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by Minying Huang

The Intrigues of the Warring States of Being


You introduced the fear of us. History tells me

jijian was a concept born out of your want of

morality and decency. Language gave birth to

new words (and cages). Suddenly we were illicit

danger and fire hazard – in our own eyes – and

I felt my ardour twist and bend in the river of

time. Here lies a misshapen reflection among

the paddy fields: I spend my youth spitting into

myself; her hands and my hands soiled dirty by

love; his hands and his hands caught shackled

by the beliefs of a paler man. This is a disease:

the land is being shaken up and slivered with

hate. We are suffocating under the weight of

fumbling cultured touch. Emperor Ai ‘broke

the sleeve’ so Dong Xian could sleep, but I am

breaking the sleeve to pass undetected through

this house, onto the streets. The day they find

out, I’ll be a ‘contagious girl’ – alien, burning

body – they want to drown.


“My god, we didn’t raise you to

be like this.” Yet bisexual Chinese princes and

their lovers made for exemplary men. (History

discards the stories of women and the poor.) I

am searching for ancestresses who might have

harboured my yearning for –


golden orchids spun from silk; the poetry in

Miss Cao’s perfume; incense lit for a dreaming

theatre girl who died a red-chamber death –


Today I sit eyeing half a peach, leftover, perched

prettily on kitchen countertop. I want to write

my own ‘Miss Sophia’s Diary’ in classical tongue

(so all my heroes and heroines roll into one).​





Dragon Song in the A.M.


Shy-knuckled morning: she has sleep-eyes,     

dream-eyes, almond-eyes sliced damn fine

on breakfast spread. The newspaper flutters

in your hand catching the night; you want

to read her into pagoda, into blue and white

porcelain bowl, into other-bodies, yet another

body, into Anna May Wong without her fire;

you want to weave us silken into the road.


My goddess of mercy sits denuded on your

shelf and learns how to rage, learns how to

curb her love –

        and I buckle under her light,

too soft, too delicate, too damn beat. Fuck,

you want me to teach you ‘Oriental’ with the

doleful eyes; want to know what lies a dragon

ride away. Guan Yin is teaching this dragon

how to fly solo, how to fling a scaled body

(golden) of blood and ire across the table

and into the sky.






give a bowl of congee to the sick girl,

go easy on her teeth – comfort bowl

steaming decongestant up morning,

window-steaming. avoid hot middles,

push gruel volcano to cool mountain

edges. enter tongue testing waters if

burn is what it wants. this is a bowl of

rice stretched infinities stretching life

when my people scarce ate, scarce

had fire in their bellies, no shoes on

their feet, my dad’s soles hardened,

thinnest grain and labourer’s ire thick

stripped zhacai and duck eggs rich

and salty are our gift to you, flavour

history for you. here, sweet red bean

for you, are your hands cold? warm

them up for you, are you faint with

hunger? no, dad, not like you, dad –

the cold sank its teeth into you, dad,

without my winter scarf and hat, boy

fraying and congee your radiator out

on old city streets, works day studies

night, lips chapped, skin chapped –

sick girl is sick in the pink with love,

laughter, sacrifice, your sacrifice and

breaking backs. god you’re so strong

serving up full-bodied congee robust

on table with beat bones, flaming body,

another flare-up, skin still chapped –

and I want so badly to snuff out the

stove where we cook because


        why can’t I ladle

        a man back to health?

Minying Huang is studying Spanish and Arabic at Oxford University. Her poetry has been published and/or is forthcoming in PANK, Vagabond City, Crab Fat Magazine, and Okey-Panky.

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