self portrait as a do not feed the animal sign

An image of a sign on a fencepost. It is chipped slightly at the edges, but reads "DO NOT FEED ANYTHING TO THE ANIMALS."

the only things preventing me from slapping

a giant red do not feed the animal sticker

on my forehead is my pity-me charm and

my insatiable desire for noodles. long noodles, long

life. my life will be more infinite than words lashed to a page.

I slurp them from my spoon. it’s a secret not even kept

in my manila file that I can’t use chopsticks correctly.

I stare at two lines of poetry until they corrupt my hypothalamus.

telepathically, I order the author to feed me more.

they comply on the next page, white space a horizon,

words like hands outstretched to my tongue and tossed

to the back of my abyss of a throat.

a tall glass of chocolate pudding is friend-shaped,

not just because pudding is my favorite word. when I nibble

its ear, I roll it around in my mouth, brown body

in an undulating pink bath. by the time I’m nomming

on the tail, my legs have stopped jiggling. eating is

just a transfer of jiggle. I don’t bother washing the dishes.

the chocolate carnage grows stale in the sink.

I try to coax marshmallows into my concrete pen.

let’s be fluffy together, I say. it’s like a saying

I would get in yellow letters on a pink canvas tote bag. the label

says made in Japan in Japanese. I realize when the marshmallows

have rolled away that I’ve been talking to the clouds, a hallucination born

out of my starvation and excessive jiggle.

when my professor tries to talk to me on the first day of class,

I point to my graphic tee. it’s a picture of a panda with boba and ramen.

I get kicked out of the zoom meeting and surround myself with soft things.

round blobs on blobs. grubhub is blocked. doordash is down. my stomach

growls behind metal bars until a former friend of mine takes pity. he tosses me

a wrinkled gwendolyn brooks. she’s never seen again. while the police escort him

away and slap him with a $150 fine, they point to the sign on my locked door:

do not feed the animal


Hikari Leilani Miya is a Japanese Filipina American, 2019 Cornell University English major graduate, and a current poetry MFA candidate at the University of San Francisco who identifies with the LGBTQ community. She is the assistant poetry editor for USFCA’s literary magazine, Invisible City. Her poem has been nominated as a semifinalist for the Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize 2021. She has poems published or forthcoming in over a dozen literary magazines, such as Red Wheelbarrow,Chestnut Review, Eunoia Review, Cobra Milk, Survivor Lit, Macguffin, Litbreak, Jet Fuel Magazine, and Canadian magazine Fleas on the Dog.

She currently lives with her two snakes and disabled cat, but has a menagerie of other pets at home in the Central Valley of California. She is a behavioral therapist for children with autism, pianist, percussionist, and music arranger, as well as a competitive card game player.