August 11, 2019

Bridging Two Cultures: Emma Wang’s Fierce Poetry

Bridging Two Cultures:  Emma Wang’s Fierce Poetry
Variations on the History of the People’s Republic of China 
Sometimes the skin retreats 
into the bone, jagged edges 
of tongue tasting the summer heat. 
Imagine the ownership (or lack of) 
a sunken statue turning 
whispers behind closed 
conversations and blood against blood. 
The first time I saw my father 
cry, there were ghosts in his lungs. 
When the star-crossed, green-costumed 
women dance on skeletons 
My father averts his eyes like they’re 
the decapitated deer. 
On my passport every stamp 
sounds like yeye’s warnings, every 
printed word the broken  
English of my mother, every second 
of silence the wrath of old men. 

Abecedarian for the Chinese Immigrant 
All you can take are your 
Blouses and your tongue; 
Children & rice cakes should be 
Dropped into the sea to the 
Very last one. You will 
Find new building blocks to reassemble your 
Girls, new letters to construct your 
Houses - oh wait -  
It’s the other way around. 
Jackets you’ll buy at the  
K-mart, but only if it’s  
Local. You cannot carry your 
Mama nor your baba 
No matter how  
Oversized your bags. 
Push your words 
Quickly overboard, 
Rinse your gums & teeth with 
Think about your  
Uncle, your jiujiu, he  
Vouched to keep you safe, but 
Wait until the  
X-Chromosomes give you a girl to apologize. 
Yeye, I’m sorry. I’ll call you when the  
Zoo animals are free. 

How Bricks were Invented 
Sometimes I trip 
thin air the same way 
I trip over a half-finished  
sentence. The child in me wishes to say 
“moo, moo,” when pointing to the  
night sky, but I hold my 
tongue, instead saying yue liang.  
I was constructed from 
tasteless vegetables and the Hannah Montana 
theme song, neither, maybe both 
stumble between the bridges of my 
teeth. Every year I go home 
I am aware that I am living in air. 
Twenty-seven floors and they are nothing yet 
perhaps something. Flipping through  
the old illustrations my dad used to  
Read in English, I suddenly wish to 
crumple the pages like the many poems 
I have written, the words lean back into the page 
like a prayer or 
a confession muttered between the cracks 
of a brick wall.  


Emma Wang is an 18-year-old writer born in Xi’an, China, currently attending Indian Springs School in Alabama. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, TRACK//FOUR, The Harpoon Review, Blue Marble Review, Canvas Literary Journal, What Are Birds, The Mire, and more. She founded and co-runs the Goya Writer’s Workshop, an international online workshop for young writers. She also reads for Polyphony Lit. On days when she remembers it, she likes to blog at She is usually tired. 


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