Author of the Month: Chun Yu

BIO: Chun Yu is the author of the award-winning memoir in free verse Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Simon & Schuster) and a graphic novel in progress Emperor Poets (Macmillan) etc. Her poetry has been published in the award-winning collection Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (Koa Books) and the poetry anthology Open Doors (Chaparral Canyon Press) etc. Chun has also been published in the Boston Herald, Xinhua Daily, Konch, Poem of the Day (San Francisco Public Library), MiGoZine, Catamaran, Orion (forthcoming) and others. She is a recipient of a San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grant for her bilingual poetry and an Individual Artist Grant for her graphic novel project on Chinese-American immigration experiences. Her project Two Languages / One Community, with poet Michael Warr, brings Chinese-American and African-American communities together through poetry and storytelling. She is an honoree of the YBCA 100 award (2020) of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Chun holds a BS and MS (Peking University) and a PhD (Rutgers University) in chemistry. She was a postdoctoral fellow in a Harvard-MIT joint program. She is a scientist, an art curator, and a tango dancer. Her website

If There is No If

If there is no if
all the dreams will wither 
like blooming flowers framed 
in a drying field.

If there is no if
all the stories will freeze 
like waterfalls fallen
into a sudden ice age.

If there is no if
the mind will darken 
like a painted cave buried 
on the broken Silk Road.

If there is no if 
the heart will mummify
like a lotus seed hidden 
in a weathered pyramid —

waiting to be planted again
in the mud of life.

If I Already Forgave You

If I already forgave you,
what would life be?

With the innocence of a toddler
I would look up to you between my first steps,
and smile —
amazed by your existence
at each sight of you;
amazed by my ability
to reach you on my own.

I would just walk to you with that smile 
and no clouds in my heart.
Clear as the blue sky —
I know you are the one, 
the only one I would walk to
with no other purpose in the world.

If I just forgive you, forgive each of you,
and forgive myself —

I would just walk, walk towards you,
from moment to moment,
I would walk through life, 
already and always
in love.

The Egg

In the egg
We once each resided
We were perfect —
Safe and free

From intentions
Still concealed
From risks
Yet to be taken

The dome of perfection
Broke —
What was hatched 
Could no longer
Be contained

The wings would 
Inevitably grow
Taking to 
The sky, terrifyingly

Each direction
A risk for a mistake
Where courage is born

The Gold Miner

You walk against the flow
dredging through mud 
grasping sparkly grains
call it achievement.

You stand in the flow
sieving through sand
finding shiny pieces
call it happiness.

You follow the flow
feeling through the water
stumbling upon glowing nuggets
call it wisdom.

Finally content
with what you’ve gathered
you sit by the river
watching it flow 
as the weight of gold 
into thin air

until you are awakened
as if from a dream

by a newcomer, eager and hopeful
fresh and transparent like a morning dew
who shyly inquires about 
the river, and gold…

to whom you have nothing to show
but your words
that there is gold

to whom you have nothing to offer 
but your sieve
which has withstood 
the flow of
endless sand and mud.

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