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on family

You’re sleeping so soundly it feels like a sin every time I move.

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday
November 23, 2021

Chinatown is Chinatown and the sound of summer is a million feet on city pavement. Next to me, you sit with both feet propped up on the coffee table. June has baptized us in grey smoke and block parties, pressurized showerheads running until our apartment is flooding over. The shattered shadows of fire escapes blur into the sidewalk, wind tangled in avenues of trees. You wrap the two of us in shadow and heat hits me like a blow to the back of the head. Before you drift off you ask me if my mother will ever come around to approving of the two of us and I cannot answer. I am wide-eyed, dreaming, liminal space tucked into my elbows and the crook of my knee. You’re sleeping so soundly it feels like a sin every time I move. The summer outside is pregnant with mourning and there is an airbrushed quality to the shadows on the wall. There is a girl, left eye drowsy, right eye wide, next to you and she is not me. Jiejie, I fell in love with a girl and it was as bad as you said it would be. Beyond the half-shuttered window, migraine lurks. The air is heavy with the weight of the heat. We undo the ribbons that tie our bodies together, set them to fluttering over bridges, and tied to street signs. For the hunger of living and staying alive, there is nothing better than an iced lemonade.

We sip watercolors through plastic straws and draw impossible futures in the dust of subway seats. At the cafe, the cashier looked strangely at our intertwined hands. Here, it is cool to do nothing. Windows gleam like the scales of spongey snakes, orange haze descending. Here, a quiet apocalypse. The buildings are straighter than teeth, whiter than milk, closets packed full of wishes for rain. Everything is stripped bare here with you and the lazy hum of the fan and my legs are sprawled over the edge of the bed and didi, you told me to get up and keep going but my knees are bruised and the asphalt is warm. Hold me a little tighter or I fear I may collapse. We can pretend like you still understand and you can hush my crying, gently, like you used to. Baba, the world is ending and I have never been what you wished me to be. I’ll smile like I can’t see the disappointment, you can play-act that the daughter in your arms is something more or something less, and mama, no one ever told you that you were the first person who ever broke my heart.