Three Poems

Linguistic Exogamy

In this dream the house is silent. My mother closes
the piano. She opens her mouth and I add in
her words, like fear, and adoration, the terrible
translation of a hygienic room. Even then
it is different from what I want to hear,
nor have I felt it. I used to call her fascist because
she would not understand. I would let sunlight
expand quiet between us. The limitations of
specialized language have given us much grief.

I leave her and return to the lecture.
This fantasy has me flattered into belonging,
I will be saved by a mastery of speech.
Deliberate with his obsession, the author writes
I am tragically misunderstood! His woman
“wears white in the orchard, translucent like the sea”

I close the book and attempt a barren
and lifelong project of reclamation
which fails in the moment it begins.
I continue to use his words, stubborn,
carnivorous, taking great pains.

And I dream that I am perfectly coherent and adored.
Fearing no error I elucidate theory from text.
In this fantasy, I am the author, I have a bibliography,
eternal wisdom, a second face. Behind the bookshelf
the furnace switches on and off, outside
the cars are screaming. The author turns to me
and he says, I know you better than yourself.
I wake up cold and write it down.
How incestuous to be so perfectly understood.


Once again I am plucking burnt hairs
from the stovetop, looking for pasture
like tasting it the first time, this is how I know
to bear succession, how I know to be
generous, to find desert to the west,
I see you through fountain spray
and smoke and some halfway
weeping at cherry thick lights and you are

metal in my mouth you are clean and forever
like this country arched and sweeping
and wet railroad with fields underneath,
I open the window to scream things
like springtime, money, forever,
like I still want to be there

and I imagine I am sad and unfree,
I say you are foolish and unending.
I rip apart your old body
for that song. I keep it like chicken skin
in cold soup, I keep it on pavement, I see it
far below me, sparkling, in the window
landing in five thousand years,
the balcony, the stratosphere,
me and my lukewarm body
groping in half light.

One day the violent things I say
about you will be heard and unforgiven.
I will return mean and uneasy and
you will look the other way,
you will cover me and I will be lost

and then no one
will wring hands
for the eventual betrayals,
nighttime sweating full
with well-swept trains,
my burning skin,
the phone line screaming
in a rich man’s home
and making kingdoms.


this is the story where
in Home Depot I fuck a Home Depot
employee and
swallow America whole

we enter the 21st century. i imagine myself
being born again and again
in snowdrifts

like my homeland, like i’m blonde

someone else replaces my
yellow skin with
boys and belonging

and outside
in the garden

the little girls sprout
tiny teeth in wet
cavernous mouths, tasting

tender iron, plucking
at fingertip skin

their eyes emit

the winter abrogates

and when i wake
he finds my face

on a postcard from yellowstone
national park
which i’ve saved
since i was twelve

Jessica Yuan is a recent graduate of Yale University and currently working as an architect in New Haven. In 2015 she received the Connecticut Student Poetry Circuit award, and during college she was president of the Asian American spoken word group Jook Songs. She is hoping to pursue her interest in poetry as a new writer.