April Yee

back

next

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)

S h a r e

© original authors 2021

inspired by

Poetry Archive.png