Current Issue poetry Special Issue Zine

Tales About Women

by Molly Zhu

Tales About Women

They say a rabbit lives on the face of the moon,
with a beautiful girl and a wizened willow tree, too.
They are ensconced from the darkened earth,
as much as they are trapped in a spell…
these are the myths my grandmother would whisper to me
in almost musical speech, a tiny smile bubbling
from the corner of her lips.
These tales about women were cautionary stories, after all
we were not meant to be too greedy,
too vain, too ambitious, too great,
greater than our husbands, greater than
the shadow of our counterparts…
the summer my grandmother became a widow,
she flew to China for the funeral and when she returned,
I never saw her weep, I never heard her speak of him
again, she was ten years younger than my grandfather
and I never saw them kiss.
When my aunt first came to this country
my father picked her up from the airport and taught her
two rules about American survival:
One, buy necessities cheaply in bulk;
Two, always listen to your husband.

She took half of his advice and dutifully signed up
for a Costco membership. Then she built a house in the woods
and grew a bamboo forest and my uncle returned to China.
And my mother, collector of beautiful things with her heart
as fierce and unpredictable as a gale storm,
my mother returned to her father’s city alone
after a lifetime of constructing her own prison cell in the far corners
of the earth. I wonder how freely
those first few breaths of relief tumbled
from her lungs when she finally made her escape like a shooting star.
And when the girl on the moon was punished
for drinking her husband’s elixir,
the Gods sentenced her to an eternity of lunar servitude,
they swept her away from mortal earthen home.
Her husband tried everything to grasp at her, to keep her,
to bring her back–
he set out her favorite foods, he begged and tried to change,
he was wild with rage,
he was barren with remorse,
he didn’t know what to do
for many, many long years…
but at that point,
it was much too late.

Molly Zhu is an Asian American poet and attorney. Her work centers around Chinese culture, her family, and the things that make her cry. She has been published in Hobart Pulp, the Ghost City Press, and Bodega Magazine, among others. In 2021 and 2022, she was nominated for Pushcart prizes. She currently serves as assistant poetry editor for Passengers Journal.

She is the winner of the 2021 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize hosted by the Cordella Press and her debut chapbook, Asian American Translations, is now available for purchase. You can learn more on or on Instagram: @mlz316