4:52 am in a Taiwanese mother’s sanctum

Damian Wang

Bitter melon soup

Bitter melanin too

When my mother cups me like Achilles’

healing is unfound in her crockpots

and cast iron pans.

Grated skin makes the most flavorful stock,

bitter me lies

down on the kitchen floor.


When they make you bleed, thank them.

Chefs don’t like when you play the victim card.

Knives are only a weapon made of intent.

Toys can be weapons, too, in the wrong hands.

You see, the more fight and bite you have, the more satisfying the slice,

because ‘fight’ and ‘bite’ are mouth-feel, mouth-run, mouthing at your soul

less child, insolence is not permitted, how dare

you knead her hand



Each peel of your skin hitting broth,

Pan fried in peanut oil and charred.

Give in, because bitter melatonin won’t bring dreams.

Your mind may sleep, but you are running from

bad omens come in bitter men.

You wish you had been sweet.

Bitter melon, bitter mellow,

Bitter me, lion within.


Lying is whining,

and bitter is the taste they forget.

Bitter melon gourds are not guards against cuts

me against your chopping board,

then sour their tongues with your pointed truth.

Achilles was once a hero in his days and

sometimes bitter gods just want to be unguarded,

human too.


Damian Wang is a city boy who wears his heart on his sleeve and enjoys rainy days, hunting for boba, eating ramen, reading comics, doing JoJo poses, and inhaling the dusty aroma of old books. He has an 8-year-old cat named Miu Miu who likes to play feline editor by bodily key-smashing incoherent lines into his works. A lover of poetry, Damian currently majors in English at UCLA with a concentration in creative writing. As the son of a diplomat, Damian uses his extensive cultural experiences as the backdrop of his writing, while exploring themes of gender, race, and loss.