SECOND CHILD
Yun Wei

Image by: Ah Wei.

Beijing, 2015 
 
The second child, a split world later,  
would have been the first, 
one matchstick finger
on the scenery outside the window: 
wide open, no screens, before-the-day. 
The first to divine
that the shape of plastic stars
was based on a squint, how dresser drawers
are filled with before and after, 
the future clothes
she’s supposed to grow into, 
and so clenching her fists, 
she wills her limbs another inch. 
 
There is no mirror in the room because
she still thinks of herself as a landscape
that fills and empties, changes borders
like seasons, condenses to heavier forms, 
expands, dissolves: a body of water on fire. 
If she keeps burning, 
she’ll be able to stretch to the open window
and place a finger on the wet wet scenery. 
 
Umbrella child, 
chance child, 
tomorrow child, 
we’ve met before, 
shaken hands and parted ways
before the rain invited itself in. 


Author's Commentary: In October of 2015, the Chinese government reversed its one-child policy and implemented a two-child policy going forward. I was born as the first child but I thought of how easily I could have been a second one. This poem is an ode to all the second children who would have been born were it not for the government’s intrusion in this incredibly private decision, an intrusion in the body and in the construction of one’s future. I imagined an alternative world where the second child resides, yearning for more and unbound by the rules of this world.


Yun Wei received her M.F.A in Poetry from Brooklyn College and a Bachelor’s in International Relations from Georgetown University. Her writing awards include the Geneva Literary Prizes for Fiction and Poetry, the Himan Brown Poetry Fellowship and the Ray Bradbury Youth Short Story Award. Her work is forthcoming from Brooklyn Poets’ Anthology and has appeared in Apt Magazine, Word Riot, The Brooklyn Review and other journals. For the last few years, she has been working on global health development in Switzerland, where chocolate and mulled wine were her daily diet.