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The Nightflower

CAS for Database

Sam Luo

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Alhambra High School


The Nightflower

As if overnight—the men in hard construction hats

have begun to stare back at me in a broad trance.

Behind their shoe-shined foreheads & dripping

brows kneel an oriental doll. At my age, I am told

there is a resemblance between the plaything & I.

Is it my silent consonants & otherwise easy quiet

in the presence of these Western ghosts? I cannot

ask. We are such different porcelains. From the

corner of my eyes, I watch them toil, cannot help

but think rouge. I match the hue to a tiger lily

that bloomed in my grandmother's plot long before

I was ceded here. I imagine my skin to be that freckled—

kissed so pink by the sun instead of a body’s sticky heat.

I’ve heard stories about American men, seen their thick

limbs, ox torsos—sisters who conceal the violent rouging

of night with powder, like white might always be the answer.

It is not yet our time to swelter. We linger on their bristling

beards & grain-dairy diets & dream: now that is the life.

It is 97°F today, according to the multicultural radio broadcasting station.

It is almost piquant: the searing, pomelo sun. I say almost

because pale pays a better price. One can always stare into

the moon for answers. Once, I was unafraid of the dark,

braver than the American children & their fear of the underbellies

of twin beds or slighted closets. I am the most nervous at dusk.

When are you no longer a child? Tonight, there is

no answer from the man in my bed when he finishes. I wish it

were a clear sky this evening. The midnight silence coaxes me,

murmurs that I am old enough to take it:

America & all of his dreams, his passions before he sleeps.

Note: This piece was previously published in The Stirling Review in March 2023.


Rarely does a poem reflecting on one’s race meditate so exquisitely on the role of external beauty. “The Nightflower” interweaves the quiet resilience of a speaker cast as fragile porcelain with a background of tense masculinity, seen as the homogenous construction workers laboring under sweltering 97˚F heat. This speaker’s palpable longing for affection beyond a stereotype or a fetish adds a sensuous nuance to the immigrant experience.


Sam Luo is an American poet from Los Angeles, CA. He is a 2023 YoungArts Winner for Writing, U.S. Presidential Scholar of the Arts Semifinalist, and a former Get Lit Player. His spoken word has been featured by Disney, FOX, and California’s state career planning website. Sam’s poetry appears in Apprentice Writer, The Quarter(ly), and The Lumiere Review among others. He is currently an editor at Berkeley Poetry Review.

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