Editor’s Note from Sudha Balagopal: Yunya Yang delivers her signature punches in these two micros. There are descriptions of other worlds here, of distance and longing, of after-life and current tradition. Then, there is pain and hurt, physical and emotional, and the glimpses of deliverance. All this in tiny packages, word gifts we unpack to find an amalgam of fantasy and reality, making for an unforgettable read.
A Heart That Does Not Beat
The old woman walks on the beach barefoot. It is winter and deserted. She stays close to the water, so when the tide rolls in, it touches her skin. Years ago, she scattered her husband’s ashes in the sea. Not in this sea, but all seas are connected. She is on land, however, which is unfortunate.
Chang’e flew to the moon after she became immortal. She wanted to live but didn’t know the consequences of living. She has a palace on the moon. It is vast and cold. She has a rabbit. It is also immortal and its heart does not beat. She plants a sweet olive tree.
When the old woman was a young girl, she lived on a different land, where sweet olive trees bloomed. Her husband used to bring the flowers home and arrange them in a chipped vase on the kitchen table. She no longer remembers their fragrance, but if she smells them again, she is sure she would recognize it.
Chang’e wishes there was a bridge between the moon and the earth. She wishes for a fantastic collision between time and distance. Her sweet olive tree grows. It is unattended, yet it survives.
You Will Never Need to Walk Again
With a strip of long, cream-colored cloth, her feet are wrapped, toes crushed, joints snapped. Tighter and narrower, the bind gains with each passing day, her pain boils and burns. At night, she lies unsleeping, unseeing, biting down at the crook of her thumb and pressing her purple feet against the soothing, chilling wall. Poets sing the beauty of small feet, curved as the crescent moon, delicate like a golden lotus floating on a pond. How lovely she walks in those pointed, embroidered little shoes! She imagines that Cinderella bound her own feet, bamboo chips to sculpt the shape, porcelain shards to cut the bone, peony powder to cover the sweet, rotten smell, the betraying blood seeping from her wounds. As she descends the grand stairs, her body sways with each step like the sickly branches of a willow tree, and with each step the pain streaks through her, before she crumbles on the palm of a prince.
Yunya Yang was born and raised in Central China and moved to the US when she was eighteen. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Epiphany, Hobart, Gulf Coast, among others. She currently serves as an assistant editor for Barrelhouse. Find her at yunyayang.com and on Twitter @YangYunya.