another poem on grief.

another poem on grief.

i will admit it.
i too am tired of sad, messy, diaspora art.

can we not just write about beauty, about freedom, about possibility?
what of our grander imaginations?

maybe it starts tomorrow.

tonight, i am writing grief for women i don't know,
who look like me, or maybe don't.
we aren't all alike -- isn't that funny?

i am writing heartache for lost dreams, and things we wish we had time for,
for a time when sweating the small stuff seemed like the big stuff.

the thing is,
i don't know anymore what it feels like to live in a body unafraid, 
in a mind unfettered by fear.

i tried, 
really i did, 
to tell myself that fear is a privilege
i do not deserve.
it is attention-seeking, paranoia reserved for those who have earned it.
what right do we have to fear when precarity is predicated on absence?

fear consumes me nonetheless.

my friends taught me how to escape a chokehold,
like it could help me escape from being seen in this body.
the knowledge gives false security, temporary reprieve.
i felt something like pride. it keeps the fear at bay.

mom called me today,
asked if i was eating alone at two in the afternoon.
i know she has heard the news.
i hide my fear behind assurances that the sun is present.
neither of us say anything else.

vocalizing fear is almost as scary
as feeling it.

i want to say we'll be fine. 
i text friends to see if they're home safe.
i tell people of my whereabouts after i lock the door behind me;
a reminder to myself that someone cares, even if it feels like
the world does not.

i searched online for how to activate an emergency call from my phone.
a cold wired brick, my lifeline.
i stopped listening to music on commutes, as if heightened hearing could prevent
the unthinkable.

how can something be unthinkable if it is all we ever think of?

i have not cried since Atlanta, since six women left this earth, 
since someone decided to play god,
since anger-shifting avatars threatened me for 
displaying anger, sadness, confusion.

trying to harden yourself does not remove the fear.
it is an abscess you become accustomed to.

in front of a laptop, i laid myself bare.
near strangers held me in silence.
i remember feeling freed - heavy but alive.

and oh god, i know we want to live.

i have become predisposed to grief, to heaviness.
my susceptibility to hard emotions make it feel like 
second nature.

it is contagion and salve.

is there a word for wanting to be seen and be invisible at the same time, 
to scream and bury it deep all at once?

tomorrow is another day,
another chance for swallowing fear whole 
alongside my medications. 

it is expensive to be sick, 
to be riddled with worry.

no doctor has been able to tell me what is wrong,
i think the only solution is something i don't know how to find.
i want us to be held in safety, 
in communion.

i don't know if tomorrow will let me
write that kind of happy into existence, 
if time will soften the hard edges
of loss.

but i want to try.

for the Hà Tinh victims.

for the Hà Tinh victims.


on trucks,
in boats;
across deserts,
unruly waves;
hidden between spaces,
locked away.

they had dreams

as i type this,
from the safety of my home,
a land i was born to,
in a city i could fly to,
passing security checks,
my screen
is as glaring
as her phone’s
must have been—
light in a dark
salvation in a space
for the damned,
the ones deemed
a portal to
a life left behind.

now, as i sit here,
the air is crisp,
a rain followed by unending sunlight
i wonder how many hours passed
for them in darkness,
stale air,
whimpering, cracking fingers.
how many texts did they send?
how many prayers were sent up to the sky only to
crash against tin walls around them?

they say,
“in death,
we are free.”

maybe their souls are able to wander freely over
the roads they once travelled.

their bodies are shipped back to loved ones.
free passage for the dead.
border patrol doesn’t care when the life has left,
when the blood is dry.
a debt is repaid.
£25,000 pounds for a dead daughter,
for broken families,
for eternal grief.

what is the price for
a gentler death?

for those who get to
keep breathing,
we are left
to wonder
what if

neither savior nor survivor

neither savior nor survivor


for the womxn
who does not want
[to be] a hero.

you do not need [to be] one.

for the womxn
who will not
fight in public,
will not make
statements for the court,
will not let the burden of proof
bruise her more
than the battle over her body.

i see you.

for the womxn
who will never know
because justice
is complicated,
is not clear-cut,
is not ex-boyfriends
behind bars,
is not strangers
on trial,
is not what
the law says.

i hear you.

for the womxn
who says she is okay
when she is most definitely not
i will feign ignorance,
if that is what you need.

i will never force you to admit
something you don’t want to,
never coerce you into
opening up your heart.

trust does not come
that easily.

for the womxn
who know all too well
what this poem
is about,
i will not pretend to know anything
except to know that
i will always believe you
because i know that you
believe me too.

– sister

a poem for my mom – 5.12.19

a poem for my mom – 5.12.19

媽媽, 沒有你我該怎麼辦。我愛你啊 。

when other moms
took their children
to the zoo
or the museum,
my mother took me to

i would play hide and seek
in between the circular
metal racks,
slide my tiny arms between
dance my way
between high heels
that i was sure
i would never grow into.

when mommy would pile
clothes onto her arms
and bring them into the
fitting room,
i would shuffle in behind her,
sit on the tiny bench meant for
putting down your purse and
plastic card with black bolded numbers
that never fit
on the door handle.
i learned how to be patient
on those trips.

when other moms
took their children
to the park
or watched them
run in the yard,
my mother took me to the

i would sit on tall
wooden stools
meant for grown people with
grown legs
and fast-typing fingers.
i would watch the technicians
pull bottles from shelves
and place them in bubble packs.
i learned how to send a fax
in that pharmacy.

when mommy was really busy,
i would pace back and forth in the
hallway, to the kitchen,
and back to mommy’s office.
i learned how to
black out confidential information,
savored the moments when i was
responsible enough
to put stickers on packages and line them up in
bags for delivery to
carehomes around the city.

when other moms
could be home,
and talk to their children
about their days,
my mother
was at the pharmacy,
or the hospital.

i would wonder,
why were these people
who were not me
more important?
i never asked,
and she never brought it up.
i learned how unspoken things
can hurt too.

when mommy was working late,
and could not come home
in time for dinner,
dad cooked.
he did that a lot.
when this happened,
sometimes, but not all the time,
i would be
angry with her.
i would call her cell phone,
the pharmacy, her cell again,
leave a voicemail.

i just wanted her

i remember nights
sitting in the dining room,
waiting for the sounds of
the garage squeaking open.
i played this game by myself,
ran to unlock the door before
i could hear the jingle of her keys.

when other moms
told their children to
go to bed,
my mother let me
stay awake with her as she
ate what was leftover.

i would sit across the
and put things on my plate,
so she wouldn’t
eat alone.
maybe that’s why i am
always hungry
late into the night.

when mommy told me
to get ready for bed after eating
a second time,
i would drag my feet,
lay on the couch and tell her
i needed to digest because i didn’t
want to leave yet.
i learned how to love someone
without saying it on those nights.

mommy and i only started
saying we loved each other
in the last couple years,
when our armor was down,
after we let ourselves
laugh about things that hurt us before.
we are close in a way
only a daughter can be with her mother.
i am not angry
or hurt
or sad
just grateful that i have a mother
who loved me enough
to bring me wherever she
needed to be
and still thought of me
when she couldn’t.



i’m not sure how to do this anymore.

i keep thinking about how absolutely unfair it all is.

do people ever remember the things they do if it didn’t viscerally impact them, but it altered someone else’s personhood?

i don’t ever want to give the past and people who have hurt me that much power. what does that say about me?

i’m so tired of going back to this, but what else can i do except write?

i can be happy and relaxed, but out of no where, i just feel so small and sad that men always take things without our permission.

i think the hardest part about it all is that i compartmentalize my life in ways that make it nearly impossible for me to be fully honest with the people i love.

i am so angry, so angry, so angry.
and then on some days, i am okay.
i am happy, even.
i wouldn’t be this person without that hurt.

this poem is dedicated to the men who have hurt me in big ways and small. i’m not happy with it yet, but like life, it’s a work-in-progress.


i have never felt safe with a man–
not since you.
not since early morning, glazed eyes, limp arms, heavy heart,

out of body experiences are not

i have not felt safe since
5 months of acting–
brave face,
plastered smiles,
heart-racing, fingers laced
l o v e,
we called it.
my performance was so convincing
i nearly believed it too.

i have not felt safe since
dark club nights,
white fingers, condescension,
alcohol and swaying and not enough time to say

i have not felt safe since
hot hands, clocks ticking,
cars and traffic and too much noise,
shallow breaths,
followed by months of silence.

when i think about
the fear i feel,
i also think that
living in safety
does not mean we are
where we belong.

sometimes a poem
is a placeholder
for the next hurt,
because there is always
a next time.

sometimes it is shock absorption,
a place to lay your head,
a salve for throbbing hearts.

the poem becomes a swan song,
becomes a fight,
helps you route your way
to happy,
to closing doors,
to safety.


if they come for me

if they come for me

if they come for me,
don’t cry on the television.
don’t let them tell you
not to make it

when a white man,
who is angry and believes
i have taken
something from him,
walks into a
grocery store,
and shoots with reckless abandon,
know that this could have been

if they come for me,
search my computer,
look through my phone,
scour my social media accounts
for proof that i was here.

when the media
tries to demonize me,
and the public lets them,
you can try to defend me
and remind them that i was
you will probably fail.
they already know what they believe.
they have already won.
i am dead, after all.

if they come for me,
hold each other close.
laugh about the things i said.
talk about the dreams i had.
eat all of my favorite foods.

when people organize to march,
prepare for the worst.
there will always be a worst.
more grief,
more anger,
more fear.

if they come for me,
do not leave flowers where
my body was found.
do not speak my name in hushed tones.
do not make it a battle cry

when my family holds a service,
let them grieve in peace.
do not wear red.
on New Year’s, you can
wash your hair and
sweep the floor.
all the luck has left us

if they come for me,
you can be angry,
loss will do that.
remember to breathe,
even if i am not.

when enough time has passed,
make them listen.
do not let them come for another.

if they come for me,
what will you say?

if they come for me,
let them point fingers.
they will label it “mental health”,
forget the word “terrorist”
because his skin is pale.

if they come for me,
you will know the truth.
you will wish you could have
protected me from men
who hate me
because i am me.

the war is far from over.

make change.
do not be quiet.
let them hear how
loss sounds.
let them see how
seeds grow.

you are coming for them now.

a conversation between sides

a conversation between sides

you ask
how sacrifice

you ask
how loss

you ask
how broken
mend other
broken people.

keep asking,
and i will show you

my mother
and her pharmacy degree
tucked away in a home office.

my father
and how he leads in a room
where my grandfather’s voice still

my yinyin and yeye
and plastic flowers
we put near gravestones.

my popo
and how she refuses
to leave the house
my mom bought for her.

you ask
how is this a dream.

keep asking,
and i will show you

photo albums, army trunks, mahjong tiles.

keep asking,
and i will show you

rain-damaged letters, ink-stained newspapers, calligraphy brushes.

keep asking,
and i will show you

rice flour, reused pie tins, boiling water.

you ask
isn’t this America?

keep asking,
and i will say
this is the America i know.

keep asking,
and i will say
this is the life we have made.

keep asking
and i will want to show you
to the door.

instead i ask,
what does your America look like?
how different does your love look?
what does your America have that i cannot find in mine?

when things aren’t good.

when things aren’t good.

i carry fear
like breadcrumbs;

leave a trail behind
so i know
how to get back to

there will be a time
for maps

there will be a time
for arrows pointing

there will be a time
for warm lighting,
soft pillows,
writing our feelings.

but for now,
there is dark.
there is cold.
there is never-ending

for now,
there are bedsheets.

for now,
there are silver spoons,
frozen fingers,
half-eaten pints of ice cream.

for now,
there are tear-soaked

for now,
there is sleep.

and when the morning comes
it is still dark.
it is still cold.
it is still silent.



i have choked
on questions–
felt lumps in my throat,
gasped for air and clawed at words

on mattresses,
in living rooms,
on doorsteps,
in bathrooms.

questioned my own

was made to think
that another’s
my dignity.

thought that “no means no”
and “yes”
was “yes”, full stop.

and so,
i did not know how to
explain away
my discomfort;

reassured myself
that it was
an instance in a sea of

tried to give excuses
for why men

there is something
so soul-crushing, heartbreaking, stomach-turning
about living in this body.

i wonder
why we continue
hoping or loving or forgiving
at all.

maybe there is something to be said
about the strength
of a womxn.

but even that strength
men feel
entitled to.

for once
can’t we have something
that is just