This April, to recognize and honor National Poetry Month, we curated a folio of poems by 10 Asian American high school students. This page features Anna Wang's "Interruption for Sunflower." We invite you to take a moment to read the other nine poems in this collection here.
— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor
Interruption for Sunflower
for the Chinese girl in the news
Last summer disappeared a bus window girl my age,
my face, my dull-toothed mull. There are enough girls,
I sang to the showerhead. Its mouths took note
Mornings I shared the road
with idle cars
and biked around the black ice,
nights I listened at the crack,
seeds gapping teeth and my parents
and their tongues.
I fell asleep to flies gleaning the voices,
black wet bodies like pupils
of bulls’ eyes.
My parents counted her mistakes
and stopped taking the bus to work.
Mornings they swept shells,
nights they sat
and warmed their tongues.
But the men in blue were not sure
who were men in blue. So I taught them how to walk
down the street: both hands out like a matador,
like inmates in backseats who whisper
the secret to a bull’s horns into the car speaker.
The speaker never whispers back.
At this rate
the sunflowers will never reach
the windowsill. Heads crawling
on the ground
with ants. Bodies flicker
where the secret should be:
You could fit a corner in me,
I hummed to the showerhead.
I think I can live knowing when
to stick my neck out.
These days I hum but the phone won’t stop ringing.
The receiver blooms
flies that whine and static.
Sometimes I see the girl stutter into view,
about to enter the yellowed field
and upright when she kneels,
her sunflower head dropping petals. They lie
clumped like hair, docile and pressed
in the tread of her shoes.
Morning comes white
on this cold tile. When I open,
the water fills my mouth,
matted on the tongue.
About this Poem:
When I was little, missing children ads terrified me. For my parents, it was a fear likely compounded by not speaking fluent English. Recently, one story circulated in the Chinese American community for months. I reevaluated the privilege I have to dismiss it, to forget my vulnerabilities. I am lucky.
This piece was published as part of the April Youth Poetry Folio. To see other works from the folio, please visit the table of contents here.