for the young who ask, “How did you learn to like yourself?”
There are glaciers, imposing, yet shrinking.
There is the iris, violet sky cradling shards of sun.
The white Bengal tiger, snow and black ink.
Infinite reasons I could give for gladness,
though none may salve the wound from which
your question arises, how to be glad to be alive?
Stitch your heart’s fissure: recall family, friends,
a slap, cigarette burn, the rod, something smashed
down, or welled up in your darkened pupil.
Turn outward: two A.M. streets, the creeps in cars,
the chaos of human folly delivered by calm,
coiffed news anchors. The wound is within you
and not. The answer within you and not.
Want, comfort, desire, love ought not be wounds.
We pine for them from our first wail,
what you must give and take, till no voice is left.
Copyright © 2023 by Johnson Cheu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.