Chain Migration II: On Negations and Substitutions

Not the tamarind. But instead
lemon, though sometimes lime.
Not nipa mats on floors for beds
but rather frames that chime

when running hands through oak spindles.
Never your thickest coat
for winter. Parkas, a must! Kin
sends discards, clothes to float

you through the season. No soy sauce?
No problem! Worcestershire
salts the tongue in equivalence.
No coconut vinegar?

Sometimes white will do. Its sour
flavor pushes us through
the recipe. Sometimes it’s our
expectations we screw

into a tighter face. Sometimes
what home is…isn’t that.
Adjust the thermostat to nine
degrees past. Habitats

don’t bend to our aftermaths. No.
There are, instead, some swaps—
a roof over our heads. And now?
A self to lose? A trap?

The gamble of the recipe
is salt and sweat, the wrong
of it. The parts necessitate
a flavor test. Too strong?

Then let’s behave, hide our features—
distrust the place and stare
long into the TV’s ether.
Lose words into the air. 

Reprinted from The Diaspora Sonnets by Oliver de la Paz. Copyright © 2023 by Oliver de la Paz. Used with permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.