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letter from brother: stargazing, persimmon

CAS for Database

Olivia Yang

Charlotte, North Carolina

Phillips Academy


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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