April Yee

April Yee

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the poet

April Yee is a writer and translator of power and postcolonialism. A Harvard and Tin House alumna, she reported in more than a dozen countries before moving to the UK. April reads for Triquarterly, contributes to Ploughshares online, and mentors for University of the Arts London’s Refugee Journalism Project.

the poems

Kopachi / Pripyat / Vilcha

00:00 / 02:07

            In the cloud that drifts online, I discover

            an image of myself, notebooked, remember

            I toured Ukrainian villages in April, 

            the anniversary of their before and after,

            the date they understood dirty and clean,

            touched new energies released into air.

          

            My recollection floats ungraspable as air.

            The high-res photograph does not recover

            dead actions to the hippocampus, now clean

            as a blank notebook sheet. I remember

            the detailed email from my father after

            I said I’d go to Chernobyl that April.

         

            He cited a scientific study: Dear April, 

            Mushrooms, exposed to soil and air,

            can remain radioactive for years after.

            For breakfast, the local hotel covered

            pasta in mayonnaise and dismembered

            hot dogs. I also half-recall the clean 

          

            white shirt of an engineer. He’d keep clean

            our air in a then-future, now-past April

            with a steel sarcophagus to stop the embers

            from dispersing particles in global air.

            His metal tonnes could fully cover

            the Statue of Liberty, he intoned, after

          

            a meal of many courses. I marvelled, after,

            how he kept his white shirt so pristine clean.

            A visiting Japanese mother, face covered,

            gripped two Geiger counters an April

            and a half since Fukushima blew the air.

            She earthquaked her body to remember.

          

            Actually, I use records to pretend-remember.

            I Google articles I must have written after

            that trip, read emails maybe sent from air-

            craft raining pollutants over unclean

            nimbuses. I trigger cruellest April, 

            places where every root was covered


            in irradiated air and nuclear embers. 

            After, I wash my consciousness clean,

            allow the cover to contain all of April.

Listening to Lola Flores

00:00 / 01:03

            In your ghost berry house, you screw the leg

            still tighter in its wooden frame, the hoof

            suspended, question mark. Botanists peg

            the mulberry to man, their shots at life

            quick decades. No estás más, corazón.

            Silkworms spin threads from fruit before it spoils.

            You shear off fat, locate shrunk flesh. Off bone

            it falls. He plumps the fruit your maid slow boils

            to blood-gelled jam. In your arguileh’s crown,

            his coals burn orange hot, each breath you take

            cremation. Hide your father’s jamón bone

            in the slingshot shadow of the lamp you break,

            below the mulberries, their blinded lobes

            seen too in cemeteries of my home.

West / East

00:00 / 01:53

            My eyes are the hammered edge

            of a Chinatown butcher’s cleaver,

            heavy and heaved with momentum,

            not sharp. There’s enough sharpness

            in sheared bottles, wires embroidered

            with barbs, paid bills that slip

            inside the flesh. I heave my eyes

            on discards, cleaving past 

            from present: Who touched this can, 

            and can it buy my lunch? My butcher 

            heaves his cleaver through 

            a duck’s shiny body, and I see 

            the X-ray of its bones, perfect whites 

            circling congealed purple cores. 

            The rice: free, my butcher’s Buddha 

            plea. I swallow slowly, seeing 

            with my tongue for paddy stones 

            that seek to crack my teeth.


            I picked one time a book, 

            heavy with large font:

            The Geography of Thought.

            A man inside theorised 

            mankind’s mind cleaved 

            in the age of the ancient Greeks, 

            each fisherman hauling his solo 

            catch while Chinese strewed 

            rice across collective fields. 

            West sees the thing; East sees 

            the place the thing sits in. 

            I can see I am now West: 

            sifting, sorting, seeing the trash, 

            and not the street the trash sits in. 

            Someone saw this book as trash. 

            Were I East, I’d be the rice, 

            the duck, and the butcher, 

            whole in every grain.

Publishing credits

Kopachi / Pripyat / Vilcha: Commended in the

  Ambit Poetry Competition 2020

Listening to Lola Flores: Ware Poets 22nd Competition

  Anthology 2020 (Ware Poets)

West / East: Live Canon Anthology 2020 (Live Canon)