daughters imported from afar and grown
in monocultures, like bananas or oranges,
start to attract fruit flies in August. real
daughters should be grown in a terracotta
pot from seed or else they resist root
training. my girls are easy-peelers, their pith
falls away from the flesh in ribbons.
the windowsill overflows with their variegated
curls and heirloom lips. in summer, my girls
will gourd on sunlight and nitrates,
stretched out and puckered like
honeycombs. you know, they balloon right
through their too-big clothes like
engorged moons—the heat does them good,
I think. real daughters should be pinched with
fingers, not clippers, or else they get too leggy.
my mother always says that I mustn’t forget to prune
the suckers around their thighs. sometimes it’s best to leave
them to bloat, uprooted, under the heat lamp
on their unskinned bellies for several days at a time,
“photosynthesizing.” all my daughters are wired,
if left to their own means, good posture
is as probable as the Bible in
this chlorophyll world. delicate
daughters are best weaned onto thin
soil, that way they learn to stomach water by
the gallon. when their hips and chests start to
pinken and swell, deflower your daughters so
that they’ll keep for longer. start by shearing down
the stems and snip snip snip all the way down there.
my filthy garden-patch girls ooze with the sticky
sweetness of nectar and bear pods
in the cups of their hands like an offering.
in autumn, they skin-jostle for space, let their
juices dribble right down,
all swallow no chew.
my daughters know to fear aperture—
ways to split open like a pod but remain shut.
home-grown daughters are best left in the
ground and harvested when needed.
I want you to tell me again how rice
swells after rain and weddings melt
away like milk teeth, how the moon
grows in the belly, and how a young
Chinese mother holds guilt in the cup
of her outstretched hands like an
offering or table salt. tell me what you
know about salt, how speech can be a
kind of thirst. my mother cannot name
the color of salt, nor the shade
my eyes turn underwater. she says the
ocean has bite, and to prove it she
drenches a mound of salt until it
hardens to bone, she that says venus
surfaced from the spit of salt, she
says, she says, she says. my mother
has a dream and will not tell me how it
ends, but the children drown in miles
of sand. she holds my head at both ears.
the first time our mother sat at the sea’s
open door, she was eight months
pregnant, with us bobbing inside of
her, dreams of sea lions nursing dark,
doe-eyed pups, chewing on fish and spitting up
the bones. in the dark, I reimagine her belly
bursting with floodwater in the birthing pool,
her mouth full of soft vowels all running together
and packed in like feathers or fish meat and
I cannot figure out the breathing spaces in
between. the water offers an unwrinkled hand.
In the bath, the water sucks at my ear lobes,
the gills come naturally, the dead sea pooling
in my throat. I sing the children out of the cove
like disorientated baby turtles, I silver my
fingers. this is what all good daughters
transform into. these days, I find her in small
moments like this and in increments of bone,
the ridge off a porcelain spine, in apothecary
bottles of perfumed salts. the radio counts
backwards from the sea. and this is how
all mothers begin and end: thighs glistening
scallop-white and streaked with salt and amnion.
Anya Trofimova is fifteen years old and studies in London, England. Her work has been recognized by the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, Young Voices: An Anthology of Poetry, the Planet in Peril anthology, Saltaire Festival Poetry Competition, and Songs of Peace: The World’s Biggest Anthology of Contemporary Poetry 2020, among others.