Marco Yan

Arguments Against Us

How I touched you is different from how you bit
my chin—I was harsh, and you were tender
for five seconds, a time when I felt wanted.

I felt acid, I felt the rising actions of a sci-fi
blockbuster set in the outer space where
the hero and his girl were squeezing their alien

hearts—maybe that’s how love should be made
if we had purple skin and an extra arm, maybe
we’d like the pain, and you wouldn’t mind me

being bluely honest with you. I can trick myself
into loving anything with wings—the cormorant
near a pond of dead lotus, the smaller birds,

the airplane sketched on my bedroom wall,
the dragonfly in the sun, the films of its wings
so relentlessly green I forget the predator

it’s designed to be: the fish devoured in its youth,
other dragonflies in adulthood. If you learn
how to fly, maybe I’ll understand more. Yes, I am

hypocritical—if I had wings, would I be here
on earth with you? Because we’re both breathing,
tired of breathing, affection is here in the space

between us, and you’re holding many complaints,
showing your bare hands. To be honest,
every night you lie down and close your eyes,

I grieve a little. I jump, I feel untethered,
I’m the alien alone on his ship, his third hand
fidgeting with a heart that doesn’t beat.



Ebb Tide

The Henry I taught turned out to be the Henry who went cliff-diving
          that muggy June day,
who surfaced on the evening news.

If it wasn’t for the thrill of descent, of claiming a space
he didn’t know but dared to fill, what was the point?

Almost invisible, he pierced the thick waves
the way microbes intrude and enter skin.

The whitecaps, immutable, thrust his body back to air.

These days he isn’t clear, a mere waft on red dirt—
not the dirt,

not the driftwood or the volcanic rocks
sharp on the seafloor.
                                                  Still on the cliff’s edge,

facing south, he doesn’t have edges anymore.
What he has: shorts, a watch, a t-shirt soaked with sweat.

He also has his shoes on, and soon he’ll bend down to undo the laces.


Again, I hear him speak to himself,
won’t stop,

making noises closer to an animal’s now.

What does speech matter anyway? I panicked
during the support group for his teachers

where we arrived at magical descriptions of what we thought happened—

there were so many variations: he was brave;
he was dumb; he was tired of the numbness
and took control; he didn’t settle.

I wanted to be there telling him not to jump
just as I’d been told not to move an inch.

The weathered granite, the tree unshaken in the breeze, the bight’s repose—
whatever he was, he was
                                                  the landscape that didn’t want him—

a brown gull not ready to spread wings leapt for the first time.


Marco Yan is a Hong Kong-born poet, whose work appears or is forthcoming in Adroit, Pinch, The Louisville Review, Prairie Schooner and more. You can read more about Marco at