Three Poems by Jenny Liu

white picket fences
alternatively unstrangers


it was the way his wrinkled old hands
trembled over the picture of his kids in his wallet.
made me wonder how many battles he fought
with the bill and the bottle. to go home to a car and a fence
and to kiss his beautiful wife with tainted lips. to
greet his perfect kids with those trembling, trembling hands.


every saturday, the corner store invites her
to a paper shredding contest. and every saturday, she wins.
there is a notch in her index finger from aggressively
gripping her scratching quarter. right now, these little
pieces of paper are the most consistent things in her life.
at least that’s what she says when she finds herself cleaning
out empty cans hidden behind the tv console.


his friends don’t ask him why, because they can smell it in his middle finger.
this is more than halloween parties. this is a shitty wednesday night
and his father won’t come home and his sister is the same and
he has a hell of a lot of dishes to clean. and
his friends don’t ask why because if they were him,
they would do the same. his friends don’t ask why because
like father, like son.


she wonders if the cardboard signs saw her bump. she wonders
if those angry voices saw her silence.
saw her hands.
saw not her hands.
saw his hands.
saw the red light at the end of the damned tunnel because
these doors won’t stay open and her body can’t fend off these
thoughts for too long and she’s going to split right open, contents
spilling out just like they did nine months before.

Mother Tongue

—But this isn’t my dream to dream and
I’m in the backyard, hands
six feet deep in the earth, not
needing handcuffs because their
minds did a better job. This time, I’m
burying lost vernacular with a jade shovel.
And again, my lips hum folk songs. Ones
where the lyrics are gibberish, and I can’t
seem to understand them. And I can’t seem to
understand where to look. ​Have you seen
my broken paint strokes?​ Father is saying
something. I reply to him: wait until I soul-search
underneath my monolids for the right characters.


For breakfast, I eat red, white, and blue. Tried to
swallow my parent’s yellow monolidded language for
white roses. Tasted like the metal train tracks of the
Transcontinental Railroad. Splashed myself with ​do you people
have a religion
​ and I turned all my Oh My Gods
into Oh My Goshes. I know the national anthem
like I know where all the red supermarket calendars are
in my house, but the Moon Festival is still a lantern-lit
mystery to me. Still, sometimes I find myself
craving rice and familiarity. Find myself
breathing in the sharp perfume of these bamboo mats.

Jenny Liu is a high school student from New York, who was recently recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Her poetry has appeared in the Watershed Review, The Manhattanville Review, and Snapdragon Journal.