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Jireh Deng
October 2023

Jireh is a queer Asian American writer and filmmaker born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. Their words are published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, NPR, The L.A. Times, The Huffington Post, and more. They co-direct the Asian American Journalists Association LGBTQIA+ affinity group. 


In 2022, they directed a short documentary about a transgender Asian American elder, MIA’S MISSION, which has been selected to screen several film festivals including the 2023 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. You can follow them on Instagram at @bokchoy_baobei.


They’ve received writing fellowships from the Key West Literary Seminar and Brooklyn Poets. Their poetry and prose appear in Literary Hub, The Rumpus, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.



In another life, my father is a cartographer

His veined hands splitting deltas and wrapping

The edges of continents around his knuckles.

He is the man NASA calls when they need

To map out the crevices of Mars, to examine

The substrate of a foreign body for new life.

My father, the cartographer, spins new worlds

And weaves them into bedtime stories.

When we outgrow them, he gives us

The instructions to write our own.

At one point, I believed every mountain

Range meant north and bruising my backside

On trees, while sledding, riding a bike, was life

Hitting hard teaching me to rise again.

My inheritance of fierceness and gravity;

How his grief pulls him into isolation,

Hurtles him as an asteroid through doors.

A fractious heart spewing ash and molten

Magma, a pacific ring of fire, an earthquake

Grumble. Island boy now cartographer man

Who needs to draw a home where he is loved.

I am told that he fell into this profession

When once, he was pinned in the demarcation of sky

And ground and couldn’t remember the last time

He saw something, so naked and honest.



I have always been grasping for words

like when my mother phones customer service


dressed in her best American Accent TM.

I was a part of a music program, Giving Bach;


she pronounced it bark. Isn’t that what is asked of us?

Heel and sit, repeat as told. A pledge of allegiance I always closed


with “Jesus for all”. When I ask for salami at the grocer,

instead, tsunami pours out: a titular chirping in my chest,


ossified wings in my throat. I am safest without language

to wound (I mean /wound/) – wind myself around


a bastion of stories. I am gatekeeper and pariah. Mess-

iah and anti-Christ. I know wisdom is just a graveyard of teeth.


Alone is a city that will not carry your dead. Money as in time,

as in communists call us slaves to capitalism,


but we seem to forget human nature is a sower.

A sorrow seeder, in· ter· ne· cine, being halfway bold


or stupid. 4 is also death, and the character 四

is also a window, a mouth, an esophagus. I don’t know


the difference between agápē and agape. An uncle once showed me

how he kept his youngest son’s eaten chicken bones in a study


drawer. So clean, he had gnawed off all the cartilage.

Does this mean I have been swallowed thrice before?


The ancient sapien instinct: love is an approximation to danger.

You make me feel safe, so I want to run away.

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