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quadrennial promise

I don’t know, I’m still trying to decide

what I want. I linger by the checkout lane, watch

the way the metallic soda cans shiver & pounce, all

those wasted nickels sinking corrugated rims into

my jaw. how the prices I’ve been chewing over lately,

lispy & metallic, trickle out between double puncture

wounds. a twin pack of Coca-Cola ricocheting off

concave echoing shelves on every late-night grocery

run, $1.88. the last-minute submission fee for yet another

high school poetry contest I have written about my Complex Asian

Identity for, $19.99. a glistening array of Burt’s Bees lip balm nestled &

wobbly like newborn birds in crinkled plastic, $3.29. the pre-college

Stanford summer program my counselor calls Vital For Creating

A Pathway To The T-20, $4926.00. the Chinese coupon book

left between Aisle A, which sells noodles & rice products, and Aisle B,

which recedes further into the distance for every boxy character I

cannot read, $0.00. the application fee for a ivy-buried

University that makes me call my mother and say can you

believe they’re charging this price for a possibility. can you believe

I still want it, $80. what I can’t calculate is the price without

numbers, how the exchange doesn’t end at the cash register. what

I don’t name is all the parts of me I’ve left behind

for the junkyards to ingest.

if it’s not a phone-book list of expenses, it’ll be

a scribbled shopping list of traits scattered endearingly throughout

every classroom start-up non-profit volunteer Icebreaker Introduction

I have participated in, to make myself Someone Set for

Success: IB Diploma Student. Ampersand Enthusiast.

Lit Mag Founder. 1500 on the SAT. Wears only

lipstick and no other makeup. Girl-kisser.

Writes poetry about God, no, wait, to capitalize

or not? god? no, my Mother, no, my Kitchen,

a bag of tangerines but Not the kind every Asian-American poet writes about,

God no, every lit mag rejection email lately has been telling of the

overabundance of fruit as a motif for love.

so please let it be known

that I write Asian Grocery Store and not Costco. this way, the

College Admissions Counselors will know I have a sense of identity.

that I am like a compass: I know every way home no matter where

I am. that I am an Asset to Every Situation, you want me by your side, you

want me to walk through these Latin-adorned History-bound

arches of Higher Learning. to say without saying that, yes,

I have walked down this supermarket aisle every Friday evening since

I was six. A unrelenting routine that I will turn into some kind of

literary metaphor about Growth in a ruthlessly peer-reviewed

Personal Statement. no, I do not see myself in every scattered corporate

bathroom mirror across the country. I am the Girl you want and not a ghost. no, I

have not forgotten my Mother Tongue nor my Mother’s Endless efforts

to get me where I am today. a series of checkout

lane beeps echo from across the supermarket, Your barcode number

is invalid. Please contact the nearest customer service. everything marketable,

everything label-able, box-able, sell-able to the most wanting


my mother asks me what I will put on my Common App

Essays. I say, the google bookmarks folder labeled for my poetry

chockfull with synonyms & & ‘search history: interesting

facts about’ / the Letterboxd list of A24 film reviews I reference when

someone asks about my Likes and Dislikes / the price tag of every

local-grocery-store-fruit I have consumed in the past month.

Ma’am, the cashier says. Ma’am, are you ready to check-out? I turn,

see my wavering reflections steadily watching me through the cash registers,

grocery bags, linoleum tile. Ma’am, what do you want?

Myself. I want myself back.

Editors: Phoebe H., Luna Y., Uzayer M.


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