Jane Wong's poems can be found in places such as Best American Poetry 2015, Best New Poets 2012, Pleiades, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Third Coast, The Volta, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the U.S. Fulbright Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, Squaw Valley, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She holds a MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and teaches at the University of Washington Bothell and the Hugo House. She is the author of Overpour (Action Books, 2016). 


Something is About to Change Everything

Jane Wong


At nineteen, my mother feeds a cow by hand.


She grabs its tongue and laughs like an animal


hoarding its kill. In the village next to hers,


the sound of a fire dying in the dark splits


her ear in half. Thin limbs of smoke wrap


around her little brother, crown of snakes.


She claps her hands over her ears. Leaves haul


away the wind. It is 1983 and she will be married.


Jane Wong


My father leaves the door open

for the sun to break into.


The sun robs us of every last bit:

the dimes in the sofa,


the tendrils of a chive

in a bowl I washed


carelessly. In Swimming River,

fish huddle under lilies,


grazing off car tire grime.

In 1996, my father breaks open


a watermelon with one hand.

I have only seen my father


cry once. When the sun starts

thieving in, I pull white hairs


from my grandmother’s head

until I become a ghost.


I Will Not Tell this Story

Jane Wong


as well as I should tell it.

Let me cut this narrative


cleanly for you: how I halve

all the avocados in the store,


shameless. If I can’t have it all,

no one else will. I’ve spent


too much time pleasing others,

so I will spit anywhere I want.


I will pick my teeth like I pick

flowers in any good mountain field.


I will fold evening how I fold

the corners of a fitted sheet –


I simply won’t. I will drink

from the polluted rain to kill


any ambling viruses.

I will spit up the cold grape


in my throat. I will make steam

rise, ugly from the grates.


You will be cleansed.

You will be grateful.


I will christen a newborn iceberg

and watch it dissipate


as each cell within me dissipates

into another. I will drop a flower


on its head and demand the ground

accept its root. I will root around


the dirt for all the worms and

return the earth back to the beginning:


atom, bacteria, sweet, sweet mudfish.


Let Us Not Forget the Tactic of Fear

Jane Wong


This landscape is made

for hawks and gawkers.


What is more poisonous, dear

beloved country? Where


did you find this endless

supply of cheap cyanide?


By now, we should all know

that salt on a cut lip


is not necessary. And yet –

here comes the sting


and swell. It would be easier

to say I’ve learned my lesson,


but I’ve lessened from it.

These constant proofs –


are you worthy, or are you

won over, over


easy? Should I eat what

I’ve been told? Fold what role


I’ve been given: laborer?

Dishwasher? Cook? I stand


on the edge of boiling water

and laugh at the plumes.


Nothing you say can mar me.

When the day ends,


I will leave with the sun.

Return to the Beginning

Jane Wong



What could I have asked of ritual,

of knowledge in the beginning?


My mother steps out of her dress

at my age or younger. A spider watches


her undress in spins. Small crimes,

to hold a world that was my world.


How slippery the sky, my memory,

a sickness of the ear I shake out of.


As I grow older, buildings inside of

buildings frighten me. Some years ago,


an ice storm broke the Parkway straight 

in half. Yesterday, I pulled apart


a whole continent and saw ants

in the seams, building an empire.


Today, my mother is all vertigo.

She holds up her head with a deep


breath I breathe in. To call forth,

the canyon has no choice but to


open my name. Small creak

in the throat, double beat of hell:


Jane, Jane, Jane. A dark I have

not seen before opens. I walk through


this beginning echo, this head start,

the red cabbage of my heart: healthy.