The Migration (Stepping Stones in a Cangshan Mountain Grotto)


Last night was a dream of you

crowned by daisies.

The European and the beautiful

The Greek gods.

Of course, you weren’t there when

the sun blared


, and the great bell rang




woke and saw the lantern flowers



My grandmother, her

arabic prayers turned to

mist in Dali cold

Footsteps leaving


on the

red granite

When my mother and I hike to the


Dreams of the west. I leapt the stepping

stones protruding from the undergrowth

named them




leading to the old temple


You were only

a little nagging in my chest

then a hammer

on the heartstrings thucking on my ribcage

砰​​[1]-a 砰-a 砰-a​ ​   砰-a 砰-a

the thin words stuck underneath my tongue like

sticky toffee

used to describe

my mother’s past

blown west and west and west

blown west and west and west

Nocturnal lisps sleeps

in my flesh, wrings

the words seduced

turned west and turn to

diurnal prayers


W’ll never be free of this game of tug-of-war.

W’ll lose we said

we were meant to go,

to go to, to Heaven I think,


Match the pairs:

red granite                           sidewalk blueberry vendors             mud roads

      cracked cement                                               churches                        Hudson

lantern flowers                    dandelions                                          white marble  

pagodas                                subway candy vendors

Er Hai                                        lily pads                                                         cracked cement

Weather Report



Partly Cloudy

H: 81° L: 69°

Cloudy conditions expected around 2AM.

Air quality

43 – Good

Air quality index is 43, which is similar to

the night before the fire

when mama and meimei and gege sat

on the couch watching

the news hoping

for a good stock market turnout

Headline: GIRL FOUND

BRUTALLY…                 Banner: The S&P 500 is giving back recent gains…

UV Index 0: LOW

10% chance of rainfall around 4AM

just an hour before

mama takes meimei’s hand and

begins to pray to a picture

of jesus

that has caught fire


she prays the stairs have

not collapsed yet

Sunrise 6:07 AM

Sunset 7:51 PM

there are fourteen

hours for us to find a new

home and

pretend none of

this happened

gege must find meimei a new toy

it’s just a toy he is getting frustrated

everything is replaceable

Humidity 91%

Visibility 11 mi:

It’s perfectly clear

right now.

Clinical Summary as Quintains

Hives (urticaria), possibly from sun exposure. Patient

says she was in the sun playing volleyball

yesterday. Possibly allergic reaction to sand from volleyball. Patient

has never played volleyball in the sand before. However did spend

much of childhood on the beach in the sun, quickly became upset

when peers called her asian instead of saying she was so tan

so Los Angeles standard barbie doll fake tan but real, a bit on the

yellow side that’s what a tan is though it’s a bit on the

yellow side on the yellow side is where she played with

fig-coloured bruises on the shins. Bruises the color of

figs. Peers bruise a light chartreuse so wears chartreuse on

Sundays to church, Father had gone to church had gone before

nine months were over mother had gone to church after father

had gone had gone to services and had sung hymns had hung mother’s

Virgin Mary from a nail above mother’s

bed. She had always been scared that

Mary would fall and injure mother.

Patient is sensitive to grass, when asked what allergies she had she

shook her head none none none but I do feel an ugly itch in

my chest when the vicar pulls my mother aside and before she

leaves she tells me to pull down my dress to straighten my posture to

call a friend on my walk home. Hives (urticaria) possibly from

stress possibly from sun exposure possibly has never walked outside

beyond eleven o’clock been on the train home once around midnight and

breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out breathe in you

better realize you’re the only thing breathing down under right now so

don’t breathe out until you’re out of the station

patient wants to know How do I protect myself from the

grass? prescribed bug spray Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent

for when the locusts arrive, mother says tuck my chin in and

be assertive communicate what you’re comfortable with scream I’M


stain your chartreuse dress while trying to get away it’s

too expensive to get it dry-cleaned just remember they

won’t really care they’ll realize you bruise the color of figs use

your bug spray they confiscated the pepper spray while you

were at school it’s hazardous to have that breathe in breathe out breath

in the train station don’t sing your hymns don’t let

them know what you sound like don’t give them a reason to

try to get a performance but do breathe in breathe out breathe in

breathe because the Virgin Mary is watching you just

be careful

Patient is being sent home with calamine lotion and

benadryl. Return next morning to see if anything has


Stage V Invasive Lovesickness Patient’s Last Will & Testament

If you have to, pull it out through

my mouth, this sentimentality, I will

keep my jaw slack and my eyes

closed as though at the dentist’s,

drugged and mystified by the

white lights and white costume

with a sharp object lift it from my

throat, drag it out if you have to,

if you have to, scrape the surrounding

flesh for its remnants, its crumbs and

stains, if you have to, if it refuses to

come out, if it is caught behind my

collarbone or if it ragdolls, then

splice my chest open and shine

the mystifying white light and maybe

it will think salvation is near and (that is

what I thought when I first came here)

it will be compelled to lift itself out

if it is still sticking to the muscle

like molten toffee, peel it off after it

has congealed en plein air, Caution:

substance may be highly infectious,

do not feed/expose to any child, animal,

or plant, use at own risk of contamination.

If it has seeped between tissue like

spoiled milk, expose to high heat and

evaporate from body in vacuumed

space, tissue may be left burnt,

Caveat: if a splice in the chest is

performed and it is found in the form

of a small girl no larger than a beetle

who has cannibalized the heart and

moved up the spinal cord to the brain,

then and only then may you discard fully,

proceed with caution: girl-beetle is

potentially dangerous and can easily

escape the straying gaze

I [do not] voluntarily grant researchers

ownership of any cell line or biological

material obtained hereafter (you will

find that the girl-beetle has eaten

everything of use), I [do] grant critics

permission to call me An inspiring story,

full of poignancy and humanity, or

if it so pleases them, A whiny anecdote,

falling short of true significance in the

modern age

If you have to, make it matter because

it does not matter, if you

have to, care about what happens because

the dead don’t care too much about

keeping up with appearances, if you have

to, remember there is part of girl-beetle

that will never truly be disposed of

Discussing Boy Problems With JFK in Our Bunk Beds at Summer Camp

JFK, every

time I

pass his cabin

it feels

like there are

stones in my

stomach and


burned into

the skin on

my chest

We shall

pay any

price, he

says to me

I can only think,


you are a


He has

a girlfriend.

JFK tells me to

bear any burden


Vanessa, you’re

not special

Trust me,

I know.

JFK you don’t

understand I

touched his hand

on accident

once when we

were waiting

with friends

in the lunch

line and I

said sorry

but what I

meant to say


I literally want

to dig my

fingers into

your flesh and

eat your


and several times

I could have

mistaken his

quietness for


prediction is

my love language


JFK, he has

this way of


into me into

my when

I stare at him

and I

can only

pretend so far

that it is a

staring contest

but really there

is this blue that

makes me understand

some of those

european poets

JFK have you

seen his eyes?

and can you stop

tapping your

fingers on the

bedframe? it’s


JFK says that

I must

meet any hardship,

that he didn’t

understand why

I was letting

this dude

get in the

way of

asking what I could do for my country

didn’t understand

why I was so

hung up about

a dude that

I’d probably

never see


I said


impermanence is,

is the thing

stitched to

the soles of

my shoes uhh

the dirt that

clings to my

outsoles and

drags along

the uhm gravel

he nods

in agreement, I


how do

I fit in

so many thoughts

into a three-

week camp?

is it all so lovely

only because

it will end?

Will he never

be lovelier than

he is now?

I think,


might be

the key

to the survival

and success

of liberty.

But how

can I help

being scared?


I want to be



[1] peng (onomatopoeia, thumping)

Vanessa Y. Niu is a first generation Chinese-American spoken-word and page poet who lives in New York City. She has also written text for the modern composition scene at music institutions such as Juilliard and Interlochen.