national anthology of the best
undergraduate writing 2010

Head Full of Mouths

Self-Portrait, Grace Zhu

In the end the moths ruled the sky.

At first, we thought they were ashes or dead leaves

but our volcano was broken, and the trees were too stupid

to change their clothes. If I roll up the window I will be safe.

One by one those black wings, swimming through the air, found us all.

I can’t stay in this car forever. Dead leaves. Ash. Ashes of dead leaves. The dead ash

leaves, a vacuum in our mouths. The moths gracefully filled the space. Every space.

I have been writing a page a day. That should help if the time comes. Ash-leaves.  A

faint breeze moves the hair on my hand, light as a feather, a drop of water

trickling down my arm. The stupid trees broke our volcano. The feeling is just how

they described it. My black hole eyes meet the source of the sensation,

doing breaststrokes across my hand. Closets full of ash.


In the end the moths ruled the sky.

At first, we thought they were black bird feathers or

the spots that form in your peripherals when there is too much

blood in your head. I dropped my note in the pile.

One by one we drank up, feathers twitching in our hair, those black wings.

The line was shorter than I expected. Black bird feathers. Blood spots. Spotted black

feathers. Blood-bird black. The black birds are spotting, dripping blood in our mouths.

I had way more paper than the rest of them. I guess I made it longer. Black peripheral.

My pages will keep me safe. Word-memories are the hardest to keep, but I’ll try.

A man greets us. Our stupid volcano birthed black birds. One by one.

Big smile. All teeth. He is genuine, I can smell it in his spotted breath.

He leads me down the basement stairs. Heads full of mouths.


In the end the moths ruled the sky.

At first we thought, but then we decided not to anymore.

Our babies were all broken and we had been wearing the same old

clothes for months. Into a palace of TVs and chairs.

One by one we swam, memories dead in our heads, with those black wings.

The other kids here seem so happy. Babies. Old clothes. Thought broken, old babies.

Broken clothes. Old thought babies. Old baby clothes covered in dead thought moths.

I am the oldest one here, but I have no problem playing with them. Thought-clothes.

We watch a movie where I kill my beloved horse and dig out his eyes. I don’t feel sick,

maybe I’ll prove that man wrong, the stupid babies clogged our volcano, by

waking up tomorrow. We prepare for bed. Uneasy. Joking about death.

The kid next to me starts to gurgle in his sleep. Mouths full of wings.