Poem – Fortune Cookies, Too

Fortune Cookies, Too

The son becomes the father
          when the father passes
your obligation becomes your life

We replace the old
     hardwood living room
          with thick gray carpet
it’s not an accident if you allow it

Katie’s waist thins over time
stretches mark the months
          Billy depended on her
make sure to caress them
     when you bathe

Mother spends the day with her grandson
     the sparkling boy waits
     to become a man
everyone loves you, she says

His first word makes Katie
     feel like a mother
his second muffled
     just too obscure

The cognac is to remember him.
everything else; habits over time
     never too much
just enough to keep warm.

He can’t be replaced
     she screams from the bathroom
          we’ll find him if it’s the last thing I do

The salt in her tears
     remind me to keep her
face on my neck
when she cries

Don’t try seeing around corners
     make slow wide turns
a moderate speed is key

His face blank when he sees
     his younger sisters
          distorted reflections of time
sometimes the experience
          is neither joy nor sorrow

Katies weeps as she squeezes
     and feels him all over.
make sure parts are not missing.


-Saechao

Poem – The Next Day

The Next Day       

As our language thrived
father faltered in his bed
trying to push his once strong thoughts
the noise
he succumbed to
the pitter patter
     beeps from machines
          sounds of the gong

My nephew blows into a fifty year-old
rhino horn for fun
delight
mimicking the old man
in flowing silks and flat linens
he hops around like a manic Easter Bunny
     pink and red and white
          flapping against the wind

According to records
he could have been fifty-five
the next day
but who knows

about the next day

she wakes and walks
into a room of smoke
smell of freshly slaughtered swine
the horror hidden when she sees
the lips of the creature, already puckered
     pursed for a devilish kiss

Shrill cry of the child
     ripping the room’s sheet of smoke
I hand my young nephew to her
the reluctant acceptance
he reaches right for her brown tresses
still ruffled from the cat nap

I almost felt bad about sleeping with her
the night before
we were quiet, almost motionless.  Breathless.
The unfamiliar room.
I wanted a new life
a replacement
someone new to love
the timing was wrong
it never happened

The words terse,
ensuring no slips.
Nothing wasted,
nothing given.
Guarding ourselves;
what can happen.

Oh, the memories.

The soundtrack the light provides
the clichés we avoid with might
we don’t want to make love
pushing the trap away

the scorn we possess

And we watched then waited.
And we talked then waited.

Driving through the hills
with the beautiful trees
dying again with their sunset foliage:
This exodus into the ground.

-Saechao

Poem – Wanderers

Wanderers

Looking for a place to settle
my Father walked me
     between the tracks
leading to the next town, our town
with a different name, familiar enough.

Trains push air under dust,
it is so dry, our breathing;
like eating dirt
from the earth.
It’s a drought, he says,
not looking at me.

Our destination
     is not visible
curves hide
          what we’re looking for
we see buildings
                        above treetops

Later,
Father pours Tennessee whiskey
     from his flask
onto my bee sting, Russian vodka
     into my shot glass;
we bond that way
          desecrating our bodies.

My Father talked
into the night,
     our loose rhetoric.
His stories’ morals
     I can’t live with
his heroes
               suffering
          less than he has.

I mumble his words to my wife,
     not verbatim,
          and in English;
I don’t remember exactly what he said.
My artificial intelligence,
     resident of a child’s closet,
remains untouched, unblemished.

-Xiong

Poem – To Jazz

To Jazz
A Conversation with Steve Davis

From the stereo system
someone unnamed from the Golden Age
     or so it seems
filters through the dancing smoke

Dueling trombones
     on rolling rocks of Pennsylvania
echo of
               glacier tympani in Yosemite

               Hear that counterpoint
Cats don’t play that way anymore
modern day baroque
                                  and most are broke

“Shit!  Man…no more like this, no more…
god bless ‘em.”

Sweet sippin’ gin to
milky singin’
hands, fingers moving
                      grooving with the break,
wrist slapping
hands clapping

Lace that shit,
it’s gotta stick.
Nothing’s too fast,
     Nothing’s too fast,
keep up, cat.

“You can do this,
      you won’t need a demo.”


-Saechao

Fiction – The Dragon’s Wok

Chapter One – The Dragon’s Wok
-Saechao

He catches me trying to slip out of the door.

In a game we’ve been playing since his third day home from the hospital, the difference now is he can chase me, albeit with wobbly steps.  Like always, he looks up, eyes questioning where and why I’m going.  At first, I stopped so he wouldn’t cry, though he had never given me any reason to believe he would.  Now, I want to be caught.  I want to explain the destination, to promise an early return, to kiss him on his forehead.

We meet halfway in the living room and I scoop him off the carpet.

He leans his padded cheek against my ear as we twirl in front of my mother.

Turning my head, my lips to his ears, I whisper words he has heard many times, a secret I hope he remembers.  Before too long, my restless mother asks to hand him over, and I kiss his forehead before holding him out to her arms.  I can feel them watching me walk out of the room and the front door.

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Poem – Migrant Burden

Migrant Burden

Migraine headache
     a migrant backache
          from father to son.
An American daughter-in-law
          our burden together.

Donna wears her emotions
on a flushed pale face
washed with ivory cream
     what she brings to the table
white rice
          mother taught her to wash and steam.

Her father and brother wonder
why I never finished business school,
but her mother is happy
her daughter is happy.

We drink red wine, Sonoma,
Sunday afternoons,
after everyone gets home from church;
sitting on the verandah
          watching working cars go by
speaking of Marx and Aquinas

they are intrigued
but don’t understand
     my religion
          something Donna picked up
when we met at Catholic school
      after late morning mass
I was studying alone
                    in my room
my father wanted a private education

I don’t show the pain
father says I have
                  a hard case, a soft heart
hidden from the people I know

especially Donna’s little brother
whom I gave shooting lessons
aim and technique—
elbow in, shoulders squared
—but no concentration,
unnerved easily
something his father detests

my son’s burden
a homeless father
telling him he needs to be home
by midnight instead of orchard parties
surrounding pumpkin patches,
where the girls are prone
to get naked and pregnant.


-Saechao

Poem – Aspirations to Become the Starbucks Poet

Aspirations to Become the Starbucks Poet

Before my father died, I told him
I wanted to be the Starbucks poet.
He laughed and said
that was a sure way to go broke.
Though relatively uneducated, he knew
$3.35 for a Caffé Mocha is rather inflated.

I was 20, a junior in college
with caffeinated blood
and nicotine-caked lips.

He asked if I would spend the rest of my life
writing about sunsets and doves.
No, poetry isn’t like that anymore…
	if it ever was.
“Great, now you won’t even get laid either.”

A poetry professor once told me that all poems have
a beginning, middle and end.
Did she mean birth, life and death?

Personally, I just wanted to sort words out
so they made a little bit of sense
when I scanned the page from left to right.
It became more complicated than I thought.

After my father died, I went through his things:
army fatigues, a stash of 120 one-hundred dollar bills,
his life savings all wrapped in silk and crisp from the mint,
stacks of religious books written in dead Chinese characters.

I was 21.
I took a summer course in Mandarin
to see if I could unlock the words.
The professor’s first lesson:
Read up and down and backwards.
I dropped after the second week,
the professor expected too much out of me,
the lone Asian in the class.

So, for a while, I visited as many different Starbucks as I could.
They were of all shapes and sizes,
but in their round logo, they all had the same green,
and the curvy chick.

Usually, I sat in a chair facing the bar.
It never ceased to amaze me
the amount of pretty young girls
willing to make my coffee to order.
Usually, I had the coffee of the day.

But, imagine a poetry book sitting on the shelves
with logo-clad mugs and baristas.
A marketing manager’s dream.
It’d make a killing,
especially Christmas
and Valentine’s Day.

My father was a small-time farmer
who woke with roosters and the sun.
He lived with cracked hands and leathery skin,
and when I was born, he wanted
a doctor or a businessman for a son.

Instead, he got a small-time alcoholic
with undisciplined money management.
But when I’m at a bar, I can still spot a farmer:
the ones with dust on their shoes,
and they drink beer and liquor, “neat.”
They’re honest and they shoot pool straight.

-Smith

Poem – Fortune Cookies

Fortune Cookies

My father speaks
before the family at the dinner table.
     [My mother provides the translations.]

Upon birth
I cried, coming out headfirst.
“Happy days are just over the mountaintop.
          The struggle has ended.”

She brings countless plates;
     frisbees with food for my American friends.
He eyes them and grins.
(Chew.  Don’t choke.
          Moderation is key.)

His face is flushed; blushing
     from the cognac.
A request.
Do we have any rice wine?
He smiles.
          “Soon, a lifelong friend shall be made.”

Katie wants a platinum ring with diamonds,
 not gold bars and a beheaded chicken.
“You have a strong desire.
          But wait, family interests come first.”

Je t’aime, mais j’adore mon père.
Oui, je comprend...
 mais, voulez-vous coucher avec moi?
It’s a romance language.
          (Fuck you!)  Aix meih!

In the foothills,
     the sun shines on the priest.
I do.
“Faulty confessions—
          are next to innocence.”
Yie mv hiuv.

During the holidays,
     our waists become thicker,
          the air becomes thinner.
“Hire a blonde secretary,” he says.

We eat Vietnamese take-out,
     splattering oyster sauce over the contracts.
She wears glossy lipstick,
          on her neck, a crucifix.

Katie sponges my father’s back
and lights sandalwood incense at night,
     burning my nasal cavity.
He whispers, “Your wisest counselor is you.”

Mother’s sobbing
     sounds like laughter
          when she forgets a word.
Katie holds her hand,
they stare through the silent crowd across the room:
          an uninvited stranger
                                            needs to be fed.


-Saechao