Ocean Vuong, in search of the “new erotic,” guest-curates a portfolio of poems in time for Valentine’s Day.
February 14, 2013
[The boss has a band of people around her the way]
The boss has a band of people around her the way a band bends around her finger the boss’s husband calls her a Rottweiler a watchdog a powerful breed with guarding instincts and strong desire to control one day at a park I watched a Rottweiler chase a ball chase after me I ran the Rottweiler ran I jumped into the water the Rottweiler swam its mouth open forty-two rotting teeth tongue out I jumped from the water looked at my own wagging tail my Rottweiler top coat of black the boss behind me clothes dripping forehead wrinkles panting smiling putting her fogged glasses back on once there were films where people didn’t speak and we wanted nothing more even our hearts try to get bigger a hundred thousand times each day
(from The Boss, McSweeney’s Poetry Series 2013)
Writer and editor Victoria Chang earned a BA in Asian studies from the University of Michigan, an MA in Asian studies from Harvard University, and an MBA from Stanford University. Her collections of poetry include Circle (2005), winner of the Crab Orchard Review Award Series in Poetry, and Salvina Molesta (2008). Her poems have been published in the Kenyon Review, Poetry, the Threepenny Review, and the anthology the Best American Poetry 2005.
Light diffused through the blanket. I faced the rise and fall of my father's stomach and plunged my hand carefully through the elastic waist bands of his shorts, startled at how different his penis looked from mine: darker, not only the skin but the hair around it like tree shadows. Its head, a gravity-defying, moth-eating house lizard, had no flap of skin over it. How free it looked, powerful, shaped like a bullet, and instead of taking life, it gave life. I petted it. My father shifted to my direction and continued his snoring. Slowly, the penis rose as if it was absorbing the light, the air, my touch. It stiffened, flaunting itself as the center of the universe. I wanted my penis to be like my father's, the union of beauty and purpose, and five years later, on a thirsty July afternoon, he asked me and my brother to hurry up, he was taking us to the doctor for our circumcisions. I buttoned my pants cautiously as my sisters teased: They are sending you both to the butcher. My mother stood on the threshold and sent us on our way, the most important men in her life, her father many years dead. I held my father's hand, all two blocks to the clinic where I spread for the doctor, and thanked the inventor of anesthesia. I heard the snipping sound vividly, felt the smooth trickle of warm blood and the otherworldly contact of hard metal on skin. The relief of the operation's end was ephemeral. My penis resembled little of my father's: the flap removed, the head smooth and tender, yet it looked ragged, humbled, beaten, like a man down on his luck. When the anesthesia wore off, the throbbing pain seemed to be eating up my groin. My brother and I inched our way back home, our smiling father walking patiently beside us. How funny we must be to him, his minions bow-legged with what might as well have been egg shells in between our thighs. When the stitches heal, I thought, and when the raw skin has time to acclimate to the elements—air, touch—I will possess the potential. My father placed a hand on each of our shoulders, and there in the doorway, as if a painting in its gilded frame, was my mother waiting for her sons.
(from Imago, Cavan Kerry Press 2007)
Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Imago (CavanKerry Press) and the forthcoming chapbook, Subways (Thrush Press). He lives in Queens, NY and works at Columbia University. He co-founded Kundiman, a non-profit organization serving Asian American poetry.