Sally Wen Mao


Sally Wen Mao (?-present) is an Asian American poet and author of Mad Honey Symposium and Oculus. She received her MFA from Cornell University and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and teaches in the Asian American Studies department at Hunter College. Source


A man celebrates erstwhile conquests,

his book locked in a silo, still in print.


I scribble, make Sharpie lines, deface

its text like it defaces me. Outside, grain


fields whisper. Marble lions are silent

yet silver-tongued, with excellent teeth.


In this life I have worshipped so many lies.

Then I workshop them, make them better.


An East India Company, an opium trade,

a war, a treaty, a concession, an occupation,


a man parting the veil covering a woman’s

face, his nails prying her lips open. I love


the fragility of a porcelain bowl. How easy

it is, to shatter chinoiserie, like the Han


dynasty urn Ai Weiwei dropped in 1995.

If only recovering the silenced history


is as simple as smashing its container: book,

bowl, celadon spoon. Such objects cross


borders the way our bodies never could.

Instead, we’re left with history, its blonde


dust. That bowl is unbreakable. All its ghosts

still shudder through us like small breaths.


The tome of hegemony lives on, circulates

in our libraries, in our bloodstreams. One day,


a girl like me may come across it on a shelf,

pick it up, read about all the ways her body


is a thing. And I won’t be there to protect

her, to cross the text out and say: go ahead—

rewrite this.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Intersectionality & Culture

Racial Injustice


Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


The repetition of similar vowel sounds that takes place in two or more words in proximity to each other within a line; usually refers to the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words that do not end the same.


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”