Yoonmee Chang

Three Poems

Too much

The body is built for moderation
It’s blood because iron-rich silt courses downstream
Frogs gather round to feed on the nutritious river
Comes a time when their carcasses abound
Then, pestilence has its turn at the spread

The rest is cloudy,
the sermon,
but it makes sense to me: locust
will turn the days black

Our bodies bristle at surfeit
Outlaw soda,
a tub of sugar brain-freeze
with a mouth so wide a toad can slide in

I thought transparency made for good policy
but too much
is an unbearable chore
peek behind trees
it makes your skin crawl.



They call it expressing
like it has an inside
that has to get out
like it has feelings

How does this mass discharge?
Bursting like fireworks,
symmetrical, black, bare
canvas, no
celebration, I can’t remember; it too
terrifying to
look tender, disgusting; it’s just a stretched surface

three-D lump
thrilling, not a pleasure
ride; it
prevents you from sitting down

When a tumor expresses itself
you feel sorry
for having been childish, peevish, sarcastic
a jerk

Help a man into his pajama pants
the tumor down to his thighs
don’t grumble, don’t flee
stay close and help him
don’t be rude
he can’t sit down
don’t worry
he won’t chase you.



The line between us is hard to see
your hip rolls into mine until
both settle in their shifted places
my breast hangs over yours,
your hairs covering the seam between us
your stomach grumbles and I wonder if I’m hungry

Your other lines are differently drawn
your mouth was a wilted balloon
your back reared away from the closure of space
your throat swung open towards the TV
When did this one body become the other?
Maybe I reversed the chronology
misremembered the order,
so I did not have to concede to an unkind sight.


Yoonmee Chang (November 2, 1970 - January 18, 2018) was born in Seoul, South Korea, and received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania with a specialization in Asian American diasporic literature and culture. She was an Associate Professor of English at George Mason University from 2005 until her death, and was previously an Assistant Professor of English and American Studies at Indiana University. She is the author of Writing the Ghetto: Class, Authorship, and the Asian American Ethnic Enclave (Rutgers University Press, 2010). Chang also did research in Disability Studies and wrote poetry. At the time of her death at age 48, she was writing a book on the zainichi, Koreans in Japan from the colonial period and their descendants.