Self-Portrait in Three Songs

菊花残满地伤, 你的笑容已泛黄
花落人断肠, 我心事静静淌  

The chrysanthemum reflects our pain,
your smile growing yellow [as in an old photograph.] Flowers fall, a gutting pain.  

周杰伦 (Jay Chou)  

a black-and-white photograph of a young boy by his young mother i cannot recognize either of them my father takes it away. he laughs. the house laughs at this farce of intimacy and when my father receives the text april of last year the house lets out a low bellow from its stomach and belches into the rain outside heavy enough to force the bougainvilleas to their knees / god damnit why am i crying don’t cry don’t cry ding! mother has won a game of online poker she looks but doesn’t smile just think grandma’s not suffering anymore. outside the water slanting palely into stone look she’s not suffering anymore / why are you crying damnit you didn’t / didn’t / even know her / last summer in the nursing home she warbles who are these people and father says its your daughter-in-law and your granddaughter don’t you remember let’s eat lunch what do you want mom and that’s all that’s all / in the movies / they cry when the mother isn’t looking / kangri movies on bamboo slats on rocking chair and my heart beating fast this woman not my own this woman holstered eyes mottled jade earrings and skin masked under purple polymer when people age what is inside             my motherfather do not talk of their childhood until i ask  

2.   和我在成都的街头走一走 喔, 直到所有的灯都熄灭了也不停留  

Walk with me through the streets of Chengdu, and don’t stop even when every light is off.  

赵磊 (Zhao Lei)  

In Shenzhen, we bike at midnight and feel no fear. We round the corner and blow past rows of trees, feel the streets billow and undulate in sheets of cold sweet black static, our tires running smooth over no white blinks. Xiaoya come here aunt says, almost there are you tired. Yes yes I am, sweat sugary on our arms. Do you like this she says, hopeful, nervous. We swing leg off bike and push onto crowded rack and aunt walks with clattering steps in her brown flats. Ground level lobby, doors bleached a pale, wobbling blue, quivering bottom of chlorinated pool. But not here because this color is used and this cloth is warm. We ride the elevator up and the operator in the corner reminds us of our uncle. On our brown suite door still hangs last year’s 福. We palm the turtle’s back and watch him explore him glass box and pad on slippers to bedroom aunt washing clothes in warm water basin and suds in hair and air whiskey-clear-whistle.


She doesn’t ask for. She doesn’t wonder for. China is too yellow of a word. When I lie in bed I feel the sea breathing, through the mesh window and the blackbirds on the roof. My line-tracing books like wet seeds under cloth.

My lid, shut: white pin, still, of airplane destined for California. Ocean sighs. Shenzhen sleeps.


我们都已经长大, 好多梦正在飞
就像童年看到的 红色的蜻蜓

We’ve already grown up, our dreams soaring –– just like the red fireflies we saw as children

小虎队 (The Tiger Brothers)

& I listen to the light whistle through the toothed baleen of the escalator; I step down with purpose; I lay my own fingers upon the plastic slippers lining the walls. Each price tag draws a number, specific and deconstructed. 3.49 yuan. The Organs of Lorenzini titter all over the flatness of my skin & the bulb of my cheek. They sense movement in the water which flows over the window. Do not be afraid to grow up, they whisper, the deep husk of their voice rushing all along the mirror of the bathroom & the long lobes of soap.

I bathe myself, crushing the soap into water with my fingers, arbitrarily twisting my hair into ropes that unravel themselves.

When I submerge myself, I am not afraid. 

Sarah Feng is a rising freshman at Yale University. She is the editor-in-chief of COUNTERCLOCK Journal and the founding director of the Arts Collective. She has been recognized by the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom, the Adroit Prizes in Poetry & Prose, the Critical Pass Junior Poet Prize, Teen Vogue, and more. You can read her work in Gigantic Sequins, the Adroit Journal, and DIALOGIST. In her free time she loves dark chocolate, Studio Ghibli, and poring over Faulkner and Morrison.

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