Nicole Liu


1.	My psycho-pink nails ra-ta-tat the bartop to a fever pitch 
	She takes a drag longer than the French New Wave
2.	Her slow, winged eyes fix on the man who pours from the top shelf
3.	“我生日/My birthday,” his mint linen suit creases around me “给点面子/you must,” he 			
	inflames my ear. 
4.	Sage and I share a look as we toast him forty-years-young, the way, earlier, we fixed 
	our eyes in her toilet mirror, electricity in our guts. The way I origamied my stomach 
	into these jeans, while she hides pockmarks like opera houses hide cigarette burns 
	on their carpets, lush green. 
5.	Sage is not actually looking at me. She looks bored as the man’s friend tells her she 
	has bad skin. I want to thumb-press that woman’s nose-job and see it fold back like 
	a chair. 
6.	Outside, restless stars flicker over old, road-side sycamores. The French gave us 
	their trees when they took away our rights. The stars sear insomnia into our brains, 
	into grooves. 
7.	Shanghai is Sage’s city. Gin and tonic is what she calls a good time. 
8.	 The bartender’s hands dance an electric green among tall glass, short metal cups, 
	tiny Hawaiian umbrellas. I will forget which tattoos Birthday Boy touches when he 
9.	Because I dashed my funny bone against a broken mirror as an infant, I pinch the 
	olive out of my glass, Because deep down we want to eat our thumbs.
10.	“You’re like a poet!” Patina chandeliers shadow-box a staircase in the corner into 
	spiral shades—falling faintly—on Sage’s face that a stranger once called kind. “But 
	you’re funny!” 
11.	Half-turned face of mine, I am green. 
12.	Earlier, I let Sage’s dad call me a good girl as she counted the cigarettes out of his 
	back pocket. Now, Birthday Boy wants to teach me how to drink absinthe. His big 
	hands pinch after two silver spoons. 
13.	He can click them into broken stars.
14.	“上を向いて歩こうI hold my head up as I walk/ 涙がこぼれないように So that the 
	tears won't fall” croons the gramophone.  One table over, a Chinese woman lets 
	herself be charmed by an Australian man in a sweat-drenched polo shirt. I hear that 
	white people get to drink free in Shanghai, especially in bars that pretend to be 
	American speakeasies. I want to noose my pinkie around Sage’s thumb.
15.	She doesn’t look drunk, but I’m about as clear-headed as a Zippo-ed sugarcube. 
16.	The sweet scalpel of psychoanalysis: her eyes, my left breast. I’d let her. 
17.	I want to hop onto the bar top and tapdance away every wine glass. I want to 
	slowsex every gaping mouth with good poetry. I want to stuff my lace socks down 
	Birthday Boy’s throat and tell him to choke on it. 
18.	Baby, I just want to read Bulgakov to good girls. 
19.	so that the sky will warm like milk, the river will lap it up like a two-legged Russian 
	cat, so that Sage can stop pretending she doesn’t speak Chinese,
20.	and I can articulate this phlegm-affection we neither swallow nor cough up, and 
	taxidermize it into a luna moth. 
21.	I have to get drunk to know that I need to see her, not a therapist—is what I finally 
	confess into the toilet bowl like a prodigal son. 
22.	两个甜卤蛋, 两个傻酒糟 (two sweet bastard eggs, two silly wine puddings).
23.	She holds my hair up as we taxi-wait at the green light. She apologizes to the hostel 
	clerk when I rhapsody into the carpet. 
24.	She hides us both under a teal duvet and fogs the mirror with cigarette smoke. I tell 
	her to put it out on the dimples of my face, my hands, my arteries. She flushes it 
	down the toilet. 

/	/	/	(slash slash slash)
Hong Kong, 2020

I / I / I

Ghost / Future		Fist / Kiss 	Witness / Adjust

The Ghost/Future of a Fist/Kiss—Witness/Adjust
Witness Ghost Future: a Fist, Adjusts, a Kiss 

Ghost Witnesses Future—with a Fist and a Kiss—it Adjusts
Future Witnesses Ghosts, Adjusts their Fists, they Kiss 

The Future is a Ghost that Witnesses through Fists and Kisses and calls them Adjustments 
The Ghost is from the Future, with a Fist full of Kisses, it Witnesses without Adjusting

The Future slashes the Ghost the way a Fist slashes Kisses, no Witnesses, no Adjustments
We are the Ghost and the Future and the Fist and the Kiss and the Witness and the Adjustment

No one to	No one to

One two	One two

No	No	No	No


Future-Ghost Adjusts, Witnesses Fists, (nonetheless) Kisses

Ghost-Future, with your Fists and Kisses, I Witness and Adjust

I slash and I slash and I slash



From the Author: “Shanghai-ed” and “/// (slash slash slash)” represent two of the ways I’ve experienced my multi-cultural identity as a person from the Hong Kong and Chinese diaspora.  Because I am a long-time international student, traveling and translating between different spaces have become crucial to how I see the world. I like to think the elaborate and story-driven style of “Shanghai-ed” complements and contrasts the more abstract prayers I tried to meditate on in “/// (slash slash slash).” I also believe, however, that both of these poems attempt to get at how the world is a porous place where disparate things constantly bleed into each other. 

Nicole Liu (she/her) was born in Hong Kong, raised in Shenzhen, and came of age in Boston. In her poems and essays, she gravitates towards topics of multilingualism, miscommunication, and censorship. Nicole graduated magna cum laude from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in English and Chinese. This coming fall, she will be entering the East Asian Languages and Civilizations program at UChicago as a first year PhD student.  She is currently based near Philadelphia, working as a writer, writing instructor, and translator.