17, Female, American by Jasmine Cui

age: 8

The day my neighbor became American was the day he changed
his name from Seong-Jin to “Steven,” tearing down the Korean

flag our landlord stapled to his door - as if to denote exoticism. 
Today, Seong from Busan is just Steve

from apartment 26B. Phosphorus tip, match is struck
against my nails. The fingers are tinderbox that inspires

flame. Acrylic flag becomes effigy. Prophetic, 
we exorcise the old country.

And I learn how to start fires with nothing
more than skin. 

age: 13

Apartment 23, Joon. He shoves icebox
fingers in my cervix. We are too young to know

better. Thermotaxis, we are driven towards radiator
spines. Wire hand is light plug pulled

from lower torso. Elbow sockets drenched
in lighter fluid. Hydrolysis, 

I lick his thumb to see
if the skin will electrolyze. 

age: 9

Carburetor is a word I know before I knew
the word for the thing between my legs. Cunt

is a word that gives me vertigo
because it is not in the Oxford dictionary. 

age: 11

Apartment 25, Sarah. December, 
she is milk and snow skin. 

She writes poetry and teaches
me what the dictionary won’t. Obscenities:

bitch, genocide, my skin
unclothed and luminous.

age: 14

Diaspora, hair is scattered
across blue floor tiles. Vast Atlantic,

marrow steeped in chemotherapy: 
docetaxel and cyclophosphamide. 

age: 15

Radiography, Joon is
always scanning the chest for turgid

flesh. Excision is nothing beautiful: 
hypertonic tongue, a divination stick. 

Water drawn from the skin. We are so afraid
of dying. Electrician’s tape obscures a mastectomy.

age: 17

The day of metastasis, Joon changes
his name to Julien - promising

to burn my body: 
a flag, the old country.

And I learn how to start fires with nothing
more than skin. 

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Contributor Notes

Persist. Even when the world says otherwise. Even if you’re hearing “No” more than youhear “Yes.” Persist.

Jasmine is 18 years old and is majoring in Political Science, Economics, and Violin Performance at SUNY Geneseo. She aspires to be like her parents who are first-generation Americans that fought an extraordinary battle for their place in this country. Jasmine found the courage to pursue writing when she was 17. She is not a mentee, not a Foyle Young Poet, not a Presidential Scholar (and this is not to say you can't be those things), but she is still every bit a writer. And you are too.