I want to get lost in the imperfect atlas of your skin.

This poem was first published in the very first issue of the Beijing Youth Literary Review. The theme is ‘Maps,’ and my take is that our faces are maps that tell our story.

A lone explorer brush stands, with a map of foundation

in hand, and compass coordinates set. It is ready

to trek the imperfect stretch of my desert sand skin.

It starts at nose Mt. Everest, angling and

probing and brushing it until it has a smooth peak.


Further north my brow folds into mountains of knitted

ridges. Painfully broken, burned and blemished,

revealing furrows more crumpled than on the old map.

Years have passed, and nature has wrinkled the details,

concealing the treasure beneath the melanin.

The brush prospers, yielding a golden shimmer.


A detour, and it arrives at the half-moon craters

beneath my eyes. It observes the parched remains of

wells and salt lakes that carry tears.

It begins to dust away, smear concealer and blend it in.

Ocean blue shadow to the rough terrain of laughter lines.

Already new tears are forming behind its masterpiece.


The brush treads carefully along the path

of discolored patches where the desert sun

has scorched the earth. Freckles.

It traces the contours of the left cheek

and molds gradients of tan brown and yellow

to form a perfect mocha brown.


The brush trudges along, observing my mouth.

The crooked half smiles of missing teeth are like dark,

unquiet caves guarded by giant stalagmite pillars.

It gawks at the pink, exfoliated flakes of lips.

And douses them with gloss

until they bleed shimmery pink blood.


My right cheek – a little knoll of acne blush.

Filled with miniature volcanos of pus lava, and

little red dots, buttoned and neat like checkpoints

of past hurts that crept unbidden into pores.

Here the brush labors, erasing the pores, softening

the uneven terrain, until a smooth plane of skin emerges.


But in the end, this ‘perfect’ map tells lies. Honey, I

want to get lost in the imperfect atlas of your skin.