Nicholas YB Wong


Nicholas YB Wong earned his MFA at the City University of Hong Kong and is the author of Cities of Sameness. He is a finalist of New Letters Poetry Award and a semi-finalist of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. He is on the editorial board of Drunken Boat and Mead: Magazine of Literature and Libations. Corgis are his favorite human breed.


Museum of Septum

A normal heart weighs 350g. Consider living
without one. Organs migrate, have new roles.
Kidneys pumping blood, pancreas counting

pulses, fluidity of grief sluicing forth and
back with lymph – it’s called evolution.
The Chinese eat animal viscera, shapes

supplementing shapes. Grilled duck hearts
on skewers, each a pendant, edible
confinement. What’s locked in the four

chambers if not sufferance crispy, sauced,
a story otherwise too cooked to be told.
Leave the heart to the past and the past

to a museum, 3/F, west wing, where it finds
its neighbors, all ill of systole. The hall
savaged by legato vibrato, a sound

-scape narrating the pain of being caged too
long by ribs. Blood needs nothing but
these false sounds to move on. Trust me.

I remember the first draft of ‘Museum of Septum’ is called ‘To Dean Young,’ which says a lot why the poem is full of images of the heart and organs. Young’s poetry has a lot to admire. The voice, the tone, the sudden and ‘reckless’ narrative turns, just to mention a few. But then (after a few rejections), I felt the poem might be an act of vanity since he didn’t know me at all. I dismantled the poem and inserted a few savaged lines from another piece I decided to abandon. In that poem, I was trying to create a scene in which a couple was having Japanese teriyaki as their last meal. For some reasons, that poem didn’t work (and thank god), then they are the lines in ‘Museum’ about Chinese eating cooked animal organs. I don’t know why the heart image always comes back to me. In some ways, the heart is like a mini museum that has different exhibitions going on concurrently in different galleries. The heart beats, but we don’t want it to beat too fast or too slowly. We want a rhythm so regular and regulated that we don’t even notice it’s beating. There’s another weird thought that stayed in my head (and still does) when the poem was written: What if the exhibition is about living organs? And worse, the donors have to pay the full admission fee to get in just to see what have been taken out from their bodies? It’s bio-art. It’s organic.