2022 Frontier OPEN Winner: Diction by Yi Wei
Join us in celebrating this poem by Yi Wei, winner of the 2022 Frontier OPEN!
Questioning language and the poem itself–through intimacies, questions of race, power, and perception, and the syntaxes of everyday life in the speaker’s community–“Diction” is a poem that resists resolution. It asks to be read and read again, attempting to make sense of what we see through an exploration of what we can and cannot say.
We’re so delighted to publish “Diction” as the winner of our $5000 OPEN prize. Please stay tuned as we’re publishing the finalists throughout the rest of this week.
The passengers are like that guy’s crazy. What else. Do they
say, are you being racist or weird. What is the difference
when I call it weird like a finger against the something between
us. How you rub your fingers against the condensation of it. Blurring
my face. In pursuit. Every conversation with my friends ends
in the pursuit of carving. Is this the shape of your eyes. We say. To
look. Is this your mouth. What to do with it. DeeSoul says he is
invested in community. What to do with it. We write three poems
a night asking for a blank screen. We gather at night for the open
of old temper. I went on the train and everyone was there waiting
for resolution. I went to the poem waiting for resolution.
Guin still believes in white people so when I sit down for lunch, I say sorry
for not going bowling. It’s just that I feel weird there when I drink beer
and their friends make eyes at my eyes. White men cough smoking a joint,
joke about the cough. Their whole world is the joint, cough, joke. I make
a mist of myself. I pass the joint. I come in and out of their mouths
like loose change. Another joint every night. I won’t take shape in it.
They’re like I’m sorry. I’ll watch. Out next time. I have heard too many
apologies for what I don’t care to know. This is weird. I’m sorry. Are you
okay? Yes. This is difficult. I’m sorry. Are you okay? Yes. There is a man
curled on the train. I’m sorry. Are you okay? Yes. It is warm and dark
tonight. I’m sorry. May I turn on the light? Yes. Your roommate is asleep
on the couch. May I turn off the light? Yes. I thought again of ___________
_____________________. Yes. I’m sorry. May I turn on the light?
Abby and I revise the conditions of preparation. Two feet planted
in front of. Two pagers to wait. Two coffees hovering the promise
of conversation. We meet for coffee every week like a silo. Here
plotting a different chart for the map. New map every week. We set
our pagers down, their certainties. Their red dots making sense
of surface. Put the figures on the map. One of us asks the other,
are you angry. With the book or how it is sold. What. Are you reading.
Where did you go. We walk ourselves back and trace our steps. We walk
ourselves. Back. Was it a pleasurable read. A little death. Who was it
pleasuring. Are we satisfied. The coffee melts a hole in the map. No matter
how much we drink, we can’t not know there will be another talk.
What was it this time, massacre or makeshift. Was there an I. How long
was the book printing before they forgot what it was. When did the subject
become. Too like a person. When we have time, we ask our own
poems, are you angry. Are you dead. Play dead.
If a poem says I love you, it’s lying. I maintain that I love you, good
night is different than love you, good night. I just said this last night
to the sweating glass. One reminds you that you are loved. The other
asks for a person to take responsibility as the lover. After I go
in my room tonight, I know I will not see myself. There will be another
reason to be in front of. It will be an ordinary night. I will find the child
of myself. For whom I make sense of the world. So looking up in wait.
I listen for the intake of breath. Frenzy it against my own. So are you
listening, I ask. So am I. So I. Love you, good night.
Yi Wei is a writer. She's editing at Asian American Writers’ Workshop and her work can be found or is forthcoming in Palette Poetry, Canthius, Pigeon Pages, and Poetry Northwest. Yi has been awarded or placed for the Lois Morrell Poetry Prize, the Sappho Prize for Women Poets, Best of the Net, and the Lorraine Williams Poetry Prize. She's currently a Writer in the Public Schools fellow at NYU.