Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Natalie Wee





I Guess Everyone’s Asian These Days

            As if the world was only a window. As if every crop
in a strange continent bloomed the same fruit,

            plum-sweet & unpoisoned. As if anything made
of meat was made to be eaten. As if

            it wasn’t enough that the body is a cage.


Motoko Kusanagi     knows how to be     less than flesh     muzzled with knives
    to see through     eyes slant     angled for kill     wounds on     the right face     invite grief     wounds on     her face     invite     pale hands     hurt made foreign
      a pretty dress     to slip     into     disarm dis     embody     her skin too
a doorway     history now     broken furniture     weighed in bone     white paint
      made habitable          made habit     the walls    bordered with bleach
lined with mirrors     of course     to see inside her     you have     to see yourself


            As if wearing fresh pelt is to be the animal itself.
As if a hunter could sleep despite the pursuit

            of a blue-eyed knife. As if a scream were not
its own language. As if hollowing my throat

            wasn’t how I learned to speak.


to speak the name     that leashes me     is to own     my body     to own
      another’s name     is to invent      animal     Michael skins     Yi-Fen Chou
sews his meat      into fabric      a country worn      for years      Michael watches
       white men like him     tape their eyes skyward      as if to escape     skin now
smothered with yellow      cheap enough      to wash off      on television
       Charlie Chan      solves mysteries      of men inventing      colour inventing     animals      the thrill     of play-acting weapons      that can never     kill you


            As if grief could be made beautiful by touch.
As if to teeth blood-fresh incisors is to speak

            new language. As if captive things grow to love
hunger. As if finding my face in the water

            wasn’t all it meant to see.


see: Lena the biologist     see: chink     see: aperture     opening through which
     light passes through    a camera     see: aesthetic     an ornament     to touch
see: proximity     nearness    see: interchangeable     bodies     the same colour
     bordering on     see: border     breath-thin     division     see: Chinese Exclusion Act     see: act     see: pretense     see: polite     see: appropriate
     see: usurp       see: replace     see: chink     see: breach     meaning animal     breaking the surface     of water     to breathe


How to Win the Appropriation Prize

Write this / a white woman reinvents doorways / into my country via
conquering / army of fists / write a flood / of gapes telegraphing / indifference
with precision / bona fide post-racial / audience to exhibit of land/mine &
trespass / write all those useless sorrys / vulturing a gutted horizon / & under
it a girl’s lies / warbling ocean to the colony / where her mother sleeps /
unbruised for now / & then write yourself / brave witness / recreate the Sad
Chink Cinematic / my grief made luminous / ticket to critics’ gold stars /
ovations / an airborne bullet / built to bridge water / & rain soldiers / write
this: / one year ago / white men cleaved / through my friend’s body / & found
the ledger / of lives they owned / can you pronounce / her birth name
perfectly / language the distance / between someone I love / & the next
chokehold / after all you’ve harvested / scream for sand / abetting for
applause / write my pelt gorgeous / & blood-warm / the voyeuristic thrill / of
owning something / by being inside it / now I am beautiful / surgery in your
grand / invention finally made real / because you stroked me / with ink-damp
hands / my story is unbearable / because it bears my body / which bears my
life / which is also unbearable / my life is unbearable / there I said that / my
life is / unbearable elsewhere / in an echoing classroom / a writing professor /
swears that true poems / are built from tactile nouns / he’s looking at you /
when he says / something’s / only good / when it lets itself / be touched


Photograph of Natalie Wee by May Truong.

Natalie Wee is a queer Peranakan community-builder. She has work published or forthcoming in BOAAT, The Adroit Journal, and the Indiana Review, among others, and has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology. More from this author →