Muriel Leung, Pt. 1: What you say next—I am red / in the face. I will and can harp on a spleen.

For each day of National Poetry Month one of our fellows will explore the breadth of poetry in three ways: through a question from another fellow, through a poem and through a writing prompt, #writetoday.


Cristiana Balk asks, You recently uprooted yourself from Queens, one of the most demographically diverse urban places in the world (and personally my favorite borough in NYC), to Baton Rouge, nestled near the heart of Louisiana. Has this significant shift in place changed, re-shaped your writing, from writing practices to the subject matters you explore, and if so, how?

Muriel Leung answers, I packed my bags with my ghosts in search of new ghosts. Someone said I would find plenty in Louisiana. In my first month here, I smashed my car mirror trying to dodge a banana tree. A monster cactus in my backyard lives and dies on repeat. I wondered if that was what they meant. Louisiana is still grappling with its reputation as a place of magic and haunting. I am careful not to be subsumed by this, but growing up in Queens, I bring with me so much baggage (immigrant stories, forked tongues, etc.) that feels magical and haunting to me out of necessity. For me, Louisiana is a collision of the real and the imagined too. I am fortunate for a literary community here (that includes my fierce mentors, Laura Mullen and Lara Glenum) who insist: “Write your ghosts and—“ Within this gesture—possibilities in the whirl.


Directions for a better life

Or simply you would complete me 
the sinewy voice milks the trees and ornery 
blossoms. What you say next—I am red 
in the face. I will and can harp on a spleen. 
In the sidelines of a purple desert, a mote 
erects itself between dashboard 
and a vein. Sometimes I believe 
in the virtues of a robotic dusk. I believe 
in dirty thoughts and my gummy hands 
going this way and then that. Are you feeling 
better now? Good. Rest your pretty head 
on a briar patch. Sweet nothings. I think 
when I whisper, someone is pushing 
a button and saying, Now move into 
the happily before they take down the sun 
and so I take his hand and pulse hard 
into the forever-morgue. My darling, 
I will go wherever you go.



Muriel Leung is a current MFA candidate in poetry at Louisiana State University and sends her tweets here.