Two Poems | Yanyi | Granta

Two Poems


Dream in Which I Try to Disappear in Front of My Aunt, or, Interrogation

I pretend to be taking a shit in the bathroom of my father’s house in China. I understand this to be his house though I have never seen it before. The toilet is so close to a window that my knees touch its wall. The window is bare and plastic. I turn off the lights. My father is terrible with details, so I’ve spoken to him with my real voice and my real body. It’s in the plastic-glass window that I see myself hiding my face in my hands, my pants down to my ankles. I wear a black silk button-down, short-sleeved with red flowers. Again, not unrecognizable as something I would claim as my own. My aunt is coming over and has attention to detail. She’s coming over and I know she will tell my mother everything, so I retreat from the rooms I know she’ll be in, I reverse my time. My low voice and short hair return to drawers and dark corners. She’s coming over, so now I live in this bathroom, a prisoner of my father’s house pretending to heave a huge shit, pretending to be in pain, pretending to be as soft as possible. She knocks. I open the bathroom door a crack, everything still to my ankles, just my nose and mouth and eyes peeking through. Can I come in? No, I whisper with a voice I don’t have anymore. I am hopeful that my difference blends in, that years of being overseas can overcome the transformation. My aunt who stands at the door I won’t open. My aunt whose face I worry I won’t be able to draw in the dark.







My mother wants me to know that she drank a bottle of water in the hotel room and that I might be charged for it. Drinking a bottle of water in a hotel room. A hotel being where we buy the right to stay still when no place will stay for us. On my way to the airport to pick up my mother, I carry a meal that may be light enough for after a flight. When the body is put into motion, it is not still. My mother’s body has been in motion for fourteen hours and what can we eat after that. My mother’s body never stops. My mother’s body doesn’t own anything, not even the motion it is put into.


Photograph © marc falardeau


Yanyi is a poet and critic. In 2018, he won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, awarded by Carl Phillips, for his first book, The Year of Blue Water (Yale University Press 2019). The recipient of fellowships from Asian American Writers Workshop and Poets House, his recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in LA Review of Books, Poetry and Bellevue Literary Review. Currently, he is an associate editor at Foundry. Find him at

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