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Even After: Two Poems by Janelle Tan

lord, please gift me that same wonder. / to pause hunger for a larger suspension

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday
March 2, 2021

Even After

the dead bat in the hallway –
wings folded, shriveled on its side, the year we greeted
bats with terror and asians with diseased and spit.
even after a car turned burning meteor
in the FDR tunnel, the smell of rubber on fire
dispersed seven blocks. in trying to contain smoke
the day before the election, everyone i passed turned
futile. as the bat was buried across the island of manhattan
where it flew through a window for warmth,
the heat drying out its small body –
the Q train holds its breath like snow
on the manhattan bridge. a man with white hair
and newsboy cap watches the city stopped through glass,
his sandwich with a big bite in it.
lord, please gift me that same wonder.
to pause hunger for a larger suspension,
what we call hunger i know to be seeking
satiation larger than simple desire.
on the platform at atlantic, even before grief
we anticipate, a man sells chocolate bars
for a dollar. two men and their steelpans
out of sync with each other
and the music play dionne warwick.
what hope, to be singing
while a tunnel is burning –
forgive me. i see in everything
the immigrant habit of clearing out
wonder as we make way.

Sestina for My Younger Self, Who Only Wanted to Move to America

i cry.
winter night spiders our stained sheets,
lost and searching for light
in shadows across bare feet.
i arrive at the end of flight –
america sulfurous and dry.

love, the orchids in your backyard dry,
you come up the narrow stairs, a flight
into our sheets.
in the lidded doorway, you bare your feet,
standing in a square of light.

my mother’s eyes fill with watery light.
winter with all its dry.
america cracks with the backs of my feet,
every passing siren a mother’s cry.
our arms country lines, bisecting sheets
like paths of transatlantic

in my red-eye flight,
mountains apricot from cracks of light.
our knees in rabbit-print sheets.
home and here both marrow me dry.
this is what you want – why cry?
you throb against me, feet to feet.

snow around my feet
means i am alive. there will be another flight.
in brooklyn, another abbreviated cry,
another body shattering like light.
america, keep me dry –
let me keep warming crumpled sheets.

suppose we never leave these sheets –
feet to feet,
heated, dry.
suppose i never get on my homebound flight –
just lay here, watching dancing light –

i might get to keep hearing my mother cry