letter from brother: stargazing, persimmon
Charlotte, North Carolina
stargazer x describing things by what they are not—
my brother writes to me
and in his letter tells me about stargazers,
which get their name from burying themselves
in sand. when they look up to capture
their prayer, it looks like they are gazing
at stars. i think that’s pretty poetic, so instead
of writing about the deaths and the dry, bloodless
nights, i will talk about the stars juicing
the universe’s sorrow, filling moon craters with it like champagne.
i will not talk about the diseases of my father,
of my father’s father, won’t talk about what soon may be
mine, nor the gnawing hunger, nor
the anger. instead, i will remain in this ignorance—
where everything is a little beautiful and if not, at least
poetic. i won’t talk about my mother, who departs
in ecstatic sob, won’t emphasize the beauty
of spiderwebs, which glow hungrily in the night
like the skeleton of a bloodless moon. i myself am a crime,
a body filled with lies of omission. when
nights arrive and the stars dim
we bow our heads—not in defeat, but in hunger.
if i am anything, i am a body at the intersection
of beautiful and sickly. my brother,
he writes to me and it is beautiful.
* * *
i am not hungry; i watch as the vitreous body
of a whole fish mists and clouds
into opacity, into the past. i watch slivers
of ginger falling onto the cutting board like strands
of a girl’s golden hair. 水煮鱼. my mother
faithfully tends, washes the ripe persimmon, plump
with juice. we gather: my mother, father,
brother, sister, thin slivers of green, of meat.
afterwards, my sister holds her hair over the toilet,
unravels in shades less poetic. i am thinking of
blonder hair, bluer, bigger eyes, smaller waists, whiter smiles.
healthy girls, healthy mothers, healthy fathers.
i am not hungry.
“Unravels in shades less poetic” is a line I’m going to remember for quite a while. I’ll follow the poem’s style to describe it in ways it is not: it does not shy away from raw emotion, it’s not afraid of the power behind simplicity, and it’s definitely not lacking in beautiful, intricate imagery. The piece ebbs and flows in intensity; each section first lulls the reader with this imagery and then ends with the delivery of its hard-hitting theme.
Olivia Yang is a rising junior from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a 2020 American Voices Nominee for the Northeastern region and has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing awards. Her work has also been recognized by Nimrod International, The Courant, the Carl Sandburg Poetry Contest, and more. She is an editor for The Courant, Galliard International and is on the board of her school’s Asian Society and Writer’s Alliance. In her free time, she likes to scout out discrete boba shops and watch summer sunsets.
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