You Li


The old woman points at me
at my face
looks me in the eyes
it’s dead
In that moment
I believe her

There are ghosts
by the sea where they
appear before children

looking into doorways
without mirrors

deflected by low ceilings
too proud to bend their backs

The old ash tree has turned
saint or ghost
no one knows but

no one lives
within the reach
of its branches’ shadows

They send paupers
and convicts to bury
the fruits of other trees
at its roots

There’s the forty-year-old
the old woman is saying
watching the women in the courtyard
Her husband died of a heart attack
He was forty-two

There’s the fat one
Her husband died mysteriously
He was eighty

There’s the dark-faced one
Her husband died of stomach cancer
probably because of anger
He was eighty

How old are you?

I believe in red
I believe in 6 and 8
I believe in my ancestors
who too might be ghosts

We are dancing
along the edges
of the courtyard
meeting each other
at the corners

The gray light shines up
from the ground

You Li is a law student and poet who was born in Beijing and lives in New York. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lunch Ticketmojo, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The MarginsThe Normal SchoolShenandoah, and elsewhere. She was awarded a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.