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3 poems
by
Mimi Yang

Mimi Yang currently resides in Shanghai, but she has lived in Boston and Montreal. Her work has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and appears or is forthcoming in The Margins, Palette Poetry, Rust & Moth, and elsewhere.

At the Tea Horse Road

I keep writing about myself when I could instead

write about horses, their eyes gleaming murderous

with joy, their hooves heavy with the meadow

that is shameless & kind to the world but not to me,

not yet. See? I did it again. Most creatures

we make our fantastical objects of love do not love

us, nor do they worry about the gnats in their hair

thirsting for those neat rows of bugle lilies that line

their scalp. Unlike me, they can enter the broken door

of Lijiang’s wheat-laid houses time & time

again, without ever wondering if their fathers were raised

under roofs like these, if these waterlogged planks

of cedar wood ever hid bodies, if they could fit

themselves the bedroom where the bodies were hidden

and believe it a stable. The truth is, I loved the horses

not for the maple of their manes or the bugle lilies

I wished to find, but for the flecks of blood I caught

in their fur, the noseband wounds circled

by gadflies in worship, how I suspect they never forgot

about the carriage they drew or the whip-

kissed lines on their back. But they galloped

into the stream regardless, & never felt the need

to question water for what it’s washed clean.

Every Time I'm On Vacation

all the scenery starts to seem the same. As if

the Tushita karst cave, red with ghosts, opens into

another halfway across the country, or if every

waterfall keels over and dives into China’s

sixty-something bottle-green lakes. In time, even

the severed pink lotus heads sold for 20 per jin

tastes the same from Suzhou to Qingdao. I guess

what this means is I worry there are no more

new doors to worlds I can open and disappear into.

No beauty enough to outlast the summer or excuse

what ruin I will eventually welcome. But then, 

on my walk back to the hotel where strangers make

my bed and clean my filth, I remember

the stretch of unpaved road on the bike ride back

from Derek’s house: how every night I noticed

the different ways leaves dip low to lap warmth

from streetlamps—some days, like sisters limned

by light, slow-dancing to Leslie’s fast songs in the living

room—others, like years reluctantly slipping back

into scarred stone. Still, year after year, they practice

this promise to meet, stupid with the simple desire

for return. Here, on this asphalt where I can stay

unseen in ugliness, driving my crooked bike, beauty

is sea-glass small in the vastness of tides. I am

always coming home, all over again.

The Worst Things I've Ever Done

Got a piercing without telling mom. Then went back

to get four more until my ear swelled up, pig

pink & ridge-swallowing. Lied about winning

the math competition—I didn’t even attend it

because I pretended to have an asthma attack

but really just ate bags of fried collards

until I threw up swirls of sap green, algal blooms

floating in toilet water. Cried out of coming

to class, even though I didn’t believe in anything

worth crying for anymore, I just didn’t want

to learn about eutrophication, those windshield-

blue cod sinking into the green of unchecked plant

growth, how sometimes life is suffocating

in its wild abundance. Instead of listening

to the proverbial lie, the one in which young

Da Vinci spent three years drawing eggs in Verrocchio’s

studio until they were perfect, I squeezed red paint

onto the canaries whose likeness I failed

to capture, pressed my hands into the coils

of pigment & made wide circles in the shape

of dying suns, then blamed it on my sister.

The next day, I watched in silence as dad tore her

drawings, all the purple ferns & bold birds

with human eyes, slow like folding blankets. Didn’t

apologize for any of it: not the damage I couldn’t

create perfect eggs out of, or the look on my mother’s face

when I told her where on my arms this damage

ends. Why should I? Even on days where I choose

to consider the lake for every creature it has spared

from death, the stubborn cod parting

through red tide, I still have to watch my sister

pull a hangnail down to her flaking red fingers, then

another, & another, every night before sleep. Always

promising, I’ll stop this time. Always, I swear I didn’t

start because of you. I swear I didn’t watch as you pressed

scaled flesh from the upper bunk forcefully back

into water, coaxed color out of raised lines. I just didn’t

have anything to do with my hands. That’s all.