by Mike Yunxuan Li 


Mike is not my name,
I told you.
I borrowed it from Bible
to roam the land of Uncle Sam.
It’s my tuxedo and pasta,
a man
behind which the I hid and ate,
slept, woke and educated.
Shame felt,
swallowed like an esophagus glide,
peppered and festered,
like when he cheated on the red and yellow stripes
with a pure lady of your kind,
and everything will be fine if no one tells, right?
But when the sun goes down at night,
every night,
something must’ve been left behind.
You tell me it’s alright.
Girls borrow clothes from mothers
to appear mature for one party night.
Boys borrow advice from fathers
to become good doctors for two lifetimes.
Sod borrows blankets from snow
to cover debris in their plowed skin.
Water borrows momentum from winds
to dance atop sky like an elegant Jackson Mike.
Uncle Sam borrows Earth from everybody
so more borrow titles from that book of Holy.

Your name is Mike.
You want to borrow my language
even if it’s just for a night
so that you can communicate with my heritage.

He tells you it’s alright.
Your white skin, paler than rice paper in his printer,
constitutes the most proper mandarin smoked in my homeland.


There is nothing more vex than the slam of doors on a morning before 8—the bathroom door that is, that suffers constant suspension by 7 people like it’s a new gift box every three seconds. My classes don’t start til’ ten! So I perceive light and December in one flash, to the tale of 6 alarms at once, almost a band of its own kind—Bulletin, By The Seaside, Night Owl, Hillside, Presto, Uplift, and oh that kill-me-now pocketful of Classic, a symphony sufficient on its own, screw you Apple! Screw you tryhards that dare commence a day of hell before dawn, before me, the all-stars mathlete.
The spring, suitemates rouse after me, bio clock, that bastard of Victoria Harbor, slams me still, now an hour earlier than fall, in the softest cartilage of my heart silk. Now I understand. It is, a virus named Jetlag, who buffers my goodwill, augments my chance at ill, all inherited from that trip to your house 16 hours from where I am now. So when I’m first, as I always am nowadays, I make sure to walk slow, open the door without foreshadow, and leave it hanging still.

Don’t Ignore

The weather, as usual—
Morning sun and crickets
Pulls leches of sweat
Down my veins, Afternoon
Rain and Puddles wet my     already     sweated strains
Which is,
Simply hell,
Just like your mood,
How it spirals down.
The morning we involved in non-stop texting—
Why ignore and continue playing—
Ever afternoon rain stops breath—
Forgot to mention,
Our night is also open,
Although snowing often—
Debris,     sweat after wetting,
Withdraws hand in its pocket,
Where I fiddle a few buttons,
And put the phone to sleep.  

A Young Man’s Date

In white bathroom walls,
I placed my hands under the faucet, washing what, I don’t know.
Above my head, I saw a scene, familiar, repeated,
And played on what looked like flat TV screen,
Taking them back to that bathroom in Dorsett Hotel.
A boy, face fresh like apple, impeccable of the world’s accidentals,
Is only two years into his college education,
Three years into his deepest depression,
Stares into the mirror—
“Honey,” she holds him under the night,
“Let’s be together forever,” she says,
“The only one I want to marry is you,” she smiles but lies inside.
The boy reciprocates every line with a fervor two octaves higher,
And underneath the strips of naked light,
His face has always been flawed, but still two years into his higher education,
Now lonelier, but still together with her,
Stares into the mirror,
Until two weeks later.

He flies back on Cathay’s 890,
Looks out the window, sees that once love infused fountain
Drying on the stars over that skyline studded city,
Wondering when they will again meet.
But why even date in this society?
To feel accompanied when you’re lonely,
To seek confirmation in times of uncertainty,
To have someone take care of you when you can stand on your own feet;

I turned off the water.
Or is it simply to have a sex partner?
To garner yourself experience for the next partner?
Until you find the right partner?

I walked outside, slow, to the half open window.
Ithaca’s sky was again doing nothing but snow,
And I couldn’t seem to notice anything,
Or even come close to know.

And so he holds her hand and leads her to the streets,
Across the people seas towards that subway station where they always meet;
Through ten stops and two transfers, he sees their final destination.
He says to her, “Ever since I met you, I can’t take in another woman.”
He squeezes her hand and wants to kiss her.
He kisses her forehead, lips screened by a fading bang,
“Will we meet again?”
She smiles, goes in, and continues washing her hands.

About the Author:

Mike Li

I am a rising junior at Cornell University. I am majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Creative Writing and Spanish. After reading Fitzgerald’s works in high school, I started creating my own stories at the start of my college career.  My favorite book of all times is The Great Gatsby and as of right now, I’m going through the poetry collections of Denise Levertov.