The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: She Has Dreamt Again of Water by Stephanie Niu

This selection, chosen by guest editor Samantha Duncan, is from She Has Dreamt Again of Water by Stephanie Niu, released by Diode Editions in 2022.

content warning for disordered eating

Midden / Appetite

My mother calls herself our trash heap.
She eats what we won’t, grows plump
on our leftover eggs, bread crusts,
the bitter-hearted lotus seeds we cannot stomach.
We have small appetites. Waiting for us is eating,
cutting slice after slice of pumpkin bread
until all the bowls are clean.
No one wants to be garbage, she says,
but look what I do for you.

In archaeology a trash heap is called a midden.
It means you’ve struck gold. What better map
to the way people lived than the things they discarded.
Oysters shells, chicken bones, bits of green glass,
pickle forks, shoe leather miraculously intact.
The trash is what they used, what they ate,
what they could not afford to throw away.
No buttons. No jewelry. In a California midden
where Chinese orchard workers lived
they found a single bottle for baby formula,
cracked. The glass so old it flakes,
iridescent, dragonfly wings catching light.

My mother does not like the way she looks.
In the dressing room she pinches the flesh
around her face. If someone loved me more,
maybe I wouldn’t gain weight.

Stephanie Niu is a poet and author of She Has Dreamt Again of Water, winner of the 2021 Diode Chapbook Prize. She received her degrees in symbolic systems and computer science from Stanford University. Her poems have appeared in Southeast Review, Poets Readings the News, Breakwater Review, and Storm Cellar, as well as scientific collaborations including the 11th Annual St. Louis River Summit. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Study/Research Award for work on decolonizing historical narratives through digital techniques, including podcast production, map-making, and digital visualization. She currently lives on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

Samantha Duncan is the author of four poetry chapbooks, including Playing One on TV (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2018) and The Birth Creatures (Agape Editions, 2016), and her work has appeared in BOAAT, SWWIM, Meridian, and The Pinch. She lives in Houston.

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