Sally Wen Mao

“I’ve gone through so many years of I’m such a freak. I’m so different. What is wrong with me? And then I think of Anna May Wong and even though she’s from another time period and there’s all this separation, I am so glad she existed. Otherwise, the alienation runs deep – bone deep.”

– From a conversation with Sally Wen Mao

“I was so tired of the parts I had to play.”

– Anna May Wong



I’ve tried so hard to erase myself.
That iconography—my face
in Technicolor, the manta ray

eyelashes, the nacre and chignon.
I’ll bet four limbs I’d be cast as another
Mongol slave. I will blow a hole

in the airwaves, duck lasers in my dugout.
I’m done kidding them. Today I fly
the hell out in my Thunderbolt.

To the future, where I’m forgotten.
Where surely no one gives a puck
who I kiss: man, woman, or goldfish.

In the blustering garden where I was fed
compliments like you are our golden
apple and you are our yellow star, I lost

my lust for luster. They’d smile, fuck
me over for someone else: ringletted women
with sloping eyelids played the Chinese

cynosure, every time. Ursa Minor, you never
warned me: all my life I’ve been minor,
played the strumpet, the starved one.

I was taproot and crook. How I’ve hunched
down low, wicked girl, until this good earth
swallowed me raw. Take me now, dear comet,

to the future, where surely I’ll play
some girl from L.A., the unlikely heroine
who breaks up the brawl, saving everyone.

“Anna May Wong fans her time machine,” published by The Missouri Review, reprinted with the permission of the author.