AT THE POETRY READING
I read the poem about my mother to my mother’s face. In the car,
on the interstate, in her 2006 Black Honda Pilot, she says you made me
look horrible. She says what an undeserving child. She tells me to feel
ashamed. We eat burgers and sea salt fries and drink pop in a Wendy’s
parking lot. She thinks the piece is embarrassing. She cuts that part
of the reading out and uploads the rest to Facebook with the caption
so proud. I lose my appetite. I just want to go home now. She wants to go
home but not to our home. Back to Cebu. Someday soon. This is what
she has said for the past 7 years. I wonder if she means she wants to escape
the life that she has built here. Escape me, this raised failure. I wonder
about what I have done to ruin her Dream. I wonder if she is disappointed
in who I have grown to be. I assure her it’s just a poem. I convince myself
I made half of it up. Pure fiction. No truth, means nothing. I stop listening
and look out the window to the flickering city. The lights of tall buildings
turning on. Off and on. Twinkling with uncertainty. I watch as the horizon
turns into a pastoral landscape. Into expansive nothingness. I see American
cows with American udders in an American field eating American grass
permeated by American chemicals. I see construction barrels and cell towers
and dented guardrails. I see churches of God, the outlet mall, giant billboards
about the billion-dollar Powerball. I wonder if she feels lucky or like
she has lost. I wonder if this is what she wanted. I wonder if she’s ever gotten
what she’s asked for. I wonder who she was before I was born. I wonder if
she was better off. I apologize. I’m not sure what for. Surely something.
I am sorry. Always sorry. The sky is orange and pink. I tell her the sunset
is pretty. Look at this beautiful bleeding gradient.
ODE TO THE LAST NAMES OF MEN I DIDN’T SURRENDER MYSELF TO
Even hyphenated it sounded
terrible. Thank god
I left. that I never knew him
enough to learn
his middle name or
his mother’s birthday or
if he’s bad at division.
Dodged a bullet
of slipping the band.
my living so much so
that my name
no longer was mine.
Saying I do
to becoming someone
that does not belong
to me, but him.
Saying I do
to saying goodbye to my
calligraphy and cardstock
on clothed tables.
Toasting champagne glasses
to the death
of one identity
the new. Thinking about
how it leaves
a strange and sour taste
in my mouth
when said. Spending
scrubbing my tongue
with a toothbrush.
The next day,
changing my Facebook,
Spotify, Panera Bread
accounts so that
they all align.
Informing the world
that the old me
is forgotten. I am
and from now on,
his. Good thing I gave up
before then. Good thing
I meant nothing
so that this never happened.
How I might have
contemplated the fact
that I’m one of the last
in lineage who carries
this title, and deciding
to erase it all. How easy
to obliterate history.
What a relief I was destroyed
early! The best
disappointment! I’m grateful
the day never came,
getting an envelope
in the mail from a
company I forgot
to update, coupons
to help me save. Seeing who
I used to be, and think
how silly it looked, wrong
almost – like
a mistake. I imagine
sobbing in his arms.
I imagine him
trying to tell me
HOT BUN HAIBUN
SESTINA WRITTEN AFTER HE FINISHED
Tw: Sexual assault
a boy tells me crazy, all my exes are half-asian. i find comfort. i’m not special, smile
at the thought until it oscillates into god, what a fucking
creep—weird—fetish. i wonder about their ethnicities and suddenly i feel
like the freak. i recoil. maybe he has a type. acquired taste.
maybe there is more of me to him than my face. his curious white hands
move up my tan leg. maybe they were also writers with a tendency
to overdramatize situations such as this. still, it’s strange, a sort of tendency,
sought out. i am frozen like a deer. i’ve been hunted not for my smile,
but flesh—gold skin, soft lips, long hair, surrendering hands.
he is not interested in my shark tooth collection. only in fucking.
not my favorite non-western novel. my last name pre-colonization. taste
in niche portuguese jazz. dreams. weekly procedures putting flowers in water to feel
needed, placing them by the soft patch of light on my nightstand. i feel
sad. i know what he wants. he thinks i’m a nice girl. i have a tendency
to fall for guys that don’t care at all. i ask about his taste
in music. he asks to strip completely naked. my smile
fades. he means bra on floor, body on display. he means fucking,
nothing else. i tell him i’m filipina. he talks about travel to asia, his hands
under my terracotta sweater. i think of a meat shop. a butcher with hands
bloody. lucky kill, hungry bellies. i imagine my figure that his fingers feel
like a land not his, territory he invades, that he does not care to learn—only to conquer—to fucking
claim. marrow and muscle. i am animal. he is animal. instinct, his tendency
to see someone like me as one in the same: nourishment, good time, shy smile,
skin to touch, obedient. he means take off my top. bare chest. tits. he means sit. to taste
me and swallow then digest then dispose then forget. he means only a taste of. balls deep for a night. not life beyond morning. i think of ohio countryside. my hands
shake. he is too bothered to notice. i think about ownership. his kind smile.
i think i think too much. i think this is supposed to be fun. a lot of times i feel
like i am not enough. morbidly, mechanically fortunate. he calls me beautiful. he has a tendency
to pet me like a street dog. askal. i think about desired domestication. about fucking
myself when i get home. i think about giving into submission, cell division. i fucking
said no. i think about every unfair stereotype of asian women. my bad taste
in men. about staggering rates of sexual violence against my own race. my tendency
to stay quiet and give into things because i believe i have no other option. we hold hands
as we walk to my car. he says get home safe, embraces me in his arms, in dark. briefly i feel
wanted. i feel the need to say thanks. i feel like i need to cry. i don’t. i think. i smile.