Tiffany & Annie & me are playing on the swings.
they’re singing a Taylor Swift song I don’t know yet,
and so I wait two verses before joining in,
think I can try the chorus the second time around,
but then, it’s just me, voice quavering, me and
all these words I don’t know,
two girls silently staring at me:
stop acting like you know the notes.
Tiffany comes back from vacation
with one lollipop for Annie.
Tiffany plucks my hair at lunch
and asks why I got split ends.
Tiffany says I have to walk behind them
so we can be a triangle.
no one knows loneliness like a 7-year-old girl.
I saw her once, last year, draped on the arm of a friend
of a friend. drenched in holiday party sparkle,
a little red blister of a person.
she giggles as she tells her date:
oh, we used to kind of bully Juliana.
I don’t sing in public, but god, I wish I did then,
slung my fat tongue over her stupid little hoops
until it made a shiny pink welt on her eardrums.
yodeled until a chandelier fell on her head.
funny how new wounds sound like old wounds.
I wish I sang then,
but what I was scared of was this:
I open my mouth, and nothing comes out
but two giggles, two sets of rolling eyes,
one single searching note
wandering quietly into the rafters.
Juliana Chang is a Taiwanese American poet. She is the 2019 recipient of the Urmy/Hardy Poetry Prize, the 2017 recipient of the Wiley Birkhofer Poetry Prize, and a 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Medalist in Poetry. She received a BA in Linguistics and a MA in Sociology from Stanford University in 2019. Her debut chapbook INHERITANCE was the winner of the 2020 Vella Contest and published with Paper Nautilus Press in 2021.