A Careful Measurement

It’s all I can do since you stopped writing to me
to recreate your image in a story
in which you are as tall as you ever were
and as sleek with the same bushy hair
but I’ve added some embarrassing skin afflictions

you are trotting across a country road in the rain
and to my credit, I don’t let any cars hit you
there is nothing but thunder and lightning
striking through the gravy of a sky
with the consistency of porridge
I have surrounded you with this setting
as a suffocating, lonely blanket
the mud staining the bottom of your skirts
and all the cows and horses in hiding
somewhere warmer than you will be able to find
until several chapters later
the scene is lumpy gray with mud and clouds
both splashing and infuriated
then, as you are running, your heel breaks

that is exactly how much I hate you today

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The Last Reunion

i was always egg shaped

hunched over a book

with my knees drawn to my chest

i never left an impression

on my own small section of this country

not more than the hoofs onto the pasture

on a hot, dry day

left by the animals of my neighbors

who i could never identify

let alone name

 

but she left an impression

like ten bulls when the field was muddy

our local newspaper even wrote

an article on her and all the local diners

hung it in glass or laminate

and i went as her date

onto my own street

towards the swings

away from my family

 

i told her, let’s not stay out too late

and then, when she got caught up

with all of our high school bullies

who have apologized to her since

but never me, i got drunk

and i hooked up with two of them

consecutively in the back

of their pick up trucks

 

and when she found me

it was just like then

she kissed me good night

and tucked me into my side

of her bed

 

Oh, say! does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

It’s not the first time a guy

has broken out into a patriotic song

after fucking me – but it is the first time

that song was American and i could sing along

 

I left South Korea for this act of banality

the crying in the bars at the television broadcast

the gestures of sports, which i still dont understand

but the privilege of being able to stop someone

in the street and perform a citizen’s arrest

the right to know what’s wrong and what isn’t

and at times such as this, to feel truly patriotic

in a land, which otherwise, is so disappointing

 

but it’s good to know you and for you to know me

it is an act of intimacy, otherwise i wouldn’t have just

finished coming- i had a dream that you were stationed

in South Korea and i was visiting. I had a warm honey tea

from the seven eleven and then i asked if we could leave

because that country was so alienating – i just want to be me

i am finished representing every single american each time i sing

 

Why did you chase the cat?

“Listen, where I’m from, stray animals

are fair game for pets just so long as

you can catch them and we all had the scars

to prove it but not all of us had the pets

My father was a legend

in his apartment complex for ingeniously

catching a kitten with Kentucky Fried Chicken

instead of milk, which is what all the other poor

lonely saps were trying. From then on, her name was Midnight.”

“Ok, well this isn’t the country.”

“Oh please, and the next thing you’ll be telling me

is to throw out all my garbage with the trash

instead of making barnfires

with the more flammable things.”

“Well, actually…”

“Whatever. Maybe you just don’t get it

or don’t deserve a good country girl like me

who knows a free pet when she sees it.”

“I grew up in the country!”

“Oh really? Did you have to draw your water

from the well and heat it up on the stove

making sure you saved some colder water

so it wouldn’t be scorching and then

filled up a camping bag and hung it up

in the peg in your shower just to get clean?”

“No.”

“Ok, then. So I guess some tolerance

is in order. And  by the way?

When I was growing up,

I didn’t get cell phone reception, either.

I had to walk uphill in the snow-”

“Both ways?”

“No, shut up, just one

to get internet to chat with my ex

and the tears would freeze to my face.

Do you know how old i was?”

“No.”

“I was sixteen. and do you know who

i was living with?”

“No.”

“Not my parents! And do you know what?”

“What?”

“I would’ve taken any pet I could catch.”

“Ok, you win. You got your rabies shot, now come to bed.”

“I’ll go to bed when I’m good and ready-”

“Please?”

“Yeah, ok.”

Maybe the Country

When I walk past, I realize I’ve walked

much too close to him, he could graze me

as casually as he samples the bars

this city has to offer-much too close

to my apartment. and im alone

it’s a mean, dark parking lot

my eyes scan a muscle bound chest

i’ve miscalculated the situation

my heart is pulsing into my neck

my jaw tightens-and i think

if i was a different woman

my heartbeat might quicken

for different reasons

but i find the nightlife

terrifying

I think, again

about moving

which moves could

i make to get past

this person

and how much

safer would i feel

elsewhere

Thursdays in a Foreign Country (Korea)

Tell me again about Syria
i think of asking
my ex boyfriend
before realizing, again
he never spoke much english
and wasnt even
my boyfriend

once a week
on thursdays
my mind erased
two years of it
as i mumble that
i wasnt really dating
during that period

one or both of us
would cry
after fucking
he’d get too drunk
to talk about
his country
id get too drunk
for anything
he’d kiss my forehead
and tuck me in
he’d leave me sleeping
soundly

one monday
i came home
and saw him
laying in my bed
i walked in
cocked my head
quizzically
and asked,
“What, is it
Thursday, already?”
“They’re all dead.”
he moaned. “What? No.
What happened? Tell me.”
I remembered my arabic
and spoke it.
he stayed
very quiet.

after that
i let him
come closer
i trashed
my thursday only
agenda
Sometimes,
we even ate together.
but he never
slept over
he couldnt
stop thrashing
for long enough
to let that
happen

i wonder now
if i loved him
i guess it doesnt
matter
everything from
that country
is shattered.

Ungrounded

The Chinese smog swirled in
long before I immigrated
with the blue Korean skies
to form the gray white dome
that locked me into that country
to capture a picture
of me, cowering,
and turning my face away
from American politics
to gaze into the waves
of the ocean that could topple me
and being shaken, instead,
by the North Korean bomb tests

I tell my friend,
“I was safe there, I was happy.”
and she says, “That isn’t true,
though, not really.
You’re just romanticizing
because you feel lost
and you think maybe
it will help you
not to cry so much.”
She remembers everything
and is grounded
while my memories shift
and swirl continuously
casting a new light
on each country

I hear cicadas in my ears
from my Puerto Rican engagement
I tilt my head
but they won’t escape me
I hear the prostitutes calling
from a haze of red lights in Thailand
and walk past it into a cloud forest
on the Nicaraguan mountains

i keep thinking
“Is this true? Is this happening?
Is this my home country?
Can this really be our president?
Are we safe? What will happen?”

I look up and I’m domed in
these American skies
are as white today
as that old pollution
I look down
and I see my knees,
shaking