Sweetness and Light

Jaymee Goh

When she speaks, sweetness and light spill forth,
literally. She does not know
if people kiss her from affection
or curiousity. She keeps silent. (This pains her;
she is naturally chatty.)
“Oh to speak with light!” her friends say,
“to never be in dark needlessly.”

“It’s rather overrated,”
she replied, but let herself
be persuaded to join her friends in chorus.
Brilliant swansong friend,
we are all the more beautiful
when your voice clings to our skin

Her first kiss, she watched
as the light trickled down her lover’s chin.
“Tickles,” he said.
That was the only time she gave permission.
The other kisses were forced out of her,
so she learned to curl her fists:
hurt early, hurt often,
hurt them early, hurt them often
‘til they stopped.

Hey actual candy girl, the boys called,
give us a little sugar, light up our lives,
when you talk it looks like we did the nasty in your mouth
and it is the hottest thing we ever saw

“You are so blessed,” everyone said,
when she dared complain,
“yours is the divinity,
of celestial bequeath. Cherish it.”

“You mean, bestow it.”
“Don’t be ungrateful.
Now give us a kiss.” They would open
their arms, fully expectant.
Luminous love,
strawberry sugarplum fairy how we adore you so
kiss me, no kiss me, no me, me, me

So when the darkness came,
she did not cry out in protest.
“Sweet thing,” they begged, “say something,
say anything, we’ve done you wrong,
isn’t that worth talking about?”
But she shook her head and smiled,
no, no, you’ve earned my silence.

She leaned back into the cradle of the world’s disintegration,
crumbling greedy tongues between her fingers.
When all is still and all is silent,
only then will she speak, so sweetness and light can spill forth,
literally. Now she knows:
her voice can make this world anew.

Jaymee Goh is a writer, poet, editor, and academic, originally from Malaysia, currently living across North America for school. Her work has been published in Strange Horizons, Stone Telling, and Science Fiction Studies. The latest anthology she co-edited, The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, was released last fall from Rosarium Publishing.

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