Vassar Student Review

Vassar Student Review

VSR Digital Archive




a name that

belongs to me

in a language

which does not

belong to me


i can’t even

recognize the characters

of my own goddamn name

one that pushed me out

into the world and

abandoned me

on the streets at 11 months

only to reappear

in government agencies

when they ask for

my full name

because all they see

is my skin

my hair

my eyes

my birthplace


they question

my citizenship

my americanness

my identity

as if they are the first

to wonder

what i am


they’re not


at 10, i lay awake

wondering if

i was white enough


at 14, i lay awake

wondering if

i was chinese enough


at 19,

i am too tired

to care



you have chased me

for my entire life

but i’m done running


now i turn back

open my arms

and we collide

On Commission

Somebody told me once paint them a picture and they will love it for yourself 

So I agreed and made it dapple sun shines in on winter grindstone surface like the frozen moon

Monolith of purpose made to crush the necks and hands of me for trying to paint it all at once

It pays to take your time when hurting snow is falling said to me

This painting here is not a grindstone not because of you

We see the figure you have sketched in pencil lying in the corner

Take me back to your apartment I wish to see the life you draw

Upon to create empty floor where moon hangs circle empty full

And chalk can break a thousand organs over a cup of clocks and chimes that move together like two lungs when breath complains about his love

And chalk can taste me in apartments one you drew with grindstone lovely

Why would this painting be allowed to prove my love for anybody

I merely tried to captivate the space above my crown and look how you have done me wrong

Narrator must interject and notice here the lies she told

She and he and we must lie the moon is soft but still is cold

A Vague Blueprint

I choose to be

a placemaker,

an architect

whose only materials

are a rise in the voice

and a pile of words –

broken, orphaned little things

that ignorant people call lies.

Ignorant people who cannot feel

the difference between potential and

progress, who see no use for second

chances. I refuse to build labyrinthine

palaces for the many-mouthèd gods with more

words than they know how to wield. I will not carve

monuments of stagnant ideologies out of a precious and

dwindling resource. I will write in rooms and windows –

simple, but strong; so when the forces of time and chaos

come to claim their ransom, I can walk away knowing that

even if my practical walls are razed, there will remain a basement,

in which there is preserved, in vinegar or jam, a tiny fig of honesty.  

The Goof

Inspired by The Man-Moth by Elizabeth Bishop


The goof climbs from the sewers, hair matted

with cheap alcohol and pigeon scat. 

He has a skittish grin that violently 

shakes the confines of his formless face. 


Don’t leave your clothes in the laundromat. 

With the mildew comes the goof. 

He climbs out, fingers snapping, 

Flannel swinging from his shoulders. 


The goof will inch up your garbage disposal. 

He will lick your plates clean with a greasy tongue. 

He will shatter your bowls. 

They are the scalps of his friends. 


The goof will not stop screeching during the movie. 

He crawls along the floor, eating scraps of 

popcorn, ice cubes, raisinets.

He has the finesse of a seasoned pick pocket. 


“You stupid, stupid goof. Go back to your sewer. 

Here, have a dollar store wind-up toy, you bumpkin. 

I don’t like you, goof. Not one bit. 



Say something like that to the goof. 

He will leave, head slumped, defeated. 

But he will certainly reappear. 

When headlights strobe through his gutters, 


He will be back.

Bones of an Incomplete Soul

It must be odd for my mother

To have a white child to hold

To see it grow up in a poisonous land

With pockets of silver and gold

To speak in the beautiful language

The one that she holds so dear

But it only blinks twice, and then blinks again

Wishing it was able to hear


It must be odd for my father

So easily burnt in the sun

To carry a daughter, so golden and bright

To watch her little feet run

She embodies a vibrant culture

One that he can’t understand

Her words are a maze he must figure out

Her voice as slippery sand


It must be odd for my parents

To create a person in whole

But have her be half of everything else

Bones of an incomplete soul


It must be odd for the child

Living in a gray tone

Rich with the past, but stuck in the now

So full, and yet so alone. 

Useful Dust

I kick around the dust pile

that breathes through my stereo

its indifference and grace

nothing kept silent for a while.

when there was nothing left to say

we hid the breasts of chicken from our kin

they didn’t bother to raise the tin lid

little drops of honey like dew flew away

all this happened months ago

and the captain tips his hat

angled adjacent to the Albatross leg

we reached we reacted inside it was hollow

screaming innocence like a blue 

like you two come on and shake

the leaves twirl thickly and quickly

a whale’s dreams coming true

tell the youth they don’t like to mix

the muffled sounds from the stereo

thinking “By God! I’ll have a taste!” 

and pour down their throats the words thick.

Sounds on 47th Street

There is a horrendous roar outside my window

like that of a desperate train

squeaking against the rail to come to a stop.

To pick up the hopeless people for another day.

The friction sparks,

like the billboards yelling across the street

with light, fragments, frames by the second.

Squeak, roar, howl,

There is endless sound outside my window.

Voices over voices travel feverishly into my left ear.

And into my right ear,

The heater screams every frantic hour.


Release me.

Of the unpleasant world of sound.

Release me.

Of your foul composition,

and your ceaseless reminder

of my incompetence to cope with

you, sound, purposeless conversation,

gossip at lunch, and songs too fast for my hair cells to grasp.


Release me from your life,

Your life, the one standing by the light

from which a deep male voice repeats, “Wait,”

every half a minute


Release me from your wait,

I shall advance without the help of waves,

all alone.


if the mountains call for me

remind them of

the time they turned their backs

as I raced through the wind,

knuckles white and vision glossed.

toss their offer into the most shallow waters


watch the droplets ricochet.

if the mountains call for me,

pick up on my behalf;


tell them that 

I am now home.

fever dreams in hà nội

when you’re at the bottom of a well

the minutest caress of sunlight can

feel like a dangling hook itching for

your lips slaking the thirst of loneli-

ness with another sort of bondage.


i am in here spinning silences out

of the nettles of mist as the blood

slow-drips into the condensed milk

i’ve set aside for my morning coffee

brewing hot with neapolitan desire.


searched for a sun in unclouded broth

plucked a rose that bled in longing i

negotiate the spine of the book you

left behind and look to see if appeared

i did in any sprawling annotation.


how to grow old in the presence of

a crowd that can’t understand weak-

ness in the teeth of the enemy or

swooning from the labor of the sun—

they’d rob the blush from my cheeks.


peering out of the oculus of my fever

dream i see a starry blindness someone

has swept away the fog and my broken

compass if they didn’t know i was down

here they might never bother to find out.

monkton road

I love you mint chocolate ice cream big. 

always have, always will. 


sometimes I think I miss your old house more than you do.


so many summers ago

we ate brownies on your trampoline,


made my mouth



made your garden


sunshine smooth. 


so many summers ago,

we wore white dresses for 

my birthday,

clenched arms around each other’s waists. 


we got drunk


on the wine


katie stole


from her stepfather. 


smiled so wide it hurt. 


forgive me,

for cuddling closer after the car wouldn’t start. 

the light was



baltimore was warmer for us

dancing in the street,

waiting for the jumper cables.  


forgive me,

for almost sending a valentine scrawled with wistful lyrics. 


I can’t help but


cheap red wine in pomegranate juice bottles

holding hands just because.


I can’t help but

want to float back to the first day of physics


“Is someone sitting here?”


“No, I don’t think so.”


your smile clementine bright.

Related Submissions


stay in the loop