Washington Square Review

Sally Wen Mao

Two Poems by Sally Wen Mao

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After I am dead, I will hunt you
             day and night. Pixelated ghosts

will haunt your ears. Trees will crack
             under my electric weight.
                          In a minute my arrest

will go live, handcuff you to your bed.
             It's starting: I watch you watch me.
                          I watch you lurk me, my starling,

it rolls: I'm the beggar. I shake the train—
             gyrate, move, bare my shoulders, they come
                          for me, jostle and flay.

I am a fish and a pariah
             drying in my oubliette.

Release me—share me, my shards
             and my innards—
                          reduce me to a watering hole

for your thirst. Thrash
             against my pincers. Undo

yourself, let the oculus
             burn through my clothes, record

every mistake I make.
             I feed you my limbs

in this glass container. I limn
             you with this fodder
                          and you taste.


Anna May Wong dreams of Wong Kar-wai


I know what it is to pretend to be safe
in my fulvous skin. So much pretending
can bring a girl to her knees.

But in Wong Kar-Wai's world, no one
needs to pretend. The mise-en-scenes
of Fallen Angels: Hong Kong trance, 

butcher's storefronts, stolen ice cream
trucks. Or 2046: the train of lush cyborgs
going forever nowhere. In the Singapore

hotel room, Tony Leung writes his alien
love stories. Across the world, Happy Together:
Leslie Cheung empties his apartment

in Buenos Aires. Sets for the beautiful
and lonely. In Chungking Express, I watch
Faye Wong smoke cigarettes between takes

in cropped cut, oversized button down, grosgrain
shorts. She doesn't leave her tape deck alone,
but complains she is sick of that track,

"California Dreamin'." The song makes
me homesick, nostalgic even, and I know
this is absurd because it came out in 1965,

after I die. Whatever John Phillips meant
by feeling safe in L.A., I can relate.
Sometimes I pretend so much I believe

myself. On the set, I try on the yellow wig
and trenchcoat that Brigitte Lin wore
smuggling cocaine in the first act.

The plot has a hole: why does Brigitte wear
a blonde wig, if she didn't want to arouse
suspicion? I have played many criminals,

but no one like her, who fell asleep
in a hotel room with the police officer
gazing at her, in love. If I played her role,

I imagine walking through Causeway Bay
in 1929, my cigarette lighting my way,
the most conspicuous woman in the world.

But the role I'd rather play is Faye's:
tomboy who breaks into her true love's
apartment to add goldfish to his fishtank.

Or Agent, in Fallen Angels, who sets up crime
scenes and goes to her assassin's room
to touch herself. Or Maggie Cheung's role

in Days of Being Wild: she asks the traitor
in her bed, does the empty night fertilize
this barren soil? She is ruddy in pale light, 

limp with the pain of wakefulness. Far away,
the palm trees flare over wet boughs. Home
is in Macau. The rain readies her for her dim

walk home. I've never cared for love stories.
I praise a story of heartbreak. I praise
how beauty looks during a blackout.