EMERGING ARTISTS & WRITERS
VALERIE WU & JACQUELINE HE
Maybe it is a rhythm, my heart. // In taiko, a sound is always a word // a word is always a sound. // Tokyo murmurs, tells me // Japan is made up of sounds, seasons in Ueno Park. // Petals, falling. // On the side of the road in Tokyo, there is a sign. There was an accident here, it says. // It is in past and present all at once, like the city // like the country. // The syllables are foreign, but translate to meaning. // Something happens. Something is still happening. // I have always admired the simplicity of statements that I cannot understand. // I want to feel the poetry of words that are not my own but are part of something greater. // Once I wrote haiku, words of description, sense, sound. // The wind blew softly. // Maybe I am a foreigner // will never know this country as it knows me. // But here, there are words. They tell me // one day, the tense will change. It will no longer be doing and seeing, but being, believing // believing in the words, the taiko’s steady beat, rhythm, a sound foreign that you have just begun to understand.
Sra. Juana was once a flamenco girl
with her sleeves billowing red like
washed sheets on a pair of clothesline
arms pulled taut. We don’t
understand each other very well but
she still lets me sit in her kitchen
and sift oyster shells for vacancies,
rooms for rent. Bivalves cleave
clean like finger-snaps—
their gritty sweat more paleness than
touch. Sra. Juana tells me that
each oyster is a flamenco dancer with
frothing skirts, pearls blinking
in the hollow between breasts,
blushed limbs split open under a
glacie r bowl of light. Mírame, and
Sra. Juana picks up a mollusk, swings.
A shell shatters, tissue crushed
in wet shine. Sra. Juana counts
the minutes teased out in white strings
of quiet. Uno, dos, tres.
Somewhere there is a dancer girl
who decants ethanol into windowpane
husks, prays with a capsaicin tongue:
for the footnotes of crow’s feet to
mend, for the ignition of fire engine red
lipstick extinguished flat over time.
For something better than a cheap
girlhood smutted out, for ersatz salt to
bleed dry in the lattices between skin.
Valerie Wu is a student at Presentation High School in California. She is a writer, artist, and activist who is deeply involved at the intersection of ethnicity, migration, and human rights. She is currently working on a writing project called The Diversity Coalition, an online platform meant to showcase the various narratives of marginalized individuals within their communities.
Jacqueline He is a high school junior from the Harker School in San Jose, California. She was recently named a 2017 YoungArts Finalist in Writing, and a 2016-2017 American High School Poets Just Poetry!!! National Winner. Her poetry as recognized by Princeton University and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and was featured in Teen Ink (Editor's Choice Award), the Eunoia Review, the Brouhaha Magazine, and the Moledro Magazine.