Poetry / December 2017 (Issue 38)

Two Poems

by Nicholas Wong


If, like the saying goes, it's that we're lovers
in the previous life that makes us father
and son in this one, perhaps I didn't love you
enough. When you gave a few push
on mama to give me manhood by giving
me a prostate, you also gave me a natal chart
and some bones to break in the year of fire.
Then you sold your yellow Beetle, told
me yellow is a homophone of your last name
and mine. There's no gold. Maybe I feet
head no good
(brought bad luck). Still, you gave
me a surface to be licked by teenage tongues
then I knew it's called skin. You gave
me a face I couldn’t revert effortlessly enough
to avoid mistakes. That night you found
my prostate supplements and my needs,
I wanted to ask about how much the Beetle
repair would have cost. I'm used to waking often
enough with the desire to repair my bladder.
So many nights I went back to bed and heard
you open your bedroom door to do what
I just did. I forgot how you parented
yourself. I should decide for you. You didn't
ask about my grades or my life, I named
your representation for you. I called it Self
-Portrait as Typos, then I knew I might
not be any different. At Immigration,
I clarified that people like us had last names
first and first names last. Inheritance wasn't
truly linear if I experienced what you did
but was unspoken. I gathered as many balls
of socks from home and hoped your feet
would be warmed in hospital. I heard
you say please in bed and I found requests
not pleasurable to make and remake.
You left your beans on the plate as if to
contemplate on the history of beans.
I liked you said lei ah yeah (your grandpa)
not to make a familial reference, but to curse.
No good my lungs lei ah yeah, you said.
Then I remembered virus in cartoons always
looked irregular. Curses were an immodest
form of childhood; you used it at your own
risk. Then you cleared your phlegm cleared
your phlegm cleared your phlegm. You still
didn't ask about the men I brought home,
so I didn't tell you I was sisterly polyphagic.
TV said K Pop was happy virus and the males
got pregnant in the seahorse world. So much
phlegm bloating in your lungs. You took
your pills when I watched animal programs
and learned that representation was hierarchical.
Ugly fish was often accompanied by oriental
music, while dolphins swam in an ocean
of orchestra. It's Bark (Bach, you meant).
Then you cleared your phlegm cleared it
and it, when I took my supplements. Bodies
of inheritance. We didn’t dance. Our organs
did. You asked me why I pulled out tissues
from a paper box as if from the center of you.



after Umbrella Revolution (2014–?), Hong Kong

This is the year the old ones… leave us alone on the road

*           *             *

An umbilical cord grew after it was cut
a swerving, a moving-on

*           *             *

The taste of childhood
no longer whole

            That you kept disclosing it
did not mean your tongue could thicken

the phrase the unrest singing

*           *             *

The year Margaret Thatcher was elected, she was elected
The year Margaret Thatcher was elected, people began
                      panic buying oil
The year Margaret Thatcher was elected, history was tossed
That she was elected tussled with your city's umbilical chord

           a swerving
The year Margaret Thatcher was elected, you were born

*           *             *

This is how I was captured: a crude silhouette, said your childhood

*           *             *

So much sense of achievement in giving
birth, as in delivered, peached, perpetuity

             There was passivity in being a mother. Being yours
she paused, dreaded, as if she knew the rest
of your life would be spent
                                 with insistence on the how rather than what with men

                                                                                                    Those men

*           *             *

You decided breakage was a form
of re-knowing her, and her hand
thudded into a rhetoric repulsive
to your feet

: never applicable to the action called coming home

*           *             *

From a cab, you watched a street sweeper make a living
Her fingers were looking for a surface to throw themselves
into chaos. Each sweep, each attempt in clearing the silt
and dry leaves, the hay of her brook split

*           *             *

Your boyfriend named his campaign
"Led by Her." The phrase is in the public domain. Free for use

This was your longest relationship with women

*           *             *

                                  When you were born
your mother rested her finger on your face, the lip-colored
           leakage. Suspense—
Wasn't giving birth also a kind of removal
a handing-down, a succumbing-to

*           *             *

A rhythm. You kept listening
           to the broom of the street sweeper
                      It was more rhythmic

than your mother's spatula clattering
           the greasy wok. Corn
                      soup with eggs, burger steaks

The taste of childhood was no longer whole

*           *             *

The flaw of house chores was the reliance on tools with handles: brooms, woks, shields

*           *             *

You had problem sleeping. A kiss was not a way to focus

*           *             *

To re-know her, you could not avoid the connectedness
in the days that followed. The sunsets. The many things.

Hyphens were cuts, a hewing to thinking

A wave of annoyance. The many things

*           *             *

Her womb was not warm, did not hold you long
                                enough for a natal chart
           that would land you beyond the reflection

                    of luck. Her uterus
clogged with blood, mucus. The fluids—
                                 not a problem

The fragility of their tension was. Always transitory

                                   to breakage, your face, a counter-surface

*           *             *

(Hyphens were cuts, a hewing to thinking)

*           *             *

Your chart said your biggest luck in life came
between age 0 and 10, during which you had the most
whimsical pencils, the least troubled school bags

*           *             *

Accuracy? Go on, then –

to write about the tragedy of this body

Editors' Note:
An earlier version of "Intergenerational" first appeared in Grist.
Sections of "Opposite of Home" first appeared in Sublevel.
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.