To the extent that American universality depends upon the possibility of assimilation, there is always also the danger of discovering aliens in our midst, or the wholesale possibility of American takeover by aliens. —Collen Lye, America’s Asia, p. 8
in the mirror she swiped paw across mouth, leaked open.
roman alphabet, eel-like, pink, slid inside the body’s wet well.
words like swallow. wallow, wail, rinse. she practiced curving each
w- between the lips, letting the diphthongs roll out. each syllable welled:
a small coin tucked into gums. if she spoke the words right,
the bus deposited her body at the proper street. spoke the words well
and she’d get the fattest fish at the supermarket, the one the big man
beckoned to with his big wrist. wild, while. quiet. spoke the words like a well-
educated miss, he said, oriental miss, butterfly miss, miss, you look like you ain’t from
here. CHINK, CHIN— miss in the mirror tearing apart her jaw, a well
oiled machine. miss in the mirror turning her head this way, then that,
tilting it against the light. miss unzipping her dress to reveal a stairwell
full of translucent birds. CHING, CHONG. tongue like a serpent’s,
coiled and forked at the tip. she hissed and let it all fly out, a swell
of noises that made the buses puff black clouds of gas, made peaches
crumple into soft, nude skins. slant-eye miss! dangerous miss! a tongue well-
behaved until it disintegrated, nǐ zhī dào wǒ shì shéi ma? she asked to
nobody, the air around her heaving with animals, with dust. well?
in the mirror she held up her hands and examined them for traces of
pollution, stars. do you know who I am? she asked to nobody, well
adjusted, by now, to the silence furring her breasts; the silence, a pelt
atop her skull. alien miss. speak ENGLISH, miss, her tongue dwelled
inside a FLAILING mouth. in the mirror she swiped paw across face, leaked
until her body, a faucet, beckoned the words out. duì bù qǐ. farewell, farewell.
Carlina Duan hails from Michigan, and is the author of I Wore My Blackest Hair (Little A, 2017). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, and Narrative Magazine, among others. She is a current MFA Candidate at Vanderbilt University.