This poem appears in The Massachusetts Review's Special Issue on Asian American Literature (Winter, 2018)

thoughts in language



If language

is the line

dividing us

from them,

then words fail me,

and I grow

molluscan, or

bang my brain

against its limbic

limits, or ape

and parody

poetry even

as I fail

to articulate

this one sigh

to you.



You say you

is the necessary


buried at

the heart

of every act

of language

making me

utterly what

I am

every time

I open

my mouth.



What is this if not

ritual — objects

inherited significantly

placed, sounds


long breaths

the ancestors spoke

against their deaths

and yours

and mine. Breathe

in time and exhale

praises or

in silence, the holy

mystery at the core

of all this, so that

when I offer

you this stone

(for example)

you cup your

hand to receive

a cool smooth