Cover Photo: a man standing on an abstract beach depicted in shades of black, purple, and fiery red, with ashes swirling around and a red phoenix flying overhead
Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult

Ashes at Kande Beach, Malawi

Everything is an elegy these days, all chipped rings, / clipped wings.

Ashes at Kande Beach, Malawi

clipped wings. You are alive, so the pills work,

on the lake, the way its reds & pinks bleed

& in their place a blank sky, a wordless

across the wall of your cabin, you spin a prayer

& tender limbs. You wake to a hum, thinking,

of all the submersed parts & pistons that I am

to Phoebe Bridgers & love my neighbor as myself,

But no. The Hum simmers to a hum, & soon enough

still as the lake at dawn. You crack the door.

a trick of the light, light being God’s first trick.

Look. Look at the beach, the beach shrouded

smoked itself down to the roach & given birth

swaddled in soot. As soon as you picture wings,

you see it for real. Not God’s first trick

with hungry mouths. Let the ash, bristling with shine,

landed, unhumming. Let the winged be betrayed by

on its corpse coat, its most sickening ensemble,

be an elegy. Why not? Let the birds get fat.

without treading on grief upon grief upon grief.

Steven Duong is an American writer from San Diego. A 2021 Poetry Coalition Fellow at Kundiman, his writing is featured or forthcoming in Guernica, AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, and other venues. He will be starting his MFA in Fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the Fall of 2021.