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
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.


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.