Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline. You've got to go so far so fast in such a small space; you've got to burn away all the peripherals.
Hiromi Yoshida’s work has been included in the INverse Poetry Archive, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, the Wilder Poetry Book Prize, the New Women’s Voices Poetry Prize, and the Gerald Cable Book Award. Her poetry chapbooks are Icarus Burning, Epicanthus, and Icarus Redux.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Hiromi, what poems have you brought for us today?
Say Her Asian Name
Since her arrival in the United States of America,
her Chinese name (whatever it had
been) blurred away—a smudged sequence of ink-
brushed ideographs, signifying sounds butchered by tripping, Anglicizing
tongues, lopped into bite-
sized ching-chong onomatopoeia,
off-key singsong syllables (two
Zen hands clapping). She was
the Atlanta gunman’s pathological
symptom, his sin,
massage parlor whore,
Orientalized desire victim,
paper China doll tucked
away into stale fortune cookies
incinerated after the spark of
in March 2021 ignited #StopAsianHate
hashtags, and her papery
edges caught fire—the Asian
American dream gunned
down (no mountains of gold)—Chinatowns
oozing away—eliding glossy tourist pamphlets, sticky with chop suey fingerprints. Even now, she has no real (Chinese) name
(Maxine Hong Kingston’s “no-
name woman”), the spectral signifier rising from
phoenix ash. So, say her Asian name (her no-name
woman’s name): Xiaojie (“Emily”) Tan,
“Xiaojie,” a Mandarin prefix, and slang
for “prostitute”; “Emily,” a whitewashing
(parenthetical) afterthought—she is the ideograph slipping away toward the lexicography of new hashtags, that smudgy marginal gloss (drop of coagulated vigil candlewax)—paper money burning for the unappeasable gods squatting on gold mountains.
If Icarus were minted on a greening penny, its
obverse would be a flipped bird—
Icarus sprouting fragile wings from sloping
shoulder blades, shivering beneath the sun’s hot
scrutiny. Icarus giving the finger to his father &
to the sun god Helios. Icarus was that finger,
stroking the raggedy edge of the Aegean sea waves—
planting accolades in unlikely
places. The other side
of the flipped coin is always greener
than its coppery obverse; Icarus burning.
You've been listening to the poems of Hiromi Yoshida on the Poets Weave. This is Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.