Mingpei Li

On the Mechanism of Need

the underside of the striatum hides a marbled effect.
recall fire-gilding pork belly, volatile drops of fat lingering in your hair,
recall the alhambra palace, lapis inlays climbing every mirroring wall.
this soft slope where gray matter swirls into white matter,
it is here that the magnetic lights of oxygen-heavy blood flicker,
when we first break the seal of ourselves.

it teaches us, this is pleasure. it says, find this, and this,
and more of this: an impulse we think we can indulge or lick good.

i recall that you do not eat meat but do not call yourself vegetarian,
i recall that we have never been to granada together, nor any palace therein.

enough pleasure elevates not just ourselves but also certain inner
reptilian processes. not enough pleasure is what packs impulse
onto an escalator with no visible taper, a swift kick and off you go.
weeks later, enough later, flickers codify into rules, and we’ll see
the magnetic lights shoot to the topside of the striatum, like going
to a higher floor to get closer to heaven.

Mingpei Li was born in China and lives in New York City. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Santa Ana River Review, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Small Po[r]tions, and elsewhere.

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