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Grace Shuyi Liew

When I was writing MAP I’d been thinking a lot about texture: what are the curvatures of shock, how to mimic reverberation with language, where in a text to (dis)locate anger. In the beginning I’d thought that MAP was fixated with displacement, and, naturally, how to chart a return to a whole. But maybe dispersion is not movement, but stasis. And all that’s left to be done is not to collect, but to permit neglect.




from MAP



I am suitable for love. I eventually understand the wrongness in awaiting and then. I come to you for a how to: Stand, Woman, Exist as a category of thought. I do what’s already been decided for me not out of a lack of free will but because this willful dogma for halted scrutiny. I dog like I was reared to bark. I attach onto your touch. I relent to mistake for warfare.


I fall asleep the minute you shout.


   Then I am taught: True beauty in a woman lies in her serious face.


        Taught again: A woman can only be serious in sleep.


Consciousness dulls her.


You keep rubbing her against stone.









Space, I say, is like this square, my index finger

drawing four perpendicular lines in the air,


And, five fingers bursting into a star before shrinking

back into a fist, when you enter mine I vanish.


This is the length of my hair that’s easily

combustible, so even if the unshorn

medication fails to investigate how we can ever sit

side-by-side, a wet pair of reeds

with no reason not to bow low into the marshlands,

the ghost that hovers in our hallway


sees only me, appears only to me, and stops me for a chat

(A moment, please?) about you every night


I make my way to the bathroom, eyes half-closed.

Every continent sees a Juliet like thus—some survive


but are never whole again, others die into a next life,

and those who have never heard the story


need only kneel, on cold tiles, teeth knocking between centuries,

masses of matter worth splitting if only


to bring her back again.




In the last days of December

I sat atop a mountain,

waited for my compulsions

to roll themselves

off a cliff. Found a white

lover in November who picked

me bunches of newborn

lust, his expansive hands

ever slipping,

sprouting into open-

mouthed screams in between

fucking & leaving. The

weather in October

still allowed for bare

arms, & we pledged to

scale impossible ascents,

return my fear

of falling to my maker

in chunks. September,

month of birth.

Strength surged from

unexpected places:

a sparrow’s

tiny tentative patter,

a broken ceiling. I moved

to a new town and drank

with strangers that held

themselves like twine, mouths

oiled by buttered rum

blunting knife-glints. By

August the wind stopped

its gathering, finally

a skinned hymn to

curtain my new house

into sand-quiet freedom.

July knew no smiles. I took

nightly walks, knocked around

wild dog

howls, a moon far east

naming me in stone. If I cried

too much it was only

subjectivity unfolding.

The heat in June

broke my ex-husband, a man

who broke empty beer

bottles for deliverance.

Goodbye Texas, goodbye dust-

scrapped gods: mold

your heaven to my rage

if you want me back.

Making plans in May

must have been what jinxed

us. That was the month

I dreamed myself

scared (Faith is finite

even in sleep, so why try?)

Gathered April’s

refusal of wisdom, emerged

from a previous life

bearing lakebed

sediments. The dog bit three

people this month; we fought.

My dog, my fault.

March painted me a Queen

of Cups, a husband

who hated luck.

At the shelter I chose

the dog with eyes

most feral—this is how

we know kin. What burdens

or lashes only I saw, let


into manners, the kind

bowing for survival.

February denied me entry,

rolled itself off my tongue

to drop as apologies,

stones of every

weight. Despite January’s

indifference, I gave this year

the last quarter in my pocket

in exchange for a wingspan

enough to raise

another generation of myself.






This way of letting you sling me              as hunted


as dried    tongue worn thin by uncomplex syntax

leathermouth             (fucked) wide to spawn    

sounds bending back like a


wrong turn at a cul-de-sac


Wall bricked shut


             my residual          desire for violence


the way stains      on a turned down


                                                  the way     a too-short power cord


the way       don’t cry  don’t cry    don’t you cry


And in sleep I dare you to carry my murder    back me up and down  


This stone riding a train into the next country


Sunken before the distant white smoke can uncurl a blue to house felled homes




Torrential by the time of approach  


When I am encouraged I feel goaded


When I am goaded you draw close as if I   might float off with

your last chunk of misplaced sincerity 




The point is we   didn’t have to cross that damn creek




This is the most populous I have ever been since the beginning of

Grace as Grace  


     and Grace   


      Grace, Grace, Grace,




me real-time simulacra of myagreeableselves


simultaneously stretching toward every haunting

                       manlike    portent


My hundredfolding skirt spread into a round

fan   each pleat a begging:


Do you return me as unregulated heat? Retain me pinkened?

                        (I know, like this


no good) so few my years,

as if it’s still going to happen


one day

grain by grain by grain.


A riverbank forms.   Minnows stir.   Silts mound into ongoing hills.



You taught me to content in intense instruction:


To ask life if its object is to astonish or commit decay into rote.




You taught me bowing all the way toward those walks in evenings:


I had never known how benign ________ could be.




You taught me the relief of being wrong:


When translation fails, the displaced easily become worthless beings.




But this idea of the initially barren suddenly: baring all of itself when hunted by intimacy




I don’t tidy up easy    feel the kind of awe beneath a     moon turning over her belly



I was left under it for too long to tug at myself  



Remaining inert was what saved my life








1. “When translation fails, displaced identities easily become worthless beings” is a line from Don Mee Choi’s Freely Frayed,…Race=Nation pamphlet.


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