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LISA LOW | Two Poems

The Other Asian Girl

Maria raised her hand in science class

& got called Lisa.

I became Maria

in the cafeteria line.

Lisa & Maria are always

together, the teachers said

like an excuse. Maria’s

half-Filipina, said the other

half is Pilgrim. I didn’t say but thought

John Smith was handsome.

I decided

my good camera side

was me & the pimply left

side, Maria.

Didn’t everyone

know I was the faster

typer, smarter & more

fearful? Maria was

way funnier & better liked

by boys? Maria, Maria

called me after

we were already laughing. On top

of the monkey bars,

we tracked people’s

heads from above & called

ourselves each other’s names.


My Mother’s Body in America


In 1972, Nixon opened China.

In 1976, my mother landed in Uvalde, Texas.

That was the year she waitressed at Benihana where the aunties guessed and guessed her age. Friends worked there too, but she still never told her age. Management asked her to wear makeup and contacts along with the kimono uniform. The assistant manager leaned in regularly to say he loved her. This wasn’t a joke, so there was no punchline, though I kept waiting for one.


In childhood, I watched strangers speak in slow motion to my mother in a language she started learning when she was five. I watched their lips—their eyebrows like someone holding a toy out to a child.

I didn’t hold this against them until I grew old enough. Then I grew older and realized grudges don’t matter. There will always be another stranger, another cashier or neighbor. Another church friend. Once, a pastor.


It’s 2019 when I first see someone close to resembling her on any big or small screen. On Instagram, she’s up for a Creative Arts Emmy. I pinch my screen in and out like I could hold her. I love her boring black dress, her Millennial-looking friend group outside under a life-sized Emmy.

If I know my mother, she has already ditched this pair of glasses for a new one.


Lisa Low was born and raised in Maryland. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, TheIowa Review, Copper Nickel,Bat City Review, Redivider, and elsewhere, and her nonfiction won the 2020 Gulf Coast Nonfiction Prize. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati and an assistant editor at The Cincinnati Review. More at


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