Anser Journal

the author co-opts religious imagery

By Joyce Liu

I’m not religious, but if you leave a teabag in the cup, doesn’t it become tea-adjacent? By which i mean, when we are steeped in something foreign long enough, it becomes part of us too.

On the first day, God said let there be light, and there was light.

You know how this story goes. This is an old story, one I don’t need or want to tell you.

On the sixth day God created man. I don’t know where we fit in the picture. You, not yet a man. Me, never to become one. But there aren’t a lot of pictures in our books that fit us.

And God said thou shalt be smitten, and I said ok i guess. Did you mean smote? And he said no, you have been cursed to fall in love with every person who walks your way and half the people who walk the other way, and I said fucking hell man, but I have never been anything but obedient. Confucius taught me that one, and I’ve spent two decades scraping my knees raw at the altar of filial piety for him. What’s another ancient man to obey? It’s just another stick of incense, another bow, a few extra words to murmur at night or before dinner or in the village fields, where all our men are buried.

And God said I am not who you think I am and I said yeah, join the club. Nobody ever is. I’ve always been so good at reading books but people elude me. And all my faults are yours, aren’t they. That’s how this works. You stab me in the back and ask why i took your knife. You stab me in the back and i walk around with it sticking out of me like a gift. Every bad thing that happens is all on me even though it isn’t. Every bad thing is on me until I could make a quilt out of it, lay myself down with my mistakes and misfortunes and drift off to sleep.

I’m not talking to God, anymore. We’re not on speaking terms. Maybe we never were. Is it sacrilege, to make a man a metaphor? I’m sorry, God. I’m going to borrow your skin for a little while longer, stuff my real target inside, shake it a little, fuck him up.

He’s no God. I know. He’s just a man. I know. I don’t even want to give him that much.

He feels like God, sometimes, doesn’t he.

I know.

There is a drop of blood on the rim of the cup. Do you want it? Would that be enough? Do I have to bleed myself dry to pay for my sins, or am i forgiven?

And even if I’m forgiven, are you?

God, I’m sorry for stealing your sweater. It’s lumpy and misshapen in places, but it just looked so good on you and I’ve always been prone to envy.

Sometimes it’s not until we have it that we realize we never wanted it at all. You can have your sweater back. I washed it for you.

Joyce Liu is a teenage poet from Ottawa, Canada. When she's not writing she can be found taking long walks in the woods and watching Formula 1 races. More of her writing can be found at