Years (Winner, 2nd Place, chosen by Eduardo C. Corral)

I drink coffee and learn it is

a laxative. toilet seats. ice cubes.

songs that remind me of you:

songs that don’t. the rain is

a silver tambourine over

my head. in every class I

teach I begin with a proverb.

birds, pots of gold. No man is

an island. I ask my Malaysian

students to define “glitter.”

they make a shaking motion

with their hands. in Japan,

I meet a white-haired woman who

tells me her name means Moon. “but

I am crescent now,” she says.

“soon I will disappear.” we wave

to each other on the subway.

the chairs are plastic

and blue. I forget my watch,

and the map winks with lines.

easy. the thousand ways I sit.

bound for Nasu, I watch

a mother swipe her child

on the cheek. in me: muscle,

bone. my sister’s nose, my father’s

tongue. the way he says prawn.

the way I wash a well-oiled

platter. the way I kiss

another mouth. pears.

pearls. I bite. I bite.

somebody pours

water into the mug: perfect

downfall. wet, bluing

squiggles. forget

subways. forget

I called. when I ascend

the stairs I see a cat

near a stray mango tree, I

do not shy away. I say my own

name. plug my fist into

the jar of honey, electrify.

disappear, then come

home again. tomorrow

I’ll eat. and the years

will turn themselves over.

milk, spirals

of rain. what we

choose. worlds we

kiss. everything

we leave behind—

wrappers. shadows.

a mammal, howling beneath

the street-light. licking

her own ancient skin.


Carlina Duan hails from Michigan, and currently lives in Malaysia. She has work published in Berkeley Poetry Review, Bodega, The Margins, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection, I Wore My Blackest Hair, is forthcoming from Little A in 2017.