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when she speaks there are phrases missing
words strung up in incoherent pieces
memories juggling between myth and history

i once
a song.

her tongue tied, strangled consonants
whistled through the gap in her teeth
the clipped pages of a diary at her feet

forgive me
we are lost.

her language is said to be imaginary
its lexicon like black and white photographs
imagined of spurious subjects

the wind
our wings
carried away.

no vowels to oil the sounds
she sputters constrained
her throat vibrating a cacophony

these lips
meant for verse.

then sing, I told her, sing
lay your letters along a lyre
confess your hymns in lyrics



oh, but when she sings,


i hear: take me, take me to the space between our breaths

oh, but how her eyes are closed so tightly,



i feel: i will be found, i will be free, i will rejoin

oh, but how her body sways,

open, forgiving

i see: the orange typhoon of days, the blue-green of a winged peoples

oh, but the lilt in her voice

takes me away


i am: the space in between breath, the sound of the hollow

i am…
so free
when she sings…

Zora Mai Quỳnh is a genderqueer Vietnamese writer whose short stories and essays can be found in The SEA Is Ours, Genius Loci: The Spirit of PlacePOC Destroy Science Fiction, and Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. This is her debut at Strange Horizons. Visit her: You may contact her at
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10 Jan 2022

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