a breakup letter for yale

by Yuni Chang

This poem was performed at the Calhoun Renaming Ceremony on April 29, 2016

adjusted in response to the decisions made on wednesday:
we need to talk.
we both know the lingo
to loosen the strings attached,
that regardless of its gift wrapping
i’m still presenting you
with severed limbs, and
this is the humor of heartbreak.
today, i am the lighter flame to your leak,
the one who swallows
the curled flakes of prestige
into ruin, so –
i completely understand the silence
of the broken hearted,
interrupted only by
all the strained gasps for tears,
but everyone knows
you’ve never been the crying type.
your dry eyes are bright
like a bouquet of flowers
you stole from someone else’s grave
remember how you twisted my arm
and the girls’ before and after
and said
dance for me
you will never know a better lover
let me wear your poor
your woman
your brown and your mother’s hair
as medallions
let me save you
with this wealth
stretched from blood
and the skin of puppets,
pray to my arrogance
every morning
and the romance will write itself.
you told me to be proud to have
been caressed by this power,
this ivory that doesn’t wash out
with soap
i said yes, chew me whole
till i can taste a future
rising like good bread
yes, to warm rooms
to the ray of gold
under an open door
yes, meant i take my vows
and walk down the aisle with you,
smile for the camera
and the diploma
rests easy on my cabinet
and my conscience
but whatever world you make possible
is one i must leave in the dust
saying this does not rinse me of responsibility
but there is no reason to rejoice
for cathedrals that
ring the serenade
of white greed,
or a mouth that names itself
true to its promise
without our permission
that says i’m sorry, that you feel that way
that holds its feet to an ember-less fire –
and here i stand in
your theatre of progress
where defiance is green soil you bottled
to protect your ghosts
that love to roam this stolen land
that you violently remember
to violently forget
listen i know that getting dumped feels like
every hand that pulled you from your bed
in the morning
stopped showing up to work
but i won’t make this struggle pretty for you
not marketable for you
not prize, ego, polish, or triumph,
i’m busting the stained glass windows
with my beloveds.
and if gratitude is virtuous
then let me be
the most complicated sinner,
let me bite the hand
that misleads me
let me name the ones i choose
in your stead
let me water their spirits here:
pauli murray
don ogilvie
henry roe cloud
sylvia boone
maria tall chief
glenn dechabert
armstead robinson
phyllis wallace
maria marta chavez
don nakanishi
and praise this rise to knowledge,
praise this spit back in the face of your puppetmaster
praise the rejection of your false utopia
and praise the tired breath
that says
i’m doing just fine without you.


photo by Alex Zhang