erin!

United States

叶安灵 // 16, 2022 // she-her-hers
hey hey
eritiserint on prose.

Message from Writer

likes to write about feelings. also loves to listen to music, go on walks, and make smoothies!

if a piece has been removed, i've submitted it for publication!

thank you for 100(!!!!), i <3 you

Published Work

during // the recap


a crystallized nightmare in the form of lost time.
my feet cannot take this any longer.
i lost a hand some time ago, and my mind is sure to follow.
if i gave up now, sank my knees into the ground
and gave the hometown crowd a sight,
would i only be missed by headlines?
would my friends stare in shock and skip right along,
my face but a fraction of their psyche-
my parents would miss me but i’d hope they’d move on,
place their expectations in sturdier hands.
what i carry now shakes with great uncertainty.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
when i was eleven, i skied down the wrong chute.
down down down until i was standing in the middle of nowhere,
miles away from mountain territory and breathing bodies.
i often wonder what would’ve happened if i’d just stayed there. instead
i took two things: a deep breath, and my skis from off my feet.
carrying my weight in my...

sitting alone in the parking lot


i couldn’t tell you if it was the weather or the cold feet or the quiet but the sunset ate me up and spit me out.

did you know she taught me how to draw? guided my hands with graphite wisdom
and my thanks was never said with words.
salt sprays my chapping lips, mist mixes with morning sweat;
all this water yet i always seem to float.

trust the process as it waxes over wood,
kiss buttered breakfasts before they leave,
tell your mother how much you love her
and let that stranger know you like their hair.

i am sitting on my hometown rock, painted blue like the bruises we bear, and i ask myself what i would have done different if i was wiser by a year.

snow days and achilles

i meant to come home to you but i got a bit lost,
the snow froze my feet. i am stuck.
i waited for you to find me, for that light in your
mind to miss my flame. i tried to melt the ground
with my love. i wasn’t made for the cold- i long
for sand beneath my skin, salty mist like a cloud
holding me up; but for you i would go miles,
my patroclus, my pelion, my peace.
if i could move i would be with you right now.

if i make it back, will you tell me what i missed?
if you found another or you wish to part i would
not blame you for i left my kindness on the road.
the burden of being is not something i hold freely
if not for snow i would be lounging by the bay.
my lashes are frozen, enclosed in crystal cruelty
and i think i am...

opened glass


every good book ever written goes unread,
fixtures on shelves, painted faces upheld
holding words they know no eyes will see.

we can’t all exist for the ages; the scrolls have no space. some of us were built for the here and now: for firework shows and the baby that has never seen so many sparks in their life, for brushes of touch that last a second or less, for phone calls and pictures never taken. some of us have the luxury of a judgement-free life. we get messy and it’s ours to deal with, no one else.

i retrace my old path,
larger footsteps impress on yielding ground
and i think i saw a glimpse of who i used to be.

unhopeful day


it’s always small pains that leave me ruined,
the force of a stubbed toe on my way up the stairs,
prickled blood from a pushpin that wouldn’t stick.
the push-pull of father son,
weighted love on brittle plates
the way my mother says i eat too much
so i stay quiet. we lose grace
on grey mornings tense throats words
too loud i stumble back for this vertigo
makes me doubt every love there ever was.

my coffee was too hot this morning,
my voice in class too shrill, the girl next
to me too insistent that i go and subsequently i 
broke first period with my thoughts.
back to the drawing board for a day not so dreary,
for a more whimsical take on a more poem-worthy day.

metamorphosis in short


with every change the light is mine
speckles of grace flash in the cracks
of parting skin
a new religion says its vow
new course in life breaks free
unhoused.

small dangers in shadows
how east meets the north
as famous figures taunt the young
hold hands with bleach-bathed truth.

home is a broken shell,
unsent texts vanish from the fold
as a smile sets into one’s jaw.
in time wounds turn grey
rivers evaporate and
mighty pain becomes a dull thought
in old age.

you emerge a brighter gaze
moulted past behind you
bristled paradise ahead
and you don’t miss your toxins
you take flight, face the living.

a poem i found in my diary


halfway through the start
a cataclysmic eyelid’s drop of
red on wrinkled time-
fabric long lost 
in the tenses of woven strips,
like elements of august in the breeze.
excels in golden light
as stonehenge moves closer
gathered bouquets of
bites on awkward lips.
september kissed me,
october alive,
figments of imagination
stolen and painted white:
trampled missteps
amble on, notice
a sunkissed moment
set on ancient rules outrun.

ruthless faith in my blood
ruthless watch on my world
as i go to sleep
january 15th.

weather report


the morning was hysterically beautiful, a frenzied storm of crystal hail.
the drought sighs, arid doubts beading his brow.
extreme weather makes internal chaos seem small;
meteors of the mind pale to a dinosaur’s last memory,
and if i had one last second to live
i would hope for a beautiful sky.

a gracious wind holds my hair at dawn,
she braids it into waves-ribbons of freedom graze my neck.
i want to tell her it’s too cold today:
no ounce of energy could propel me past those doors,
but when she ushers me in
i let go.

to be a promise breaker,
rain on an an alleged sunny tuesday,
was never my intention but a product of false goodness for
i never wanted you to know
the aches that ruined my quiet, the lies that glossed over my tremor.
and now i’m trapped behind bars,
your face a fading memory on this cloudless july day.

hull house


will you hold me like hull house, for all my grime and dirt
keep me warm and soothe my wounds while i bathe?
a sweeter land could never greet me        would you know
how much it hurt to leave a child’s mind     in truth my bones 
refuse to heal         forget life before the move.

would you study me as the sisters did
am i a case study for a savior         is this worth
my time am i worth        long nights needled fingers
tired sighs back to hull house        this is life.

research for the not-well-known, fallen stars who took me in
memorialize these scars on my wrists
tell my babies they were kisses    from hasty lips quickly bitten
a sunken ship brought me, second chance of a soul
to hull house        pierced but not yet too old.

not not new


effervescent light, sentimental core - the most tactful glow to take hold.
soft wrinkles, hard vision // my mother’s wisdom in the sink.
if there never was i never saw - petals cloud my unsettled view;
i knew something long ago.

no punchline would be adequate, no bloody knuckle - murdered heart
enough to show fantasy // prevails a world unbuilt.

we all have a person


i see you in the crowd, wise eyes and pinching lips. i wish you would tell me what to do with my hands. the microphone shakes in my unsure grasp, and i hear no sound when i open my mouth. i find you again. you wink. after seconds that feel like hours, the crowd quiets and i start. something glazes over your eyes. we are back to being strangers.

i see you on my way home from school. we’re parallel; you climb up the hill as i make my way down. i know you won’t say anything, and that’s quite alright. i wouldn’t be able to respond anyway. i sometimes miss your words though, the way your eyes lit up and seeming nonsense slipped out from your mouth like a stream of fluid joy. one can’t help but miss you every now and again.

i see you in my camera roll, on summer days and autumn nights. i see us...

lights


it’s always golden angels who find gilded bodies,
shining hearts that get crushed to the bone.

it’s always tattooed moonbeams who ache for the sun,
who cry when they miss their old home.

it happens in flashes, a scene from the sky,
a paradox of love in the mix of humming rain.

hand grazes wool, eyes follow mine,
they tell me rome wasn’t built in a day.

to be vulnerable


softer centennial touch / in basked sunshine / temperate liquid / through my pores.
I fear my own mind, my outward graciousness and inward cowardice. It makes me weak.

if only planets align / may comets take pity / on my wrinkled hands / worn out frame.
I use antithesis as a means of protection. I wish I had a greater inventory of ideas.

my childhood was / the time-out corner / our frigid basement  / my guilt my shame my fear.
As a teenager now, my time-out corner sits lonely, for I never get a chance at the bench.

my childhood is / an april day’s playground / a mothers smooth skin / my father’s wit.
I miss my mom a lot, even when she’s down the hall. I wonder if dad sees us.

sometimes membranes glitter / we think ourselves divine / we forget all of past’s aches.
My senior year I’ll go to a party. I’ll sip...

rebirth


i culminate in lightning whispers
sighs of a temptress, tact of a willow branch:
i peak when i am alone on Island’s shores.

for i met calypso for a walk last week
and she told me she was done with men;
if odysseus knew how many women he had broken
[with ruthless victory
disregard for ethics 
unfiltered love for penelope]
would he still have thought himself
worthy of his queen?

i sit in luscious pools
of cold air and mild days 
when summer eclipsed herself with may
and the honeybees were born
fresh-minded, unspoiled, unclaimed.

fumbling fingers adorn my ears with metal
{make me pretty, then he’ll notice}
at the intersection of hearing and too late.

may every breath be wrapped in honey
for a seductress bares sweet secrets may
the evermore greyness of the north shore
in the winter be enough to convey

an open letter to every one i ever thought i loved:
    i was searching up...

my digital anthropology


give me your worst nights, wispy lashes to the sky, your adobe cheeks slippery wet.
ask me your ugliest questions, your shameful fears-what you hate about me, where you wish i was better.
i have already lived it all.

how i used to wish i glowed like one of the girls on my screen. radiant. summer bronze and winter dew and pearl clean. i wished to turn heads the way that i could spin words to fit my frame of mind. the picture frame beside me sits empty on the nightstand. not even a full moon could let this go.

my arms could lift a classroom, pull a concerto, slap some sense into a fool and yet i hate them for the way they sway in the wind. what a binding thing to be trapped in fear as your arms go out, paralyzed in what is meant to be surrender. i have no knowledge of the culture but i sense...

modern odyssey


coming home
like a bird with clipped wings
gentrified
a lost art among transcripts
mystified yet
at second glance you wonder
if withered buildings feel hollow
if empty homes are sacred
you stare.

leaving home
sometimes walls are enemies
they ask if you know
how it felt when fire
curled their skin inward bled
for days after
you were gone.

faintest smell of mother’s lotion
lightest taste of something
sweetness grasps knuckles
begs that you stay

when you left
time fluttered,
burns healed.

finding home
if a vagabond asked
would you have looked
fruitless pearls and flattened wine
it feels unsavory
unlike you.

nothing in suburbia is romantic
when coffee steam spills
and you sit starving
alone in wilted paradise.

it feels better to walk wasted
than to sit in stifling sobriety.

when it's too late


i wish that i was older than you, so i could watch as you flew back to the moon.
i wish that i was wiser than you, so i could have given you a gift with every word we exchanged over whispered mornings in the dark.
i wonder if you’ll remember me as a one-time fling or if i was your future before your plans faded.
i think every butterfly left on earth died when you walked away on that wednesday. a little part of me cried when i called out your name.
you paused, as if you’d heard my pleading and felt my voice crack. it was a flash of a moment; before i knew it you were miles away, your figure but a speck along the setting sun.

The Concept of Tradition


It was a normal Thanksgiving. Maybe not for the ones who grew up with cousins and grandpas and loud November ruckus. But it was normal for us. 

My least favorite questions in elementary school:
“What are your family traditions?” 
“What are you doing for Christmas?”
“Please list an emergency contact.”

I wanted to tell them that we were young Americans, fledgling patriots that hadn’t yet had time to put down roots or start to grow. We were only starting to understand tradition how they described it.

I wanted to say that Baba was my only contact, emergency or not. Mama worked too far (and worked too hard) and everybody else I could possibly lean on was oceans away, with no shoulders to extend. Baba would be there. He would call Mama later. At night we would eat bao-zi and watch recordings of The Monkey King. I didn’t need extra people.

How could I explain to my classmates that to...

An Essay on Being A Sister

    
When I was gifted the honor of being an older sister, my aging was also accelerated. Gone were the days of being dawdled over, of holding the overwhelming attention of two first-time parents. My chubby cheeks lost their pink hue, as there were no hands left to pinch them into vibrance. Before I could read I was a teacher, showing my baby brother the ropes of pleasure and play in our family household. I remember being proud of how we had grown, fascinated by his doll-like innocence. I also remember feeling like his bodyguard, a shadow for his keeping. Such is the life of the eldest.

    At five-years-old I was a big girl, too old to be making messes in the kitchen and squealing with delight. At ten I was almost a teenager, too grown to be asking for gifts or precious time. My maturity was stamped on me with my birth-order, a reminder that fate steers...

origin


I expect for words to tinkle out from my fingers
as if phalanges have mouths and I can coax out a song.

for

poetry isn’t an oracle at Delphi
nor a profound crack of wisdom I think
poetry is just when 
our throats lose certain courage 
and our pens must take flight

for

if Dickinson could have poured her love for Susan into kisses
instead of scarred and sacred letters
we would have never heard her name post mortem,
and I suppose we have pain to thank for
pretty prose too but maybe
we have words to thank for hurt.

for

when laws are set in stone we don’t ever truly know
what the jurisdiction says because the jargon wants it so
we just know
that what’s in store isn’t good because
the vultures tweet furiously
and the messengers sink their teeth in tight.
and we watch as wretched fate creates words that hauntingly ache.

an analysis of art


I am jealous of the shallows and of abiotic indifference, for I would never wish the torture of human love onto another.
I think people are perhaps wrapped in a world of warped self-centeredness, so much that we don’t know we have it worst. So we make it worse.

Trashed casinos. Cigarette burns. Bruised egos and bruised bones and bruised words.
Human inventions: the stuff of voluntary discomfort and inevitable heartbreak in the name of fake innovation and very real pain. Enough to make you wonder if an epidemic of homelessness was worth the need for a new word, billionaire. Strange on the tongue. Unnatural. Unfair.

Poems are the product of sadness, don’t you know? 

Would Dickinson have poured her love for Susan onto paper had she had the chance to place it into kisses? Would Poe have known dark artistry had he not known true pain? I suppose no other species writes poetry because art needs human heart. Art...

feelings burn concrete

I am so sorry to the people who had to see
When vivid brushstrokes turned to ashy ink
And smiling angels
Dipped into evil seas.

A mother stands with her child on the line for the ferry, gripping onto his tiny wrist while the rest of his body flails about. His eyes shine with a longing  to see more of the world. I am not sure the boy knows how much his mother loves him, or how much good she is doing by shielding him from what the rest of us know.

It pours in the city today, and so the coffee shops are fuller than usual with people sipping earl greys and expensive lattes, munching on scones and twenty-dollar avocado toasts. American escapism. It’s something we do so well.

Pigeons remind us that we aren’t the onlyones left, yet gone are the plump birds of our golden years. Their skeletal frames peck at bread on the sidewalk; wonder...

Goals for 16


The girl turned sixteen today, a commercial creation of adulthood and alliteration for the sake of profit and partying. 
But hey, cake tastes good.
I am the last of my friends to reach this landmark, to schedule my permit test at the DMV and to say “thank you” to all of those birthday wishes from strangers that are more or less empty.
I feel no different. Still naive and kissless and an early bird poet.
I see my hourglass clock, the sand sifting through as another year passes with goals floating in the wind, not to be seen again until the next year.
So that stops, and I’ll start now.

I want to write less about myself and more about the worlds in my head; to be a true writer rather than a diary journalist and to dive into untapped potentials that live in the synapses of my mind.

I want to talk to the people who I’ve admired from...

What's Etched in the Stars


The stars came before you, but they aren’t elitists. What’s etched in them is for the people: rich or poor, sunrise chasers or marathon dreamers.

The stars are not a private enterprise.

Someone long ago wrote prose with stardust as their ink, never once lifting their pen off the night time canvas. Space and time have shifted their format, the way that ink fades and paper yellows on the edges. But you can still read the sky, and surely you should.

We were taught to be weary of what sparkled, to proceed with caution into lights that could blind. I say we throw caution out the window and let her land among the stars, becoming the sprinkles of brilliance she so deeply feared last year. What lives in the sky touches all of our souls. What’s etched in the stars is that we all find a home.

Sitting at Delphi


I want to feel something so intensely that my proverbial socks get knocked off.

I don’t like these competitions of who slept the least or studied the most or who has strung the most guys along without catching feelings. I’ve never won any of them, so maybe I’m a sore loser.

When I was little I was a Hannah Montana superfan. I figured that by sixteen I would own a rhinestoned flip phone, a hot pink convertible, and a cool, carefree life. As it turns out, my state won’t let me drive until I turn seventeen, and iPhones have taken over the cell phone market. I suppose I could still achieve my last goal, but standardized testing wants otherwise.

If I just took it down, washed it out, and saw the curly coiffed lies for what they were, I think I would know the world much better. I say that Socrates failed me because my resistance to rhetoric is weak,...

that's just what i think!

There’s so much noise that we never really talk about; I started regarding any moments without speech as silent. Blind and deaf to the honking of cars, the mowing of lawns, the breathing and chewing and living that was happening all around me. In tunnel vision, I had grown tired of caring about every little thing an environment presented.

When you stop caring, things get easier until they start to suck. Eating plain oatmeal every morning will fill you up with fiber and nutrients, but no amount of magnesium is worth the pain of eating wallpaper glue for the rest of your life. Everything delicious presents inherent risk.

Talking through a problem is sort of like eating spicy food. It burns. You cry. You gasp for air and wonder if you’ll ever stop feeling the pain. And then you do feel painless, which is when you start to realize that it actually felt good when you weren’t so numb....

what's up

freezing fingers but i’m warm
as light skates on my face
and people talk
in a mishmash of rashness and grace

my mom picks up little gifts for me
a ring from the drug store
or a music box from work
i’m a teen so i’m awkward
and my thank yous are hushed
but i’m really going to miss her
and hope she knows as much.

i drink in synth pop harmonies
and watch them stream along my bones
i’m not with anyone right now
but i’m also not alone
and i don’t know what to call it.

so that’s my life update.

writers bend rules


A professor in a linguistics class that I took over the summer told me that the semantic value of a sentence is weighed differently in the hands of each individual.

The colorless green grass sat alone with friends.

How can grass be both green and colorless? How can grass have friends? How can an entity be both alone and with friends?

This is poetry, my friend.



 

dear rbg,

Dear Justice Ginsburg,

We never got to meet, and now it feels as though I will never be complete. I was one of millions, a girl who saw you in the paper and thought “That’s who I want to be.” You inspired with every breath you took. You will keep inspiring, even after your breathing has ceased.

You weren’t always the iconic RBG of legal and internet fame. You used to be Joan, the girl from Brooklyn who was smarter than all of the boys. You were also more than what we saw. A student. A mother. A wife. A great, shining mind. It will be a very long time before another soul as great as yours makes it into the world.

I read your biography when I was twelve years old, unsure yet if I had the right to care about the law, if the Constitution was mine to read. I loved learning about you, about the love you...

goodness this felt good to write


shivers and golden glitters filling
lips as they slip into
sleep to form dreams
about the perfect day they had.
egos inflate with every stroke
and flirts so fickle but so
real on this patch of
space and time.

we’re always running out of it
into new things
more excitement
less divisive
but it’s colder here
with a plasticky taste,
the golden glitters
replaced by freezing winters.

hands consult the dictionary for a
definition of their own being
as if another mind could know
better than your own
who you love and
what you mean.

it’s warm by eleven
when words start flowing out
and the world starts shutting out
the nonsense in favor of
the real stuff
you talk about the 
past present future
and finally
you belong here.

ballads in the morning


Out of control, out of mind. It is too easy for the innocents to get caught up in tying knots with string that gets pulled out from under them anyway. The teenager watches the sunrise because she stayed up all night to think. It doesn’t feel like a rebirth, more so a continuation of the dread that has sat on her shoulders for who-knows-how-long.

She’s in class, but hasn’t learned a thing. She’s busy staring at someone who likely hasn’t thought of her once today. That makes it all the more heartbreaking, a suffering she can never discuss because the bloodshed was in her mind. The tragedy never touched the fabric of real life.

Beautiful people sometimes get caught up doing ugly things, thinking ugly thoughts. It’s not a phase, but it’s a state of mind. It’s so much pain and so much that she can’t tell her parents. It bottles and pressurizes and feels worse with every inhale.

It’s...

not everybody leaves


It manifested in the way the flowers bloomed in the spring, bursts of colors unknown to the human eye. The trees nearly whispered out the secrets of the universe, but were stopped by the chastising winds.

A stranger walks by the sea shore, breathing in the scent of low tide, worrying about a world undiscovered by the rest of us. Another wisp of life bikes by, humming a tune the walker has never heard. They may never see each other again, but for a moment their paths aligned.

I came across a photograph today, from when I was five years old and infinitely more confident that I am now. I wear a pink top with matching sandals, and I’m admiring my shadow imprinted on the grassy field while golden hour dawns upon the two of us. My shadow was probably telling me jokes, because I’m laughing and my chubby hands are reaching towards my crinkling eyes. I don’t remember that...

“Heaven of Freedom”

nervous putzing


If idioms were literal, I would be deep underground and buried within the holes that I’ve dug myself into.

I hate feeling disconnected, like I’m hanging onto each thing I love by a thread thinner than my baby hairs. The overwhelming sense of dread creeps up and whispers ugly somethings into my conscience until I physically must extract them and stare at the ruins.

We’re in a marathon, aren’t we? I hate feeling like last place, always the chaser and never the drink that is wanted.

Helpless and selfish and useless are bundled up and knotted to my chest when I read the news or talk to you or ask what’s going on.

So I’m sorry I can’t provide money or action or anything more than my name, but I hope that you are well and safe and looking toward the setting sun.

the months that follow prom


I.
they would make you tea,
mixing the honey in slowly
so that you’d never have to worry about
water splashing out to burn.
they would tell jokes out of nowhere,
their intuition guiding them,
the highlight of their day being the sound
of your laugh.

II.
the thing about young love is that
the vibrance and the passion
tend to grey.
the gentle tugs on your sweater 
begin to feel less like home
and more like a trap.
you catch them looking at a classmate
in history class
the same way they used to look at you
and it stings.

III.
you’re sipping coffee seated across from them,
black so that the bitterness
covers the other messes you’ve made.
they won’t meet your eye
and you know that they have tired of you,
the dark circles beneath their eyes
a sign they stayed up late
speaking in hushed tones
to someone they love more.

IV.
you are so sick...

If I Do One Thing Right

Every week, I design a history lesson for an eight-year-old boy named Alex. We meet over Zoom and go over a slideshow that I’ve made with critical thinking questions to boot. Alex is going into the third grade, so naturally his favorite parts of our sessions are my descriptions of war and bloodshed. I do my best to steer him in the direction of cause-and-effect, but he seems to be all about effect-effect-effect. His mind screams death death death.

It makes sense for someone so young to be infatuated with dying. He is at no risk of it, and so he imagines the battlefield the way other children think about Narnia and alternate universes. But I want Alex to see that history is a lot more than sadness and human emotions.

He needs to see how moral standards have changed, how people are meant to be protected by the law, and how some still aren’t. 

Previously, we’d gone over the...

do i peel the label off?


I once remarked to a friend while we were sitting on her couch,
    “You know, nobody from school fits the “nerd” stereotype that you see in the 
movies.”
Silence. A count of one, two three.
    “Erin, it’s you,” she said matter-of-factly. 
Then we went back to eating popcorn and watching Harry Potter.

I thought about what she said, and I still don’t think she’s right. Unlike the nerds in the movies, I’ve never been slammed against a locker or had my head shoved down a toilet. I do wear glasses (the result of reading in the dark too often as a child), but I usually go for my contacts instead. I don’t think I deserve that kind of label, that badge of honor, because I’ve managed to survive high school without much effort.

Where I do match the idea of a nerd is in my enthusiasm for knowledge. I am a fiend for fun facts, an addict of...

to the kids i met in kindergarten

we’re getting old
and it doesn’t scare me
because i knew these days would come.
i’ve fallen in love with
just about every boy in this town 
(five times over),
how the leaves go kaleidoscope on me
in the fall
and our football team is trash
but i still pray every year we make playoffs.

one day we’ll be old,
coming back home to collect our childhood dreams,
some of us still stuck in the hallways
because nothing ever got as good as now.

i want to go far from here,
to see a sea that isn’t so sound,
to move on land not so concrete as the pavements
i know inside and out
and back to my house.

but i’ll be there for our reunion,
hopefully well traveled and past
my teenage foolishness.

i apologize in advance
because i know that there are names i will forget
but i promise
a semblance of each of you
is with me...

moments captured from my room


The pores in my hand stand out as I tap away next to the window. The sun comes in and illuminates the room, hitting the freckles on my wrist in hopes of producing more of them. 

I believe in manifesting goodness into our lives, that not only are we made of skin and bones but energy and powerful words. I take a sip of cold coffee, conscious of its taste from the time it hits my nose to when it is gone in the back of my throat.

I’ve always preferred firmer mattresses, ones that absorb all of the stress and heaviness of a hard day as I drift to sleep. When I’m cozied up, imagining endless, impossible conversations, cars whizz by with urgency. Sometimes I hear music blaring outside of my window at three in the morning. I hear people singing along, words slurred and giggly. I salute their youth.

houses side by side with a very large divide


Whenever I’m feeling lost, I try to remind myself that I’m living somebody else’s dream. There’s a little girl, not too far from here, who has no idea what freedom means. I work hard to keep myself afloat when my thoughts become too heavy but I’m still cognizant of the fact that if I were to drown, there would be people who’d come get me. And justice would be served.

I wish I had the luxury of reminiscing on past decades. If I were alive in the 50s, wearing an oh so cute poodle skirt, I don't believe that it’d be great. Instead there would be hate. I don’t think of skirts, I think of war and anger and ugly words that hurt.

I see beautiful people being imperfect: kind souls who are impossibly indifferent to the pain of other beings. Mistakenly, I thought we had evolved past tribes. I didn’t know that partisan politics could produce such lethal knives. 
...

school did not prepare me for nighttime lessons.


My friends are changing. And it’s confusing.

It’s one of those things that you don’t really notice until you’re sitting on the trampoline after dark and discussing Halloween plans.

Some of us wanted to go to parties and let loose. Some of us wanted to curl up in the basement, watching movies and eating candy the way we always have.

At first it’s hard to accept. I figured we would mature, but I didn’t consider how asynchronous the process would be, or how much judgemental eyes would hurt.

Maybe I am too sheltered and naive but even if they live in the “safe part of town” and their parents said they were allowed to, I am afraid. As wonderful as the potion smells I can't will myself to sip it because to me a control would be lost.

I’m learning that hopeless romantics aren’t the same as desperate-to-feel-ers, and it’s not my place to voice an opinion. I just miss...

seventy onward


My father was born in the year 1970, the first son to a geologist and paleontologist whose lives were filled with digging and being far from home. His earliest memory is a train ride from Beijing to Shanghai, being dropped off at his grandparents’ home for an extended stay.

I’ve seen pictures of him as a baby, round and full of light and joy. The year 1970 was not a time of wealth or happiness for the country at large, but for my father, it was a wonderful beginning to a fulfilling life.

70% was a test grade my mother often received on her English exams in high school. Smart without trying and a favorite student for that reason, she would sneak out at lunchtime and slip into the streets of the city. Beijing in the 70s was vibrant but quaint, the hole-in-wall noodle shops serving as sanctuaries for a teenage girl ditching class to have fun. She did not...

"tell me anything"

You asked for anything, so this is what you get.
A cold morning, eyes swimming in regret
Or a hot night, a danger you haven’t met
You asked for too much and it’s killing you now.

We don’t spin our words from golden threads of spider silk
Despite what the poets will tell you.
We pluck them out of our minds and 
Hover over them to act as a shell

You know as much as poets make outrageous metaphors to things that aren’t related at all,
It still hurts to be looked at from that angle
Objective to the deepest feelings, hardest pain
Like a surgeon staring at a tumor that has cried more tears
In the past few years
Than most people ever do.

an old woman tells her love story


I’m not religious, but I believe in being blessed. Personally, I wasn’t gifted with golden beauty or overwhelming genius.
 
My gift, instead, was a wondrous and staggering love.

I knew I loved you a long time ago, from before I had ever seen you. Without a name or a face to your identity, I could pinpoint that I had somebody out there waiting for me.

You were working at the cash register of the bookshop, and I was using the money I made babysitting to support my addiction to literature. I remember thinking to myself how much of a joke it was, that I was this lucky in life. It was enough of a blessing just to steal a glance at you. You didn’t even know how beautiful you were.

Dark features, the only lightness being the glitter in your eyes, like you knew every secret. Masculine not in your complex but in how you carried yourself, how you...

oh do we shine


there’s tension in the muscles but it’s not from overuse
and i think the world is often wrong about stars.

platinum albums are a gateway but
they don’t open up to heaven;
the starlet smirks during interviews
but snorts the good stuff backstage.

we used to think we were everything,
that all of creation spun to please us
and when you find that you’re the pawn and not the king
you realize you aren’t a star.

the cosmos aren’t wowed by glitter,
the universe doesn’t bow down to its organs.
we burn, we blaze, and yet
we are hardly of interest at all.

regrets collect


I regret telling secrets in the third grade, being young and rash, expecting eventual forgiveness. 

I regret being upset when my dad didn’t come to my winter recital, then being even more embarrassed when he did come to the spring showcase. I remember cringing when I saw him waving like a crazy person from the seats. My reaction keeps me up at night.

My ninth grade English teacher asked us to write an essay about whether humans were naturally good or evil. Aside from analyzing To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies, I did some self reflection.

It is natural to feel jealousy, and sometimes it is a challenge to feel joy on behalf of others.

It is intrinsic to be prideful, to be greedy, to show arrogance if we ever so slowly let our guard down.

That is what I see when I think about myself, the seven sins swirling in my conscious, hissing across axons.
...

the highs and lows of tunnel vision


If you needed any reassurance, you’re going to make it happen. Dreams take time, and growing pains are part of the process. You can walk, take a step back, move forward once more, and step back again. Be patient with yourself. Be forgiving to your legs.

The tides move up and down the shore with ease and rhythm. No one ever condemns them for going low after a high. It’s the process of movement. It’s as simple and instinctive to them as breathing.

We torture ourselves over hangnails and missed deadlines and teeny tiny mistakes, not using the same energy to feel proud when we have done well. You have purpose and light, something good and special about you. You need not be upset about sinking lower. Sometimes, it takes a deeper dig to make history when you climb out.

what i learned from reality tv stars

I own my problems, or I do my best. I carry the ones that fit in my purse. We are leathery and worn from torment, but I try to hold the weight of my actions with the same pride that a Kardashian would show off her designer handbag. 

And they aren’t perfect, but they own their brashness and soak up the media’s insults. I have to admire that. They know they have problems, but they also know they have it better than the losers who harass them on the internet. It’s those people, those moral angels who deny their own insecurity and hatefulness. When you own every fact attached to you, you live in higher resolution.

There’s no use in disregarding what we already know, throwing science to the wastebasket and turning our nose up at opposition. Freedom, really, is access to knowledge. You do yourself a disservice. You prolong the problem.

Swerving out of The Sapien Lane


The crickets sing lullabies outside of my window, although they sound a bit frantic, definitely out of time with one another. The focus isn’t really on the sound itself, more so on the energy that comes from nighttime vibrations. Crickets only live for eight to ten weeks, but the law of relativity reasons that they see this time frame as equal to how a human feels about seventy-five years. Then again, it was a human who theorized this, not a cricket. So humans will never really know why summertime crickets are in such a rush to play through their symphonies.

Some places are sacred, like the crook of Zeus’s neck, and the temple of Delphi. With so few perfect plots of land left on Earth, it would be nice to allow space for those that remain. Even Yellowstone is domesticated, its canyons no longer alarmed by touristy footsteps, its bison so domesticated that they pose for photoshoots. As much as...

the draft, the drifting

i grew up watching american football,
that game where big wide guys cuddle and squeeze
in pursuit of a brown ball.
my baba used to tell me it was dangerous, it took skill
but all i could see was frantic, desperate hugging.

i know a lot about needing a good hug.
spinning like a spiral, a flea flicker of light and hope every time
i threw myself around the way eli manning made a play
and in the end
i was sacked
and incomplete.

i got older,
lost track of time and stopped joining my dad on the couch.
in the way that players get traded
and some leave the league
i had lost interest in what i once called my family.

you know, girls don’t have any business in football
i couldn’t understand it if i tried
because i’d talk about it, shining
and i’d get asked to list the giants’ roster
starting from 1975.
so i gave up...

if i'm writing you a letter

I am always hesitant to start with a word like Dear, because I think it means too much to be thrown around.

Dear is warm and lustrous, a shiny badge of honor that envelopes the soul.

How can I say it? If I started every email I wrote with Dear, my actions would make me a liar. You are not dear to me, I think about you rarely. It may be foolish or naive, but there are some things in my life that I would like to save.

Dear is emotional nearness in spite of physical distance. It is when eyes meet from opposite sides of the room, and you understand, without a single word being said.

Maybe centuries ago, when ink was a luxury and quills dominated the market for stationary, we used Dear,because we wrote letters to people who deserved the title. Today, when I slap it onto a note, using no more than a...

welcome, i love you (i know, so soon!)

I’m not that great at anything. If people were cupcakes, I’d be vanilla buttercream: sweet enough but nobody’s favorite. And I hate cupcakes, so take that analogy as you will.

But

Words crash into my fieldview and flow out just as fast, as I trace the metal spiral on my notebook with my left hand, furiously scribbling with my right.

I build scenes I can never physically attend and push myself into them on paper. I type as if I’m chasing a due date, my many years of being not-that-great at the piano coming in handy as I string beads and tie knots with my sentences.

In person, I never know how to fill silence. When I was little I got made fun of for being too loud and too weird, so I’ve been conscious of not seeming overzealous ever since. I don’t really share that kind of stuff, not even with the best people in my life; it seems...

a late summer stillness

Every now and again, I get sucked into the void. Blue light blinds me and I start hiding from my optometrist, afraid that she’ll tell once more that I need a stronger prescription. My head battles my body, as one tells me to get up off of the bed while the other lies flat, determined to melt into the mattress. 

Comfort is a warm drink, perhaps chai or apple cider. The heated sweetness slides down my throat, reminding me that I have one and should use it to speak. When it rains, the sky turns a moldy shade of greyish blue, and I find the only way to brighten my mood is to make myself a cup of tea.

While sunlight is ideal, I can sometimes bring myself back by playing the piano. I may not be very good, but I can still play a Waltz in C Major or a Mozart Sonata in D. Floaty runs across the keys...

time travel at a high school party


water on the tabletop
sinking down through plastic cups
laughing, throwing ping pong balls
someday i’ll regret these choices.

it goes splash,
and my mama told me life was just about money
i’ve always been more concerned about boys.

see, i’d never sell my soul 
but i’ve given my heart one too many times.

pretty soon i’ll unfollow you
on instagram but i’ll still stalk
there’s unspoken rules immigrant parents never tell you
about when someone has no interest to talk.

by all measures i am clean, uncontroversial
though that doesn’t give me any clout
and i’d do just about anything
to surprise my baba and suppress his doubts.

i’ve no clue where i’m going
i haven’t committed yet
i just want to enjoy this party.

tossing twenties into the pile of bets.

un espejo / a mirror


no sé dónde estaré algunos años de hoy en día,
pero creo que quiero hacer unas cosas influenciales.

tengo amigos de varios raíces, con ideas diferentes de míos,
espero que estas relaciones no son terminales-

cuando camino, agarro las memorias
de mi niñez y las esperanzas de mi futuro.

he aprendido que en este vida
nada es seguro.


i don’t know where i’ll be in fifty years,
but i hope that i’m not playing pretend.

i hope i’ve kept and made new friends,
that our discourse and discussion do not end-

when i’m walking, i carry the memories
of my childhood and an eye for what’s ahead.

i’ve learned that you can’t predict outcomes in life,
you just have to wing it instead.

 

Flash Fiction Competition 2020

Answers from the Homeless Man Who Plays the Flute


He glares when I approach. He says this:

Whaddya want? I don't have money, I need money.
Ha. No story. I'm storyless.
My mom's gone. My dad’s dead. Yada-yada.
That's it. Sorry kid.

I play the flute because it's the one thing that's got my name on it. Mine.
I hang from the telephone wires because I won't commit to death, but I’ll flirt with her, ya know?
When I’m upside down, piping melodies, that’s joy.
I make music for the people. They need a soundtrack to their stories.
Kid, I'm storyless: I do whatever the hell I want.
 

x the y


So it seems that Chance has figured himself to be a Rapper. Likewise, Tyler knows that he’s a Creator. I mean even Ivan knew he was Terrible and Catherine knew that she was Great. I wish somebody else would slap a label onto me.

Of course, I’ve got labels: my mom would say that I do not need another one. I’m talking about something different. I don’t want to be just Erin the Asian Girl or Erin the Flat Chest or Erin the Firstborn Who Wasn’t A Boy, Which Disappointed Her Grandfather. As you can see, these are not great titles to base your legacy off of.

I guess that the people mentioned above went out and did things with their lives that earned them appendixes to their names. Chance didn’t come out of his mama spitting bars (so I assume). He built himself up that way. I’ve just got to figure out how I can do that for myself.
...

hic haec hoc. ille illa illud.

    
Technically, the English language could do without the word that; it would altogether function the same. And yet we keep it because it adds fluidity to a sentence, maybe shortens it without losing any emphasis. I love that, because it keeps us from repeating the same clauses over and over again: nearly every little action, glance, feeling, or moment can be reduced to that and an ounce of inflection.
    The difference between that and this is that we’ve set one thing aside and brought the other into focus. I have a soft spot for that because it sits in the corner and waits for its turn. It sees you pointing in the distance but makes no effort to move closer. That can feel wildly removed from your space or intimately close despite the physical distance. Something about that is special.
    I understand if this piece is hard to follow. After all, I’m professing my...

Spoken Bridges - A Fake College Essay


Three little birds / sat on my window / and they told me I don’t need to worry.
Corinne Bailey Rae croons therapy into my ears as I walk along Southdown Road. Cars whiz by, the sun smiles down on me. I’m reminded of Mr. Fluffyduck, my best friend and bedtime companion. Mama brought him home from the grocery store thirteen years ago, when he was on sale for two dollars and fifty cents. The two of us, we’re worth more than people think.

Ironically, I’m terrified of Mr. Fluffyduck’s real-life counterparts. Birds freak me out, with their hollow bones and imposing beaks. Where my stuffed animal is softness and comfort, my neighbor’s pet chickens are cold, sharp murder. Mr. Fluffyduck is a reminder that individuals are not their labels. I tackle my fears with knowledge.

I whip my bow in every which direction, attempting to master the slurred eighth notes of Bach’s first prelude.
I named my cello Beyoncé,...

oversharing on the internet: a talent of mine

    I wanted it to be you. I mean, I was an idiot, but I was an idiot who knew what she wanted. We didn’t even know each other, not really. I don’t know what you saw from me, but I saw castles and stars in you.

    Do you know how much I love writing? Most of our interactions happened in my diary, dazzling pieces of flash fiction that I was hoping to manifest. I noticed every little thing about you. I can prove it with the pages I filled from October to June.

    I can’t stand the sound of my mother’s voice during her conference calls, the high-pitched Wall Street laugh, the obnoxious businessmen on the other side. My house is always loud. Sometimes you and I would sit in silence. I really, really liked that.

    Sometimes I like to dance alone in my room to Taylor Swift’s entire discography. It’s my escape, where I get...

what a gust of wind can do


We lost power yesterday, from the death drop of a tree located across the street.
I’m fairly used to losing power, but not the kind stored in telephone wires.
We lit some candles, ate ice cream before it melted.
I thought about how the Federalist Papers were written under waxen fire.

Power in Spanish is poder, the same word that indicates ableness.
We were unable to email or watch TV or microwave, but at least we could still laugh and see.
The lights came on at midnight, just as the wind had calmed down.
Then a truck crushed our line again, and we could only drop the niceties.

Curse words in Chinese sound like chickens clucking loudly.
For whatever reason, my parents decided that fighting each other would bring the internet back.
I think they were battling for what little power was left.

So now we’ve made our getaway, not to a paradise but to the lively city streets,...

four flash fiction concepts-help me choose


Us
Our story is short: high school sweethearts never last. Still, I won’t apologize for saying hello on our first day of freshman year. I’m not sorry for dragging you to Friday Night Football games or skipping class to eat lunch with you. I’m not ashamed to have been the one you left behind, and I don’t shrink when I hear your name around town. I don’t have any regrets. Do you? When Jimmy Fallon asked you about the love of your life, you deflected graciously. You didn’t give the whole story. Why not? It’s a short one. It’s me.

Answers from the Homeless Man who Plays the Flute
I am storyless. Ninety-nine words is nearly too many. 
What do you need to know? My mom left. My dad’s dead. I’m hardly more than a shell.
You’re wasting your time on this interview, I have nothing to say.
Listen, I play the flute because it’s the one thing with my...

you're not meant to see this.

    
    Flowers bloomed the day I met you, even though it was early fall. Hydrangeas, lilies, beautiful visions that made no sense. You’ve ruined a lot of people for me since then.
    
    We were caught up in a waltz-elegant flashes of touch, stares and breathy words that lingered for slightly too long. But not really. I mixed up the details from replaying my version of events too many times to count.
    
    You’re an asshole. You made a teenager redesign her plans for the future, compromising them so that they would include you. You made her contemplate politics and the fact that the two of you had clashing beliefs. You made her think day and night about the challenges that might come with dating a white boy and you allowed her to erase all of the red flags so that the road was clear for you to sweep her off of her feet. And then you...

People as Nature

solem scio


I’ve been obsessed with the Sun since I first saw her rise. I marvel at the idea that something so far away has an omnipresence. While humans bicker over lunch and roll their eyes at the television, the Sun sits in the sky and waits. 

I imagine she gets bored, but I’ve never heard her complain. Maybe hiding in the clouds is her way of telling us she’s tired, and blinding us is a warning that we’re getting on her nerves. I wouldn’t blame her. I would do the same.
If I could, I would write letters to the Sun. Does she know about the moon? Has she seen the Great Wall of China from space, and does it impress her at all? I’d even check in about her pronouns because here I am assuming and characterizing based on the minimal qualities I understand about her.

I live on an island, but it’s hardly isolated, with bridges locking us to...

a symphony of daughterly doting

A shrew with the temper of a two year old
Wants to be treated like an adult;
I laugh.

How do you not know that I’m tired and it’s morning
And we’ve hardly even settled back?

So it was tone but it could’ve also been my color
We know you can’t separate
Hue from sound.

There are crescendos in my mind
Of all the ways this could have gone
But I’m not quite satisfied with the 
Development.

You don’t owe me anything I just happen to be
Penniless 
But I know I wasn’t paying
And I’d hate to be stolen from
Maybe you could just slide it back
Sometime.

I don’t pretend to be perfect as I
Whine and I wail
And you tolerate it in the morning but
At night, 
I sit in my room and silently sob
Just in case the wine has surpassed three glasses.

When I was ten I got glasses man
I looked just like...

the worst of me


my worst character traits
  1. my inability to say no. i wish i could say that i didn’t give my consent, but it seems that i allowed myself to get played. it’s always yes, yes, sure because i don’t know how to decline without making it seem like i hate you. i swear, i’m nice, i just need standards for myself and i need time.
  2. jealousy. my somatic reaction is annoyance even when, pragmatically, my organs know to focus on ourselves. we don’t need to win every race, we can hardly keep up at this pace. we’re still moving, we need not check the scoreboard.
  3. the lust for approval. like my post! comment nice things! it blows my mind how easily one of my favorite pieces i’ve ever written becomes a thing of garbage as soon as i build up the courage to share it. the words are still pure, my anecdotes are as exactly well-crafted as they were before. somehow, a...

Letter Writing Competition 2020

Dear Mama, Through Distance and Time.

Dear Mama,
    You call me by my baby name. I don't think you know but when you speak in the past tense it kills me. It's the addition of a "used to" or "remember when" that leaves me feeling like a remnant of the past rather than the living, breathing being you gave birth to. Is it that we don’t know each other anymore, because I’m not worth knowing anymore?
    And mom, I know we have things to catch up about. Every time I cried and died a little bit, Baba helped pick up the pieces and we left no trace. I've gotten much better at vacuuming since you left. When you were gone, I wanted you to think I didn't need you, so I sent text messages they were falsely filled with good and no bad. I was falling apart from no sleep, from the pressure of expectations I put upon myself, having to act as...

feelings


the best and worst feelings

/touch/
the best: lying down in the grass on a summer night, watching the sky’s colors fade. you might catch a flock of birds overhead, and you should wave, because you’ll likely never see them again.
the worst: mosquito bites the next day, dotted all over your legs and arms and neck. they really had a feast last night.

/smell/
the best: something baking in the oven. sometimes you cook not to eat, but to feel yourself working and to smell the masterpieces you’ve made. you can never go wrong with sugar, butter, and flour. they may as well be adjacent to love, comfort, and stability.
the worst: body odor in the hallways and following you into a classroom with no air conditioners. why the football team can’t commit to using deodorant is beyond you, but now isn’t the time to air your grievances. you feel sick, nauseous...

inside out and up, up, and away


i love it when the sky goes yellow, then melts
into oranges and reds,
creamsicles and sangrias by the 
sea. 

she doesn’t understand
adult situations
neither sex nor jobs nor taxes
three realms beyond her knowledge
she just likes to watch the sky.

my head’s not in the clouds,
although sometimes i see the fog
and hope the misty dew
touches my face
and cools my mind.

she’s not even in the atmosphere,
she dropped beneath the surface.
someone once said she now sits in the mantle,
melting away as we speak.

oranges and yellows and red,
fire and citrus
tucked beneath slabs of shifting stone.
 

an exercise in self confidence

    Stop looking at yourself in the mirror. You are just as beautiful as you have always been, if not more so because today you are more educated and more mature. Your skin will get tanner as the summer goes on, but your eyes getting brighter is of far greater importance. All of your hair could fall out, all of your teeth could decay and your stomach could inflate and I could still think that you were beautiful. All it would take is for you to believe the same.
    
    I wish I could say I find myself to be the most attractive person in any room, but that would be laying it on a touch too thick. It has taken years of growing and learning for me to consider myself pretty. My hair is a curtain of dark silky color, a sheath of delicate strands that glow in the glory of the sun. My skin is soft...

frets


things I want to say before it’s too late
  1. “thank you.” I’ve never handed in a thank you on time. there are too many overdue gratitudes sitting in my past, like the long lost library books I’m still digging around to find.
  2. “I love you.” when I say it, I want to mean it. having read close to one thousand romance novels, I know the feelings I’m supposed to experience. maybe it’ll be an electric buzz, but that could be lust. that may become lost. maybe it’ll be the warmth of a cottage in the snow, but that could just be comfort. is that enough? right now, I love my family, I love my friends. I’m still waiting for the one who holds my heart at the intersection. most likely, I’ll make many mistakes before I meet them.
  3. “I accept your apology.” I’m no stranger to “sorry.” I speak it in tenfold, I hear it just as often. revenge has...

fears


little things that scare me
  1. ketchup: I don’t know why. the texture is abominable, the smell is repulsive, the thought of consuming it with anything breaks me into a cold sweat. my friends make fun of me all of the time, saying it’s not possible to be afraid of ketchup, but it is. I will not be putting myself anywhere near gelatinous, sugary, tomato goop for a long, long, time.
  2. emails: what’s the acceptable register for an email? you receive them as quickly as you do text messages, but it’s not a fluid conversation. mail is supposed to come in a letter format, but we’re not waiting for weeks between responses anymore. the thing about talking to adults is that you don’t want to seem like a little kid, but you also don’t want to seem like your vernacular is equivalent to thesaurus.com. I don’t know if I’m cut out for the professional world: I’m stuck deciding between “dear,”...

sitting by the water


hearing is not the same as listening,
as the latter is far rarer.
if you sat up on a sycamore,
breathed in the whirling wind,
you would hear their insistent whispers
but never know what they said.
--------------------------------------------------
a face in the bouncing water,
staring back with defiant stillness.
could you believe
this species, so intelligent
is so easily brought down
by both physical
and institutional
illness?
-------------------------------------------------------
i have no concept of money,
a fear of it but no desire.
if i could just be comfortable,
if you could just be quiet.
it's not a matter of writing good poetry
but of getting through to the reader.
perhaps i should just pay them my allowance,
i find i'm quite tired of competing.
----------------------------------------------------------
is it a relationship
or a situationship
between you, me, and the sun?
if i hadn’t been listening
and hadn’t been learning
i would have thought you were the one.
 

this is why i'm here

    “Writing” is a verb, a noun, an adjective in the form of a present participle. When you’ve got a word so versatile, it’s hard to believe its meaning can be limited to fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, don’t you think?
    I’m not a shy person, but I’m slow to share in front of a crowd. I’m the daughter of two mathematicians, but numbers and variables never resonated with me the way that the dictionary did. In the drawers under my desk, you’ll find diary entries from when I was six years old, littered with unfinished songs I never had the guts to perform. My voice is loud, my speech is abrasive, you would never think of me as a sensitive soul. It’s only in the last few days that some strangers on the internet have taken notice.
    Letting people read your writing is arguably more intimate than letting them see you naked; there’s something about reading another person’s...

five seconds


sometimes i talk so fast that the world forgets what to do with me.
my mouth goes numb.
my mind hits a stop sign,
and i’m left sitting mid sentence on a thought i’ve failed to finish.

what is poetry // can we explain it? for if j.d. salinger took one more risk // and put holden’s thoughts in free verse, no capitals // would we be dropping flowery language in exchange for teenage angst?

did you know that i’ve got a knack for rapping i mean it’s really quite strange my personality isn’t filled with swagger but if you hand me the words i can spit a rhyme meaner and faster than drake and eminem if they tried combined.
but i’ve got more of a travis scott personality oh miss me with the kanye bull let’s not even go there
___

it must be that my throat is too well rested i just like
the sound of my voice ...

memories from an easier time

    The harmonies ran themselves through my head as I tapped my nails against the desk. I liked biology class, in fact it was one of my favorite parts of the day. That being said, everything coming out of Mrs. Beck’s mouth was sounding like gibberish, and her pitch reminded me of the thumb position section of my solo that I had been failing miserably at. My thoughts quickly transitioned from the electron transport chain to the trials and tribulations of Haydn’s cello concerto. Before I knew it, I had lulled myself to sleep, dreaming of the mitochondria in the key of C major.
    Walking back into the locker room, I was exhausted from the workout and feeling gelatinous below the waist. Track practice in the dead of winter was no joke, and having to transition from outside to the hallways definitely made an impact on my fragile shins. Nevertheless, I brought in some solid times today, and with...

prompt: write a story about change

As she reached her usual seat on the school bus, she set her backpack down in the adjacent spot, so as to avoid any human interaction. Eva was five-years-old, fun-sized, and selectively mute. It had started on her first day of kindergarten when the teacher had started calling out names from the attendance list, and a fleeting thought passed through Eva’s mind right as Mrs. Standstill was transitioning from C names to D names. She didn’t have to say anything when she was called. She was expected to, but it wasn’t as if she had no choice. And so, after Elliot and Emily had made their presences known, Mrs. Standstill announced Eva’s name, and she said nothing.
    Quiet.
    “Eva? Is Eva here today?”
    No response. Eva’s lips were pressed together so tight that they began to sting. Her classmates pointed at her, indicating to Mrs. Standstill that she was indeed there despite her silence. The teacher...

Dust Jacket

my life in threes


three communities to which you belong.   
i. the union of long-time taylor swift fans-i have no reason other than loving her.
ii. the club for nervous extroverts. 
iii. the world of academia.

three places you learn well.  
i. the downtown of a new city.
ii. the hallways (more so than the classrooms) of my high school.
iii. the settings carefully crafted by my father, from the brown couch on our second floor.

three adjectives your peers would use to describe you.
i. asian.
ii. unnecessarily loud.
iii. fashionably bipolar but perpetually smiley.

three adjectives your family would use.
i. american.
ii. tiger child-no parental influence.
iii. emotional (re: american).

three adjectives you would use.
i. gentle when angry.
ii. quick to forgive, quick to forget.
iii. thinking, not thoughtful.

three beliefs you hold. 
i. olives are inedible and should be the most hated pizza topping.
ii. sometimes actions speak louder than words, sometimes words are the most powerful action.
iii....

one page in a much bigger book

I get so caught up in the details, sometimes I forget why I’m here. 
The details are that I’m the first of a generation, a kind of experiment to see if there’s really any merit to this whole 美国人 thing.
If I slip up, it reflects on a family. My skin, too tan, already puts a wrinkle in my mother’s smile.
The details are that my attention span is painfully short, that I fall asleep in class all of the time and my friends have to cover for me, adjusting their bodies to shield me from the teacher.
And on the outside I seem fine, this glowing smiling person who has her life figured out because did you hear what she got on that test?
Somehow, I got it in my head that my grades are etched into my skin, a testament to my worth, my value.
I wrote into existence the idea that I’d become cooler in college, that...

a star spangled birthday card


America
in all of her colors and shades
never fails to baffle me.

she’s so beautiful, isn’t she?
surrounded by friends,
almost everyone wants a piece
but of course not everyone
can have her.

she has her enemies
but i think we all know
, her included,
that she runs the show.

(demons are worse than enemies anyway.)

god shed his grace on her,
seen through the sand on her shores
and the wealth in her markets
say can you see
the sun rise over these rocks that have stood
long before she named herself America.

well, she had a good run.
so popular that even those wronged by her
could forgive
until now.
now her past is uncovered and
her beautiful body
revealed as corrupt,
stolen from right under the rug.

united 
states now wondering
how
and yelling about why
because America told them they could.

now the contents within her are stirring,
her organs and the systems
she...

just another day (harassment)

    I received a record 12 honks on my walk today. Eight of which came from adult men driving white vans. I’m not too pleased about this “personal best.”

    But what’s there to do about it? With the passes they're given, boys will be boys. Apparently, that statement rings true even after they’re grown. I used to think it had to do with their age, their nature. But that’s not true. 

    I could’ve flipped the bird at all twelve vehicles today, but I didn’t. Maybe I should have, but I probably would have received an onslaught of insults about asking for it, and I didn’t need any further interactions with strange men as a young girl walking alone far from home.

    Yet every act of complicity is a go-ahead, a green light indicating for them to proceed. I make sure to frown at any honks, to show no weakness through amusement or a plastered smile, because...

my first time falling. #myrose

He really didn’t deserve my admiration. He wasn’t an angel fallen from heaven, some Greek god carved out of marble, but there must have been something there if I have taken notice. I think it was his confidence. He was so sure that everything he said and did was right, so I guess I fell into the trap of wanting a piece of something that didn’t need me.

    We used to run together, and he was faster than me, but sometimes he would slow his much longer stride to match my pace on the warm-up. Even though I haven’t seen him in forever, I can still remember all of the things I like about him. His hair was never styled; dark brown and just messy enough to prove that he indeed was still a human. His eyes were dark and bright all at once, and he could arch one eyebrow without disrupting the state of the other. My eyebrows...

The Unseen

just beneath the surface: a dig at my hometown.

Let’s talk about my hometown.

I live a mile from the beach and a mile from downtown. It’s like being sandwiched between the real world and fantasy, but I think I like both just the same. I’ve always loved the way it smells outside in the summer: salty and warm, the slightest background of sweetness from where the ice cream truck was parked.

This place is the pinnacle of suburban America; if I had to write a coming-of-age novel I would drop my characters into my shoes. People love to talk about our high school’s sports teams, even though we haven't made playoffs in years. People love going to house parties and paddleboarding in the Bay. We all know the best bagels are made on Main Street, but we’ll enthusiastically debate which place has superior pizza (a more controversial argument).

But that’s as controversial as we get. Because no one wants to talk about the fact that this town is...

a little bit about me

I. my name is erin lynn,
based on my chinese name,
ye an ling.
peaceful, clever, daughter of the leaves.
my mother almost named me ann,
but feared i'd turn out boring.
i almost wish i was duller.

II. i come from three different worlds.
just like i have two names, i change tongues between
home and the outside world.
this white long island town knows nothing about shanghai summers,
the ones i might have lived through had Baba and Mama not made the move
all those years ago.
the third world is inside my own head,
swirling colors and creative pursuits;
i am admittedly a spazz.

III. i am obsessed with learning languages.
at the age of five i got thrown into a spanish classroom,
y ahora hablo español con la fluidez de de un río.
i speak mandarin with my family and english with my friends and in this way
i keep my life neatly inside boxes,
minimal...

Mad Libs

some kind of character study

Jealousy is a wicked old thing, who lives in the minds of teenage girls. Known for being oppressive and unproductive, she wants nothing more than to tear down others for pursuing dreams she herself also holds. She pretends to be nonchalant, when in fact, inside, she really feels sick with anger. Jealousy’s biggest fear is her name being overshadowed by those of others, her competition increasing as she is drowned out by sound. What Jealousy needs is therapy; the biggest thing getting in the way is her inability to the see the good in herself.