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Byul Lee

West Windsor, NJ

West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North


CAS for Database

When he came to, my father was in a hospital waiting

room; that is to say, it was bright, white, backed up, and

saturated with sighs; that is to say, he was in America.

I wonder if this is everything he’s ever wanted and

more; I suspect it is more, much more than he asked for,

too much for him to handle—maybe that explains

why he started going to church, why you began

writing of tigers and feng shui and the North Wind,

maybe you both found comfort in these falsehoods.

I could never figure out why your writing made me

squirm, tickled me underneath my skin until my arms

were crosshatched with scratch marks. Perhaps

it’s because your Chinese men are glassy, hard and

cold and easily shattered; perhaps it’s because the

white boy in my English class felt cultured after

reading about the drowning of a Chinese infant.

On Sundays, when my father dons a suit that is too

wide at the shoulders and drives away in his Ford

hybrid, I wonder if he is imitating you, consuming the

mythology of Jesus the way 1989 feasted on your tales of

Jing-Mei and Suyuan. The tongue salivates only for

food it has already imagined: my father’s for

the white bread and equally pale body of a saviour

unseen, America for drops of exotic golden milk

belonging to women an ocean away. Tell me,

Amy, is this what it takes to survive in this blinding

paradise? Is it everything you’ve ever wanted, or more?


“Amy” is full of lines that make you pause, close your eyes, and take a deep breath before continuing. Parts of this poem are so beautiful that they are almost painful to read, and every part knits together to form an equally poignant whole. While the language is playful, toying with repetition and rhyme, the voice bites. As the poem’s two central figures travel opposite paths of assimilation, neither escapes the speaker’s sharp details and powerful questioning. I know I will be thinking about the line “the tongue salivates only for/food it has already imagined” for a long time.


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