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I am the type to go to bed with my feet dirty

A man calling from a balcony is not to be trusted

In 1988, the nation sings a song I can’t understand but I sing it because everyone looks at

me like a thief and no one likes a thief

Algae gathers in plastic cups along the Jersey Shore

The dull prongs of a fork still count as a weapon

I gather plastic cups along the shore and shake them out to use for tea, juice, a home for

my toothbrush

The Pledge of Allegiance is a building ledge, an alleged crime, a leg crossed over another

leg, a plea gone askew, a glance shared in a room with someone else who looks like you

Hundreds of toxic wild boars are roaming across northern Japan and it would be a mistake

to identify with them

In 1960, my grandmother holds no knife in no tall wheat

When washing her feet, my grandmother tells me she spent decades without shoes,

wonders if the mud misses her

I am a good daughter and I can repeat this indefinitely without taking a breath

Often, I call out to myself just to hear an echo, to hear something moving in the walls like a

healthy family of rats

My mother has been told, repeatedly: “You can’t walk here”

Here is a white stone, a white fence, a white sea gull, a white jug of milk, a white candle, a

white duvet, a white patio, a white bar of soap to wash your mouth out

Sometimes I dream in Cantonese and I have no idea what is being said

You grow to love what you create, pouring out of your mouth

In 1988, my father sees his reflection in the rearview mirror and identifies with the blood

moon lighting his way to Atlantic City

From a balcony, a man yells at me: “You need some white dick” and I turn into a boar


My father disappears for weeks and my mother keeps weeding the garden, pulling

cigarettes from the splintering tomatoes I will devour

I study asymptotes for months and dream in curves—almost but never touching

My mother writes in her English diary for night school: “I hate him I hate him I hate him I

hate him I” and her ESL teacher only gives her a check, so I give her a check plus

To be a good daughter means to carry everything with you at all times, the luggage of the

past lifted to the mouth

When we look at each other, my mother laughs like an overripe tomato on a windowsill

In 1989, I spent months assembling a puzzle map of the United States of America and the

teacher said, “Good job, Jane” and then louder and slower like a drowning sloth:

“Gooooood Jahhhhhhb, Jane” and I did not touch a single piece

Bloody drunk and a blood moon, my father fights with another gambler and jabs at his

arm with a dull fork and they both laugh celestially


During elementary school, I did not say a single word, not even when called on, and thus

the teachers and administrators decided I could not speak English because they looked at


Mao Zedong explains math: “In geometry, I just drew a picture of an egg—that was

enough geometry for me”

My grandfather was jailed by the Red Army sometime between 1966 and 1976 and my

mother says: “I saw him cry when I tried to visit. He wanted to eat the bao I made for him”

Algae gathers, gleaming like a jewel, on the head of my 5th-grade betta fish

Counterrevolutionaries during the Cultural Revolution are likened to “finding a bone

inside an egg”

I was born, healthy, in the year of the rat

The man on the balcony invests in a foldable set of two chairs and one table in egg-

shell-white—mold resistant, perfect for outdoor use


I was ten when I willed a rock to fall off a ledge, just by staring at it long enough

from How to Not Be Afraid of EverythingFind more by Jane Wong at the library

Copyright © 2021 Jane Wong
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Jane Wong Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.