Back to Issue Forty-Three

If Writing Is Remembering


The trick is to go backwards.
Then to keep going.
Time speeds up. A door shuts
& opens. I come home every day.
Sounds of laughter flood down
my parents’ mouths. The sun
sinks. My mother lies awake.
My father opens his eyes & rolls
toward her. Night after night
they climb out of bed & into
the same lives. Before they fight
they say sorry so am I sorry.
On a black & white screen
I lose my heartbeat & shrink to darkness.
A sperm tears itself from the egg.
She is beautiful. He is skinny.
They are a woman & a man holding
a photo of themselves.
In a red hall my father lets fall
my mother’s veil. The trumpet stops,
then the cymbals. Tongues slide
back inside their own mouths.
My mother pedals counterclockwise
on a yellow bike & unspools her life.
They have never made each other cry.
He is with another woman.
She loves another man.
They twine their limbs around
other people & break promises.
Summer comes, then comes again.
The past is perfect & alive.


Self Portrait as Hermaphroditos


I was born of beauty,
the dirty kind. I sleep
facing the wall. You will
want to touch me.
I will want to want it.

I had a boy in me,
who fed outside & cut
children like weeds, who
wandered home
& folded himself into
softness. That was the way
for most girls.

One day the boys who killed
the girls inside them
smeared mud
over my chest & shouted —

Are you a girl?
Are you a girl?

Prove it! They screamed.

I made the boy in me
mount the girl & crush her
to an it. In a circle
the girls watched excitedly
who had silenced the boys
inside them. Together
we said nothing.

Years later a man pinned me
down. I called out
to the boy & girl
but could not recall
their names. In the night
no one & nothing came
except harm, with its familiar,
practiced gait.




Poem beginning with a line from Danez Smith

The bed where it happened is where I sleep.
Firm queen, 60 X 80, designed for two bodies,
& the saying — Now you must lie in it.

The man I loved loved to tell lies, though
he was honest when he punished me.
For months, I let him.

But I am lying. I say bed because it implies
comfort. It happened on the couch, maybe.
Something cold even in summer.

What do I remember of the man I lay with?
His right eye — the one I could see,
burning like a cigarette.

Must I lie still for the scene to end?
I wanted it, I tell myself, & it’s true
that I wanted to want it.

The lie held me & the ones before me
as I waited for pain to stop changing.
The lie was necessary —

You see? I am ready to believe
I am a thing worth saving.


Yuxi Lin is a Chinese American writer and a 2019 AAWW Margins Fellow. She writes both poetry and prose. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Longreads, The Southern Review, The Nashville Review, RHINO, Epiphany, The Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from New York University, where she was a Lillian Vernon Fellow. She lives and teaches in the East Village.

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