Plain China

Self-Portrait: Chinese American

by Michelle Xu · Barnard College, Columbia University
"Still Air", Shareefah Pereira · SUNY Geneseo

From the high plains of heaven rises the mighty Heaven Shining.

The stretch of her cheeks comes ten red suns,

and yet the three-legged crow – a mutation, an erection,


and yet Robin Hood before bed – a white warrior,

and yet bibles on bedsides mute the generations.


I stuff the blush back in my belly.


The plump of her fingers weds rice ears to List of Things to Love,

and yet the stumps swell like tumors. My knife,

my tongue I sharpen, for Fingerlings, for the grill.


The wires of her hair bear billowing reeds,

and yet the butter-yellow curls celebrate. The ground frees

harvests to the hymn of the American National Anthem.


I wear a hot helmet twice a year for two hours.


Nine suns falling one-by-one. Rice glowing in buckets.

Black strands streaming in lines. Bible in a box. Exit blush.



About the Author

Michelle Xu · Barnard College, Columbia University

Michelle Xu studies English at Barnard College, Columbia University. In addition to writing poetry and personal narratives, she also dances bachata, eats more eggs than the recommended daily intake, cares about the visibility of Asian American women in the current US climate, and is a strong feminist. "Self Portrait: Chinese American" first appeared in Cornell's Rainy Day.


About the Artist

Shareefah Pereira · SUNY Geneseo