Grandfather keeps a box of matchsticks in his pocket.
I watch him as a child watches the unfamiliar, fearful,
fascinated, watch the casual flick of his wrist, the
spark, and then the smoke. I never liked his smoke.

Mother blames my bad luck on the absence of water in my
name, the abundance of fire. says I’m too raw, too
alien, hands me a pair of scissors and tells me to trim
away the wilderness, so there’d be less to burn.

after Grandfather’s death the matchsticks disappeared for
a time, emerging briefly for a birthday perhaps, or some
other celebration: for the harvest, for the gods, for the
dead. this was the smoke of worship, and I savoured it.

these days, Mother carries around a box of matchsticks.
it’s in the blood I suppose, our disposition to destroy.
Father taught me once, with his soft hands, how to light
a match. he doesn’t have to worry about hurting other people.

there are a few things I’ve learnt: three. I have a
tendency to burn. two. this house is the hearth, and the
people, the kindling. one. my hands can’t light a match,
but my mouth can start a fire.

so I carry these fires in my throat; as such, I am inhabiting
my birthright, horoscope. inherit the fiery dominance
of the dragon, they said, a prophecy from before I was born.
I keep my mouth closed, and a glass of water by my side.




Lysander Wong is a McCormick freshman from Hong Kong. He enjoys exploring cities, is mildly afraid of vast indoor spaces, and thinks he drinks too much water.