you.


Landscape in which Your Sister Is Missing

In the other room,
your sister coughs up bones

when she thinks you’re not listening,
but being an owl yourself,
you’re always listening
& hear everything—

the window sliding open,
the mechanics of her wings clicking,
not unlike your wings,
the soft pellet scratching against her throat.

Even later,
as you undress her forbidden room,
prepare her things for disposal or donation
in a house devoid of forest creatures,

you listen still
for the tic tic of tiny ribs against lacquer.
You talk to her, a little.
You unbury the ghosts of mice.  


Snow White explains to the hunstman the material of his prison

Not glass. The glass was for the girl
who’s gone. Though sometimes,
I am curling my fingers
around heartstring. I am holding an ax,
its neck unyielding in my palm.

Brother, you tell me you killed a man.
I don’t ask how
his life left in front of you
and for that I’m sorry.

What leads us to the forest
one could imagine
won’t save everyone.

Brother, I mean to say
my face was too much for you
to bear.

Later, your hands glowing in boar’s blood,
you pocket the queen’s gold
but don’t remember how you got there. I suppose

there are some things you leave to die
in the yellow ground.

Brother, you know what they say
about the truly wild.
Even when they’ve lost
they hunt you back.

Brother, the game will kill you.

Brother, you’re crumbling.

To draw poison from the snake,
you must unhinge its jaw
and let it bite.

The poison will dissolve flesh,
burning as a myth does
to get out of
its shell. 


Ting Gou lives and writes in Ann Arbor, where she is a student at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her poems appear in the Bellevue Literary Review, Best of the Net 2014, Midwestern Gothic, r.kv.r.y., and elsewhere.