Undrawn Self Portrait

Sara Cao writes a self-portrait that deals with belonging, the mind, and the body with powerful and visceral poetic skill.

Undrawn Self Portrait

  1. The heart cracks into yellow yolk & white as it throbs through Instagram.
  2. The body walks to its reflection and squeezes itself shut.
  3. The ears tuned for sourness savor silence before they turn on & the mouth groans at
    the loudness of the world.
  4. The brain breathes out a sigh as yesterday’s burdens are borrowed again.
  5. She mumbles about the crumbling capitalist cycle, tasting silence in return.
  6. She peels the banana & she wonders if one day, she’ll shed her skin & be silent.
  7. She consumes Radiohead’s Nude & the heart shatters at “you paint yourself white, and fill up with noise” as she imagines herself with an invisible paintbrush.
  8. In a family of scientists, the creative one chokes on the wrong genes.
  9. In her skull, there’s no more space for the pulp of afterthoughts.
  10. In the dark, she silently cracks herself open until she’s all shell and no yolk, again & again & again.

 

Sara Cao is a junior at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently involved in her school’s newspaper, literary magazine, and Science Olympiad team. Outside of school, she is passionate about social justice issues, writing, drawing, listening to music, and eating Shin Black Ramen. Through her poetry, Sara strives to heal and inspire people who relate to the overall messages of her poems. 

Art by: Diana Ryu

Blue Eyes

In “Blue Eyes”, Hannah Han creates beautiful settings and characters through her detailed imagery.

In an old Chinatown classroom

she uncaps dried markers

and folds scratch paper.

I lean forward to see her name,

pinned, crooked, to her shoulder.

Yihua.

That’s a beautiful name, I tell her.

She shakes her head.

You should

call me Charlotte.

 

Six years ago I drew only thin girls

in floral dresses. They

always frowned with

purple lips and porcelain eyes.

Each had a name,

sprouting across the

page in inked plumes:

Anastasia, Evangeline, Coletta.

 

She drops a chewed pencil into my hand.

Can you draw me?

With graphite, I sculpt her eyes,

round as lychee seeds.

Do you want me to color them?

She nods, hand hovering over

a torn box of washable markers.

She picks up a blue pen.

Blue? I say. Are you sure?

She pries open my fist,

an oyster of flesh, and lays the

marker inside, a still-warm pearl.

 

In the bathroom, I hung my drawings,

pencil smearing with soap.

Each morning as I brushed

my teeth with sweet toothpaste

and bent to spit out foam,

I flinched at my reflection.

 

She watches as I uncap the marker,

the plastic click echoing.

I fill each bullet-sized hole

blue.

 

I was lucky.

During my elementary years,

I was surrounded by freckled

dolls packaged in silk bows.

But for ten years, I forgot

the color of my own hair and eyes.

I held only icy marbles in my palms and

and four-syllable names with rolled r’s

that I could not pronounce.

 

She smiles, takes the drawing,

scrawls Charlotte at the bottom,

tucks it into her bag.

 

Bye, I say. When she turns, I drop the

brown marker into her backpack.

 

Keep drawing, Yihua.

 

Visual Art by Heidi Songqian Li.