“Before I wake, I peruse the dead girl's live photo feed,” Sally Wen Mao writes in “Oculus,” the title poem of her new collection via Graywolf Press, which is based on the real-life tale of a girl in Shanghai who posted her suicide on Instagram. “Days ago, she uploaded her confessions: I can't bear the sorrow/captions her black eyes, gaps across a face/luminescent as snow.” Elsewhere, Mao imagines a time-traveling Anna May Wong, talks to ghosts and considers the clash of cultures and histories in the East and the West. “If only recovering the silenced history is as simple as smashing its container,” she muses in “Occidentalism.”
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