firewords (Ginger Yifan Chen)

Five seconds after midnight, the fireworks begin. The BANG! of a starting pistol. The referee had been briefly distracted.

This is an inept metaphor. The year is not a race. We all finish at the same time.

They’re illegal, of course. The fireworks. We’re barely within city limits. But we are, so it counts.

The neighbors don’t care. Six months prior, their Fourth of July extravaganza prompted not one, but three fire trucks to show up. This time, there was no such commotion. July is dry season. January is not.

The sparks are close. Close. I’m three houses away from the intersection; where Silver and Hester Avenue collide, where they’re setting them off.

The moon is full. Against the cold night: Red and green flares.

(They leave behind imprints of chrysanthemum-shaped smoke.) Brief white flashes of firecrackers in the side streets.

(No car alarms, surprisingly.) Then, a field of marigolds.

(The loudest and brightest.)

I feel the explosion on my cheek. A spray of moisture. The heat flicking the last of the evening drizzle onto me.

My window perfectly frames the fireworks. This is a good omen. But they are close. Close. Sound and color. Crowding me.

The next shower of sparks reaches their zenith and begin to descend. Bright, with comet-tails of smoke.

A spark sails through the open window. Right into in my palm.
Perfect landing.
Sizzling red.

Still smoking.

Cool to the touch.

It is the size and weight of a cicada.

It feels like TV static.

Its pale core resists my touch. A force prevents me. We are magnets repelling each other.

It is dying.

On the last morning of the old year, there had been an earthquake. 3.3 magnitude. A brief shiver. Atlas shrugged. Then an after-tremor, constant and low. Tinnitus. Background radiation. The ringing vibration of a wineglass. I fell back to sleep before it stopped.

This is the first year I had someone to kiss into the next. Maybe. I could not make the attempt because there is no party. No crowd. No adrenaline. No countdown.

There is still the sweet taste of Prosecco on my tongue. A gunpowder-light brush on my cheek from a firework. The lightness of the full moon.

I kiss the dying spark. Its static scrubs the dead skin from my lips. I deliver a poem with my tongue. I julienne its electricity and take it as my own. I get brainfreeze when I fully taste it. I melt slightly like candlewax. I leave a secret for it to swallow.

I kiss until it is gone. I swallow the smoke it leaves behind.


Ginger Yifan Chen is experimenting with mediums. She’s an interdisciplinary writer, artist, filmmaker, and poet. Find her online @gingerychen. She’s currently researching AI ethics & computer poetry (@theaipoet on Twitter).