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when i wanted to start losing

Joyce Liu

you would always let me win.

i don’t know how to contend with that. i don’t know how to keep playing the game when you’re in the other chair. is this love or a kind of toxic passivity? this implicit surrender. this giving up and in, your ribs collapsing underneath my hand like paper flowers. when we love someone, do we let them carve I WAS RIGHT into their belly, do we let them breathe it against the corner of our mouth, do we let them touch their glasses against ours, a kiss before our lips do? is that how you love? if that’s how you do it i don’t think i want to play anymore.

i wanted to break you like day breaks on the horizon. i wanted it tender and what i mean is this: i am looking for the pretty parts and i am coming up empty-handed. i only know tender for the way something breaks between my teeth. when i say you are tender, i mean that i am scared of how i will eat you. when i say i want tenderness, i mean i want to break someone in half and it turns out you weren’t the one. i’m sorry about your sweater. i’m sorry i didn’t wash it. i wanted someone to look at me and die a little bit inside. i wanted to make someone’s heart implode and you had a history of heart disease. i heard pick your fights and i picked all of them. i don’t know when i decided that it’s the people who hit us that care but you never did and i didn’t know how to live with that. i still don’t. it’s not about the card games, not about the pool table, i’m talking about hiding in the museum exhibit cave. i’m talking about when we were lying on the grass in the park and the kids were walking by on the path and you could’ve kissed me and you didn’t. you would never do something i didn’t ask you for first. you would never tell me i was wrong. winning happens away from the table and it was always, always me who won. just once, i wanted you to care about something enough to yell. i wanted to be worth hurting. i wanted to be scarred and you were the closest knife but you wouldn’t do it.

you wouldn’t – couldn’t – finish the damn job.


Joyce Liu is a teenage poet from Ottawa, Canada. When she's not writing she can be found taking long walks in the woods and watching Formula 1 races. More of her work can be found in released and upcoming issues of perhappened mag, FEED, and Burning Jade Literary and Arts Magazine.

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