Mimi Yang


It’s true New York must always follow Shanghai. A wide river
exchanging hands with the drowned valley. All cities are the same
during the right season, enough cold to bury difference, be it
anger or language. That first year in America I learned to cut
my nails so short they bled, lived comfortably off instant coffee
and laxatives. Sitting on the twin mattress with a fruit knife,
I was so beautiful I couldn’t even be recognized. My mother,
cheeks the dark hollow of nickels, tires out of performance, says
we were not made to stay in this country. Our skin and temper
too brittle, our humors lilt in the wind’s extremities. Growing
mousy in Manhattan, she thinks each brownstone is haunted
by its architect. Of course, she would know. She was a doctor
until she smelt the bodies; a romantic until she had a daughter.
Everywhere I go, there are arrows in my eye that flint and flicker.
Their angled path toward anger is one I walk again and again
on every continent. Each bearing the same lessons: all food
tastes the same coming up my throat and onto the curb. I am
so liberated I should start wearing dresses. I tape down my tits
and show the bare skin on my arms. It’s a challenge.
I want you to look at me. How much I’ve wanted
to change. How much I fall helplessly over
the next closest thing to home. Even with
all the dead weight and words I’ve lost, I’ve found
I still look like my father. I can never lose his nose.


Mimi Yang is currently based in Providence, but they are always dreaming their way home to Shanghai. A Best of the Net Nominee, their work has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and the UK Poetry Society, and appears or is forthcoming in The Margins, BOOTH, Penn Review, among others. More of their work can be found at mimissyou.com.