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
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 www.lifes-lemons.com. She is usually tired.