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Swallow
 

after Aimee Nezhukumatathil

I don’t mean the bird nor what
it does to insects mid-flight,
not what’s done with pride
mid-fight when hook inflicts
square on zygomatic, not what
lovers say to one another, mid-bite
into midnight two (or more) dark
bodies cluster thunder into open
mouths want of ache. What I mean is
what I do in 8th grade when the 80ish
Polish grandmother at my parish’s
fish fry asks with haddock breath, “Are you
Middle Eastern?” When I say, “No,
I’m half Filipino,” she replies, “Oh,
that’s much better.” She walks away,
gets to leave the moment, but I don’t.
I take it with me to job interviews—
just as the Manila sun
really brings out the farmer tan in me,
body a sluggish drip of lightning,
over burnt pancake sky, any office’s fluorescent lighting
chiaroscuros my skin, darkens by lightening.
Maybe in my interviewer’s head lives
a homunculus 80ish Polish grandmother,
where she tempts the interviewer:

Ask if he’s Middle-Eastern. Ask if he can explain
what a hijab is. Ask if he needs a hijab to perform
this job. Ask if he’s Hawaiian. Puerto Rican. Polynesian.
Ask if he can locate Polynesia on a map. Ask if he knows,
what the first champagne mango of the summer
tastes like, its golden juices flowing over some farmer’s
cigar paper skin. Tell ’em we are an equal opportunity employer,
but reserve our right to distance him. Tell ’em
we accept his flesh the way two stunted lovers
sigh into one another. Tell ’em

swallow.

Geramee Hensley serves as the Director of Social Media for Winter Tangerine. His poetry has earned numerous awards and publications and most recently has appeared on a button-up made entirely out of rescued materials designed by Multitudes Studios.

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