APRIL POETRY: "Self-Portrait with Fingers" by Mei Kane

Curated as part of the Youth Poetry Folio for National Poetry Month
April 5, 2019

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 Mei Kane's "Self-Portrait with Fingers." We invite you to take a moment to read the other nine poems in this collection here.

— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor

Self-Portrait with Fingers

There! Look
Your fingers stretch elongated
and spidery, like the creepy
woman from Coraline.

A small person with long fingers, your dad says.
Delicate and nimble,
they jump into motion before
your brain can shout, “go!”
And they dance about without a care

There’s a scar on the middle finger of your left hand,
jagged, glaring and ugly
the proof of your life lived so far;
seven stitches still visible from the knife
that slipped and cut you to the bone

How many nerve endings are there,
in fingers?
However many there are,
you have less, cut away by the years
of worried picking of cuticles and
pads of your fingertips.

Fingers curl in, reflexively
forming the fists that you make
when you’re sad, mad, angry or scared;
it’s a different sort of scowl,
one that isn’t on your face,
even as thunderclouds appear
on the horizon of your forehead

When your face is still as
a solemn statue, your fingers give you away,
leaping and twitching
with the life
that thrums throughout your frame.



About this Poem:
I wrote this poem while I was at Kundiman’s inaugural Youth Leadership Intensive. The prompt was to write a poem entitled, “Self-Portrait” and to reflect upon a specific body part. Writing this poem let me think about how my personality manifests itself within my physical characteristics.


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.


Mei Kane

Mei Kane is a senior at Marymount School of New York. She will be attending Bates College in the fall and is interested in studying the humanities. In 2018, she participated in Kundiman's inaugural Youth Leadership Intensive and enjoyed learning about Asian American history, literature and contemporary issues. As a Chinese adoptee and avid writer, she is interested in working with nonprofits or in the social work field post-college.