That summer he drove me to the gardens and took my hand. The dahlias with their toothy stems. “These are my mom’s favorite flower,” he said. We bought chicken wings and ate them without napkins, seat-belted into his car. Barbeque sauce. Hot rush. He asked me if I had any lotion. I didn’t love him and I never will. My stubborn mouth. My retainer, still full of salt and dried saliva, on the corner of my nightstand, acrylic plastic green & blue. I pledged allegiance to nothing, and no one. The gardens. My pink tongue, my overbite. He asked me if I liked it back there, in the motherland. I punched him with my quiet. I said, I was born here. He said, here? And I nodded my assent. He kissed me with the hood popped open, until I opened my eyes. A broom. Cans of lentil soup. Two packs of smushed cigarettes. Outside the window: an American moon. His mouth tasted like chicken, like barbeque sauce. I pressed my Michigan I.D. against the closed window, and held it there — my own native, square of proof — for everybody to see.


Carlina Duan loves peaches and sprinting. She is currently a junior studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. She is the co-adviser of Red Beard Press, a youth-driven publishing company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as the Editor of The Michigan Daily’s The Statement news magazine. Her favorite sandwich involves challah and honey, and her favorite poet is Aracelis Girmay. She is the co-author of the poetry collection Electric Bite Women with poet Haley Patail. After graduation, Carlina hopes to study Thai, write comic books and live on a boat.