In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,
you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him
about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.
They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend
the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?
I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair
of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.
My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,
isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend
Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.
Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns
to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like
this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother
more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is
already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.
While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation
clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid
in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,
& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me
what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily
talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets
slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.
Remind me, he says
to our family.
Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I’ve been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.
Poem II from “Twenty-One Love Poems,” from The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974–1977 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1978 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
A bird, a bee, a sycamore tree, I’ve never been as strong as anyone thinks—there were times when, of course, I cried—at movies mostly, at television shows, those fictive lion’s ribs and honey, releases, built to house feeling so it is shameless. I am shameless as in I've run out of it. I always pictured Delilah as a man— combs alchemized to a gold men tempt me— and I understood Samson as a fiction— unconvinced of masculinity— so I felt him, I felt him as Delilah did. lung, unbreathing, sweet.
Copyright © 2018 by Trevor Ketner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I know I’m godless when
my thirst converts water into wasps, my country a carpet
I finger for crumbs. A country
my grandmother breeds
dogs instead of daughters because only one can be called
home. I am trained to lose accents,
to keep a pregnancy
or cancel it out with another man. My tongue is
a twin, one translating
the other’s silence. Here
is my lung’s list of needs: how to hold water
like a woman & not
drown. I want men
to stop writing & become mothers. I promise this
is the last time I call my mother
to hear her voice
beside mine. I want the privilege of a history
to hand back unworn
to grow out of
my mother’s touch like a dress from
childhood. Every time
I flirt with girls, I say
I know my way around a wound. I say let’s bang
open like doors, answer to
god. I unpin from
my skin, leave it to age in my closet & swing
from the dark, a wrecking
ball gown. In the closet
urns of ashes: we cremated my grandfather
on a stovetop, stirred
every nation we tried
to bury him in was a war past calling itself
one. I stay closeted with
him, his scent echoing
in the urn, weeks-old ginger & leeks, leaks
of light where his bones halved
& healed. With small
hands, I puzzled him back together. I hid from
his shadow in closets
his feet like a chicken’s,
jellied bone & meatless. His favorite food was chicken
feet, bones shallow in the meat
When he got dementia,
he flirted with my mother he mouthed for my breasts
like an infant
We poured milk
into his eyeholes until he saw everything
neck-deep in white
the Chinese color
of mourning, bad luck, though the doctor
says everything is
genetics. I lock myself in
the smallest rooms that fit in my mind, my grandfather’s:
a house we hired back from
fire. So I’ll forever
have a mother, I become a daughter who goes by god. I urn
my ghosts, know each by a name
Copyright © 2019 by K-Ming Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.