May 13, 2022

by K.J. Li


In the year 2000, two scientists bet on whether the first person
to live to 150 had already been born. The hypothesis:
that each day we move nearer to the end
of ending. Our biology made obsolete
as a saint banished to paradise. When I say over dinner
that I’m ready for them to find a cure for death, mother

tells me the briefness of our animation is what makes it
precious. But how can I believe this? Since I last saw
my father three years ago for half a day I have gained
lives he has never touched, new ways
of forgetting, and no comfort in this distance
or the mutual scarceness of our knowing. Unlike

the saints, I would rather destroy
our suffering than to practice it. For months
Catherine of Siena subsisted only
on light and her tongue’s own water
until her body crossed the distance between shadow
and that which cast it: the same place

every sinner and beast of burden goes.
Don’t mistake me: I don’t want to live
forever so much as to be hurtless
and unkillable. I love too much
of this world and so
am afraid - or: I am afraid

and so I love. When my mother tells me she’s lived
enough, I want to open my throat, spill
out all the shining hours I have forfeit, tell her:
don’t think of what we have
to lose: look only at me, what I hold
in my hands - how precious

I have made everything
I cannot help but receive.



K.J. Li is an LGBT+ Chinese-American raised in central Texas. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she takes long walks and misses the family cat. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Shade Journal, Chestnut Review, Lumiere Review, and others - more can be found at