Joann Yang


I spent days and days and days in front of the mirror,
     carefully mapping out features of delicacy in creation of breathtaking topography.
I spent nights and nights and nights learning about you on YouTube,
     the hours of sleep I offered at your altar slipping from my mind.
To be honest with you, I don’t remember the time we first met.
     you’ve been around on my lips for a very long time.
But I do perfectly remember when you first glided across my eyelids,
     the shaky steps and turns of your skates turning my eyes panda black.

My most blessed minutes ticked in rhythm with your magical chants,
     proud, sparkling smiles flashing from atop the hills of my cheekbones.
My most funereal moments trickled alongside your flowing tears,
     bitter black sobs mourning with me at the foot of my esteem’s deathbed.
Your iridescent pearl has showered me with endless opportunities, an ugly, worthless shell
     turned rare and valuable, one people will pay for, one that actually matters.

Your charming pearl has hardened me, a bloody, unyielding attempt to shield my treasure
     from blades of jealous and shameful words stabbing at my sides relentlessly, viciously.
Like Icarus’s wings, you carried me up and out of the crumbling Labyrinth,
     so close to the brilliant taste of blazing confidence
     that I forgot how hot the Sun was,

And when you began melting away on my back, I was plummeting into the ocean, and I was too afraid to imagine a life without you.

All I wanted to do was to love you,
     the very wings that give me life,

But you were also a drug I drowned myself in,
     and when I woke up to a splash, I found myself stranded on the same ocean abreast the Labyrinth,

And the Minotaur within me never quite stopped howling.


Yesterday, Esperanza didn't come to school.

Nobody said it but we all knew - she was gone like the other kids who got hollower and hollower until they disappeared one by one.

When I came home, I built a little big pebble tower to pray for her warm giggles, for her name she cherished the most because it meant "hope" in her mother's language.

With her, hunger never felt quite as rocky as the mountains we climbed in search of water. When the altitude was unbearable to endure alone, we would count for each other the sharp curves of our ribs like we would count the stars at night, pretending that it was a beautiful thing to count our burning hunger smoldered into innumerable dark days of empty stomach.

Today... I found Esperanza back at the same trash mound we always visited. Her limp body was strewn alongside scraps of food, the closest thing to heaven that her parents could offer. She really was gone.. the light I used to love left her eyes.

Without her, nothing feels the same anymore. Hungry nights can't be mended because I'm alone and she can no longer distract me from my stomach washing away its emptiness over and over with acids as strong as the famine I feel.

Her incandescence is only a sad star, fading away from my grasp.

Each day spent at war against hunger is a dying day without Esperanza fighting on my side. Everyday, it feels like there's a hole in my stomach that I can't fill up by stuffing all these mud cookies into my mouth, so how can people still tell me that hunger is a satiable thing?

Hunger is a monster, a nightmare that never ends.

And as long as this monster-like hunger persists within me,

Esperanza will never come back to school.


Jason Carney