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mothers and fathers by Irene Hsu

 

(i)
of mothers and fathers. the ones who knew
how to keep oranges for weeks. how to unload
pineapples (with gloves, and sleeved
 
armfuls each pass). how to unload durians
for hours, and nurse
the cuts in a palm
with vinegar. how to make vinegar, jugs
at a time. how to make time. how to write
 
(ii)
a letter. how to write a character, a word
and phrases and stories
and letters. how to write a thank you letter
how to write a sorry letter. how to write
a letter saying please i’d love
my money back, or haven’t i given
you enough? how to write i love
you i love
you and isn’t that
enough? all done
 
without ink bleeding

through like spots on a rose. how to trim
a rose. how to care for a child. how to care
for a chicken. how to care, period. how to care
when on your period. what teas to drink. what roots
to boil. what not to boil–water. do not boil water
twice. if you’ve got twice-boiled water,
 
pour it down the sink.
 
(iii)
how to make sulfur bombs
in the sink. how to make sulfur bombs
without mom finding out. how to take apart the radio
without mom finding out. how to read a book
without mom finding out. how to know more than mom
without mom finding out. catch an insect,
 
make them race. learn to race,
to run, to catch the bus.
how to pack for planes.
how to say avalanche, avacado,
how to say your name. how to say achoo,
thank you,  when to say i love you. how love is not a feeling
but porridge in the kitchen. how love
is not a feeling but running
water in the kitchen. how love
is not a feeling but the whole family
 
(iv)
in the kitchen. learn to take apart
a kitchen, then to take apart an island. leave an island
for a country. leave a cold house
for another. leave a child
to come back for.
bring home a rose.
 

Irene Hsu was born to Taiwanese and Singaporean parents and grew up in San Jose, CA. She is currently an undergrad at Stanford University, where she studies English literature. Her fiction, poetry and journalism have been published in campus publications. At the moment, she is working on a group of poems about the assemblagist Joseph Cornell.

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