poems (transcript of “Art As Healing” @ JANM set) 

I am posting these poems (many in first draft stage) for a set I will be performing this evening without live interpretation. The live zoom event will be recorded and uploaded with closed captioning within a week, and I will add a link once the event is live. I apologize that the final part of my set, an improv story, will not have a live transcript.

content notes: dysphoria, grief, loss, ideation (implied)

4.28.20 (excerpt)
the things we cherish
tell us who we are
our love tethers us
to one another

in times like these, return to what you know
the memory of breath, clean air flowing through you
every time you have expanded, unfurled, and grown

the certainty of your own body, how it has loved and
carried all of you, how it is all of you, home for your spirit
and all the wisdom you have gathered

return to yourself, to the comfort of knowing you are held
by love, in love, by the many who have needed you
and the ones who came before but had to go

you are never alone, even now
our bodies longing for touch
to be carried through

whatever comes next
let hope be your vessel
may your breath fill your sails

the beauty of this life is
you are writing yourself into existence.
you envision yourself (in a dream,
in a breath) and become

keep creating, uncovering, honing in,
making a body of yourself, creature finding
home in skin. you are this wondrous imagining,
the unafraid seeking of truth made flesh.

you are alive.
what could be more beautiful?

5.20.20 (excerpt)
how much grief can a body hold, a collective?
before saturation–before too much of too much
that temptation to let go, tempered only by
not wanting to add another name to the litany
of whispered words, the tender things we called
one another become our quiet prayers,
a chant, a praisebook, a memorial of all of us
who dared to live

how much is too much, a desert of our hearts,
parched from the shedding of so many tears,
the salt water wrung from us even as we gaze upon
past joys, see our own smiles captured forever,
the flimsy celluloid, pixels arranged in pleasing shapes
can they truly tell our stories?

too much, too much, too much of too much–
like what they have always said about us, our brilliant
eccentric, extraneous bodies, twisting under florescent lights,
the audacity. how dare we love one another,
let alone our own broken, sinful bodies?

it is not them, or us, but the grief that will kill us.
swept away, at last, after fighting so hard and for so long,
our bodies remembering what it feels like to get lost
in the tide, that sweet surrender to anything
more powerful than the tiny, beautiful dramas
of our tired, exhausting lives. the ocean of it, the beyond:
total and dark and deep, how we can pull it over our bodies
like a blanket–a blanket, comfortable, heavy, enveloping
us into rest–peace at last

how much grief_20.05.20

image description: a sheet of paper lays against a light brown hardwood floor. the page contains a typewritten poem with marginalia and notes added in blue handwriting. (the text of the poem is the piece titled 5.20.20 above, with some edits and shifts in line breaks)

I think I mentioned this in my last blog post, but composing poetry on a typewriter has been a really fun approach/challenge — I find myself paying more attention to structure and form (in a loose way, often this is about the shape of words or a piece as opposed to formal structural choices or experimenting with established poetic forms). I also like the feeling of permanence that typing a draft creates, and then being able to make edits directly on the text, seeing my own thinking/revising as part of the process. (A caveat: the vast, vast majority of the Xing out in these pieces is from typos, not me revising as I’m typing.)

poem: when we watch mulan

When We Watch Mulan
for Cayden

how we are and are not our fathers
these Chinese men we do and do not know
we will talk about

the stories we may never know
cherish the ones we know how to tell
about how we so often talk about our feelings,

our manhood, how we dress as who we see
— looking in the mirror, we
know these reflections as our true selves

forged and shaped, like her father’s sword
nurtured and watered, like the flowered comb
she leaves behind

we strive to fill these footsteps
trace ourselves in the curves of their jaws
the shape of our hair

out of what do we make
our manhood, dark-moon mystery
they left behind

we will talk about
all of the times we cried
looking in the mirror

all of the times we might cry,
looking in the mirror —
that man, staring back at me


I typed this piece on a friend’s typewriter that has been doing a home stay with me. It’s been interesting to explore form in different ways by typing poetry: I notice myself paying more attention to visual layout, and there is also a different tempo, pace, soundtrack, and physical interaction with writing — it takes a lot more finger and wrist muscle than writing by hand or typing on a laptop, and it creates a significant amount of very vigorous typing noise. I also find applying this permanence to first drafts really satisfying.

This poem was one of those that happened very quickly and also feels like maybe it has been years in the drafting. Cayden and I had planned at the beginning of 2020 to watch the live action Mulan together in April and cry a lot and feel all of our trans feelings — I still hope we’ll be able to do that together in the nearish future.

I feel a piece brewing called “Being Trans at the Funeral,” but I haven’t been able to start putting it into words yet. Right now it’s a lot of feelings, including being grateful to be so held in trans community, but also wishing that we all had a little less practice navigating grief.

This poem is also featured in the fourth edition of the Loves Me | Loves Me Not zine, curated by jenevieve ting + nikita lamba.

reminder to self: it’s okay to be bummed out 

I have been wanting to blog but not blogging, so I am breaking the seal for now with this mini-post. Thank you to Narinda for the reminders & for setting a good example!

We are in a pandemic. It is bad and uncertain, and we still are not sure how bad things will get. On top of all of the ways this moment is exacerbating the existing inequalities and failures of global capitalism and U.S. empire, this moment of collective trauma and constant grief is going to ripple out for years.

And, in spite of that, I would say that I have been feeling … not completely in disaster the majority of the time? I am blessed, in a way, to be in a lot of sdq (sick & disabled queer) community, and that has given me a lot of skills to prepare for and cope in this moment. I have also found a lot of joy and movement in mutual aid and staying busy. And, of course, having class privilege and being a light-skinned East Asian insulates me from a lot of ways this pandemic and widespread shutdown are impacting others, including many of the people I love.

So, in general, I am appreciating that staying busy helps. I appreciate that most of the time, I feel pragmatic and/or hopeful, even. I like being able to look on the bright side of things. And also, in a coaching session today, my coach helped me to identify that I haven’t made enough space to just be … bummed out.

To that end, what’s one big thing that you were looking forward to this year that isn’t happening/or is delayed, one medium bummer, and one small thing that has been a surprising bummer?

Big thing: I had plans to spend a really big portion of this year in nature, including several camping trips with the FIRE Fellowship and a 30-day backpacking and sea kayaking trip in Alaska that I’ve been planning and saving for over the last two years.

Medium bummer: I MISS DANCING WITH PEOPLE. It’s something I was just starting to get comfortable with, that still felt terrifying most of the time, but also felt like a kind of liberation and presence in my body that I know was only becoming possible because of years of internal work, unlearning and growing.

Small, surprising thing: I really, really miss riding the bus alone with my headphones on, reading, listening to music, or just observing other people going about their lives. Walking to the bus stop, the awkward shuffle when everyone tries to let each other on first, getting off at my stop & not having to think about where I’m going, just letting my body lead and singing as I traveled to wherever I was going next.

I have cried hard exactly twice in the six or so* weeks that I have been self-isolating: About a week ago, I realized that I can’t hug a friend who is grieving (and also get hugs for good news that I have & want to share with friends). On Sunday, I realized that if we were still having in-person rehearsals for my theater company, we would have been at this beautiful dance studio in Pasadena that we go to once a month. It’s the first place I danced in front of a group of people, at my theater callback last fall, and dancing there after rehearsal at the beginning of March was the most free I have ever felt my body in movement. I miss it. I miss hugs.

And, also, I am grateful for these moments, the release of tears, because I have barely been able to cry, and because the tears are very clearly letting me know what is most important in my life.

* I had to take a break in the middle to argue with my parents about self-isolating and to buy groceries in my attempt to keep them out of the store.