The Poetry Snapshot: October Boy

Ann Arbor, Michigan

As I take a seat by this fountain
And listen to you speak tonight,
everyone around us fades away.
It’s not that you have so much to say,
But your few words are arranged into a lovely bouquet.

My October boy,
are you a blueprint or abstract art?
You carry a California breeze in your back pocket,
But keep Chicago winds in your heart.
Your expression reads casual,
yet somehow still curated,
Like a timeless design,
you will never be outdated.

Your voice is soft, yet your charisma stays aloft,
October boy, you are now on top.
More adventurous than August, and sweeter than September,
Your eyes-closed smile is one that I’ll remember.

An old man walks by to say what he perceives,
Before asking our names, he tells us that he believes,
In us. What a magically frightful phrase to hear.
I think I’m falling for you like crisp golden leaves.

Evolving Emotions: The Fog

Presences are unannounced in the dark.

Even more so in the fog

A blur of beings rushes by

Without ever crossing my eye

Each step is a careful one

Each breath, hesitant

For I am subject to the misty blindfold

Cloaked 

I embark.

 

In a transition

A surge of events passes me by

What I could do

I can’t.

What I wanted

I can’t have.

I don’t see them 

I didn’t see them

If only by my volition.

 

They move in my view for a moment

So fleeting

They depart 

Without thought

Without recognition

Without realizing

Helpless I am in the fog

For I am a proponent.

 

There is a strange relief

I am concealed

Shrouded in mysterious droplets

They cast a hold on me

Around my every curve 

I am hidden from the world

Away from the mind’s conception and belief.

 

Who I am

Whom I cherish

What I am capable of

What ineptitudes I lock away

The experiences I carry

The soul embedded within

A perfect bubble

A precious dam.

 

A thinning

A receding

A panic

A terror

A grief

A mourning

A spinning.

 

Fog withdraws

Visions clear

Fear resides

In the cavity once hidden

Now in full display

Pleading for a pause.

 

The whole world stares anew

 

The Poetry Snapshot: Strangers at the Train Station

Between two rolling hills, the first glimpse of metal tracks emerge.
The platform is scattered with people ready to leave,
but I am sitting on the verge.

Lima, Ohio

Counting each track as I wait for some peace of mind.
Luggage filled with the memories I cannot leave behind,
it’s almost too heavy for me to carry.
So perhaps I should stay back with my luggage,
or convince myself my destination is the wrong location.

I’d leave comfort for curiosity at this station.
But then two eyes fixate on my visible trepidation.

Fleeting strangers he seeks out on the sidewalk,
he gave me a spotlight in the comfort of small talk.
Because those I love and hold so dear
are always going to stand so near,
that I forget beauty from the horizon.

Waiting for the train becomes a journey in itself.
Standing with no expectations,
my fears are now painted over with new conversations.

To inspire without intimacy,
connect with no intricacy,
I remember a soft smile and hazel eyes,
yet you will never be named.

This moment passes by with the train,
and I find peace in the transience.
Our lives never need to cross paths again,
this fragile tie can remain undefined.
Confined to the walls of the New York Train Station.

I eventually get on my train, ready to leave.

The Poetry Snapshot: Stoic Luxury

A time of milk and honey, where no one talks about money—
champagne conversations and dicty dialogues—
in a town of copied and pasted happy faces,
they find a target for their jealous disgraces.
A woman moves in wearing her silk scarf and stoicism,
eyes reflecting her wisdom like a prism.

Without warrant, their words would spread in torrent,
always giving their looking-glass logic on her loneliness.
Her diamond-pierced ears would hear ear-piercing lies,
but one-by-one she would collect them and polish them,
weave them together into a magnificent chandelier
that she hung from her mansion so proudly,
hosting galas without invites and music playing loudly.

Boulder, Colorado

Red rosy lips softly spell out her secrets,
once touched with passion, but now with regret.
She grew up hiding her pain in pressed-powder,
then created success when no one allowed her.
The day she wore hardship like high heels,
time slowed down until every moment was dusk.

She pours charisma into her glass hereafter
and walks with the scent of vineyards in her laughter.
The only time where nostalgia lies in the future.

She was raised to romanticize every view—
rolling hills nearby would bid her adieu
and the sky would blush at her everlasting glow
only one set of footprints walks along this chateau.

Art Biz with Liz: Shaping Creative Lineage

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending an event called “Shaping Creative Lineage: A Poetry Reading + Writing Workshop with Carlina Duan.” The event, presented by Multi Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA), featured Asian-American poet and educator Carlina Duan. While I hadn’t read one of Ms. Duan’s poems until this past year, it was wonderful to hear her read from her collections I Wore My Blackest Hair (Little A, 2017) and Alien Miss (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2021). The event was a great opportunity to learn more about what inspired her poems and have a conversation on writing about our own experiences.

In I Wore My Blackest Hair, Duan’s poems tackle topics related to ancestry, identities, and belonging. They also reflect on themes of racial consciousness and growing up. Duan’s second collection of poems, Alien Miss, reflects on the experience of growing up as a diasporic, bilingual daughter of immigrants, introducing tales of both love and survival. It was exciting to hear from both of these collections, especially since Alien Miss came out just this year.

I promise this blog post isn’t just an advertisement, though my excitement may come off as such. The event made me consider what it means to write about our identities. It also encouraged me to reflect on the power our creative action holds. For artists like Duan, the question of responsibility is raised. What pressures and influences do we have in creating art when existing representation may be limited? For art so language-based, how can we create care and active thinking in the language we use within our communities? These questions raise more questions regarding what we owe to ourselves and our own vulnerability.

While I still enjoy it, early literature of Asian Americans is often wrapped around imagery of chopsticks and white rice. These concepts alone don’t capture the complexity that is the human experience, and people like Duan are disrupting some of these images through their art. I was impressed with how she uses poetry as an expansion of historical archives, infusing her words with other texts and lineages. When it came to “creative lineage,” however, I was a little confused by what she meant. I assumed it must refer to our ancestral line, the history that gave way to who we are today. I learned that creative lineage is not just our ancestors, but the people who inspire you. These individuals could be people who came before you, but it can also be your friends.

To generate discussion on the topic during the event, Duan raised several questions: Who are you accountable to? Who lives in your creative lineage? Who are the thinkers, makers, and people who you carry with you each time you enter a room for solace, support, community? When I sit down to write, I often consider myself alone with my thoughts. But that’s not necessarily true. When I write, there are often a chorus of people in the room with me, hundreds of memories and experiences impacting who I am and what I create. Creative lineage is talking about these people as well as the spaces I live in and am descended from.

I’ve discussed my unfamiliarity with poetry before on Arts, Ink. I generally consider myself a beginner when it comes to interpreting and writing poetry; however, I still hold an appreciation for the medium it provides in exploring the complexities of identity, emotions, and experiences we hold. I also believe the lessons and questions raised in Duan’s workshop—including the concept of creative lineage—can be applied to all kinds of art, not just poetry. Moving forward, I’d like to consider this idea of creative lineage in my own work. Perhaps you will, too.