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Alisha Yi is a poet of promise and of promise fulfilled. Her poems exhibit not only great emotional depth but also show us a fine technician at work. Such dexterity is not commonly found in writers so young. Or, when we do get the nuts and bolts, it is often at the expense of the poems’ blood and sinew. Yi is a poet who appears to have found a way to walk the blade’s edge where good poetry resides. Expect to be reading Alisha Yi for many years to come.

JOHN MURILLO, YoungArts Judge

LEMON STORY

When the Georgian sky gasps like a newborn,
mother cups out the lemon, and in it
there’s a whiteness rawer

than dawn, freshly gaping. In spring,
we watched the bass boats grow

like children – buttocks naked
by the river side. And in the refracting
light of the sun, the rind-eyed children flew

around the pool, some sitting cross-legged
as the water lapped at their feet,
through the paisley of the shoes–

bodies bathing fruits
and slowly ripening. And as a boy ran
to the side, with his hair flecking salt,

to draw an inscrutable figure on the sand–
the mother watched the shape growing

lemons, pinned sour to touch.

EVENING
CONVERSATION WITH
DRUNKENNESS

Father lobs his head in, tears the bedroom door open,
shouts into darkness. A bitter-rounded thing.
Mother is in her white nightgown with sweat
and pomade trickling down her neck, listening
to father’s words, carefully oiled like a baseman’s mitt,
soggy with rain. She clamps her hand over
my own, suffocates words that can only breathe
in the space two fingers wide. I imagine father’s throat
to be an oyster-shell, except that his are tough
as antelope hide, pieces of shingle fed by the spoonful.
I am living in the monotony of the cycle–
in the bareness of his whips. It’s been years
since father has consoled with own nakedness,
suffocated his child for the boy who sold
liquid gold by the bowl, and locked hips
with mother. Now, with him, by the doorway,
words spitting like fire, breaking breastbones
by his oak stick, I escape to the record by the retro turntable,
loiter behind the fire-blackened car from the week before.
I am searching for warmth from its metal skin.

Alisha Yi is a junior at Ed. W Clark High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. She has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation, National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Princeton University, and Hollins University, among others. Yi’s work has been published in Slice Magazine, Hermeneutic Chaos, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and elsewhere. When she isn’t writing, she is running free in desert lands.

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  • These poems are amazing. I did a doubletake when I realized Alisha is in HIGH SCHOOL. The future is going to be great.