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.
Kopachi / Pripyat / Vilcha
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
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.
Kopachi / Pripyat / Vilcha: Commended in the
Listening to Lola Flores: Ware Poets 22nd Competition
Anthology 2020 (Ware Poets)
West / East: Live Canon Anthology 2020 (Live Canon)
West / East
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.