two poems

by Alison Zheng


“I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name” 
June Jordan

If women hold up half the sky1
then why does mom still center
her gaze towards the ground
with a blank stare at all times
revealing nothing, letting in 
no one, not even her own children? 

Dad doesn’t want to remember 
almost making it to Hong Kong 
before his arrest
Dad doesn’t want to remember 
the shaving of his head and how
it feels to burn

We spend a winter in Guangzhou
where there’s an officer on every
bus ride     where x-ray machines
inspect our bags before we can
catch their Muni from Powell
Station to Embarcadero.

Taxis push across freeways under
a barrage of flashing lights. Oh,
those are just the cameras. A man tells
me that the government should
kill protestors in Hong Kong.

I surprise myself with a poker face
of my own. I thought I’d be braver.
I thought I’d ask questions like:
If women hold up half the sky, then why
arrest the Feminist Five2? Why condemn
rice bunnies3 to the moon?

On our last day, dad takes me to
Yuexiu Park. We stare at the steep
hill standing before us. This is where
everyone trains if they want a chance at
making it across the border. He dares
me to race him to the top.

1 Famous Mao Zedong quote
2 Leaders in the Chinese Feminist movement that were imprisoned.
3“Rice bunny” is a homonym for #MeToo and it was the hashtag that women used after the phrase “Me Too” was banned virtually in China.


Self Portrait as Chang ‘e #2 

This is a cento. 

A monster in the shape of a woman[1] lay
lush among the lolly flowers[2]. Delicate
chiaroscuro.[3] Reckless heat.[4]

It’s wonderful to get out of bed and[5] make
him eat me out while I’m watching anime[6]
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind.[7]

Tell him I need him, tell him[8] I’ll be back
in August, after the cherries have left.[9]
Do it so it feels like hell. So it feels real.[10]

[1]  Planetarium by Adrienne Rich
[2] Lawrence Ferlinghetti – Foolybear
[3] The White Book by Han Kang
[4] Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng
[5] Steps by Frank O’Hara
[6] Girls in the Hood by Megan thee Stallion
[7] Ode to a Lemon by Pablo Neruda
[8] Tell Him by Lauryn Hill
[9] In the Time of Cherries by John Ashbery
[10]  Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

Alison Zheng’s work is published in or forthcoming from Sidereal Magazine, Honey Literary, and more. She’s a poetry reader for Non.Plus Lit. Her manuscript was a finalist in Gold Line Press’s Annual Chapbook Competition. She tweets from @aliberryzheng.

Photography by: Ryoji Hayasaka