They are not surprised by me
either. We give our power away

so easily. It’s in the skies
and across the benches where

they sit, and it gets all over
their slacks. They love me best,

too, when I keep to myself,
already open and a season close

to silence. It was a sun pressed
against sun and I, at last,

was in the life that I deserved,
when beauty was a bough

so thin, no one climbed and broke
themselves. And I am not you,

but a sad human, holding
a camera, and the stream,

when we listen softly,
is too careful, clarifies:

An old pipe with handfuls
of water. No metronome, even

when man-made, was not used
to coax some small music,

even when not in joy. And I do not
click the jamb on my father once,

but enough for a symphony,
the beat on which we learned

to build survival. Our root hurt,
too, man-made. Who cleaned

my piano and thought it worthwhile
to keep tuned? My ear, ticking

and full of a bitter juice. Dogwood,
they touched with their tender,

trimmed nails, bodies like mine,
they said: they will be the new

solution, the clean coolie against
the dark. We will pay them and they

will be free. They do not want
these seeds in their garden now,

Dear Dogwood, when so many have
stepped out the frame. Lonely,

they veiled too to have control
and click and flash. Look

at their hands—who is holding them
now, as they learn to pry

themselves? Dogwood, I meant
to just take a photo of you. Forgive

my trespasses, my negatives,
but remember them. My ghosts

were asked to lay in their bed,
and so said: I am not like them

I am not. This is the blood I’ll leave
behind on bark to bark. Before

I may have been a paler girl,
belly full of chalk and moss,

swaying quietly to herself.


Michelle Lin is a poet, activist, and author of A House Made of Water (Sibling Rivalry Press). Her latest poems can be found in HEArt, Apogee, Powder Keg Magazine, and more. She has performed for Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture, grlhood—redefining the I // here I am, Litquake, and more. A former poetry teacher and editor, she works for API Legal Outreach. She is a Kundiman fellow.

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