we were to make
promises when we
are designed to break
apart, to find our simplest
form, to return to the thinnest
vibrating string. We begin as one
then the cord is cut. All we are are clues,
molecules glued, atoms aching to be small,
smaller, smallest. All the decades, all the pages
of calendars ripped & forgotten. Each day distills into
one moment, one night, one voice, fragile as the path through
red oak. One beer, one cigarette to share, both of us shivering. You
put your hand under my shirt. One rock smooth enough to sit. We both fit.
* * *
Festival of the Hungry Ghost, Hong Kong
Dragon boats still search for her—
the Empress who drowned long ago,
when stories changed
every time they were sung.
She was pregnant.
At least her ghost is not alone.
I couldn’t believe in the idea
of ghosts, even as the wind—
a press of calloused, real hands—
held my face. Belts of stars roared.
I spit over the ferry railing
to watch something sink.
What’s wrong with you? A small fire
blinked like code on the shore
as women burned fake money
to placate hungry, roaming ghosts.
In the hotel I ate so fast I burned my tongue,
swallowed dumplings whole,
stabbed chopsticks into the wine bottle
to catch the plum—a baby’s fist behind glass.
Everything looks perfect behind glass.
The bed was long and low—no pillows,
no blankets, sheet stained
from the drying line.
I bit your lip so hard it bled;
you flipped me on my stomach,
traced your thumb down my spine
like a fin tearing the skin of water,
tried to slide your whole fist inside.
At dawn I woke to someone leaving
a tray of moon cakes by the door.
Legend says rebels hid notes
inside each cake to foment revolution,
but how many were lost, eaten with tea?
Can you feel it, the moment
someone’s wish disappears inside?
* * *
Don’t apologize. Don’t preface. You’re not the only shy one—
the moon’s full then undresses then dresses
then wishes she wore the black top instead.
So what if you turn up to the party in shorts
after hitching a ride from Uncle Sy, when the others
don tuxes and park Alpha Romeos on the shady side
of the pool. The others lean against a piano
criticizing a critically acclaimed something
as you camouflage into a caterer,
lift the Jameson, and slip out the back door.
Admit it: You’d rather pool hop than talk shop.
You are talented...in the art of keying cars.
Pull up your hood, use your finger
as a gun and steal your own wallet.
Eat lying down then clog the sink with your thick syrup.
Get sick and dream a fever-dream spiraled
as a fiddlehead that gets eaten by a moose
then shot by a teenager and thrown into a pickup
bound for Who Knows Where, at least the sun is shining.
Tell yourself it’s okay to wear shorts, eat in bed, throw up,
to touch something—to bring your face close to it,
even the black barrel of a gun, hollow as a throat.
Anything hollow can sing.
It’s okay to sit alone, near the window,
and order whiskey,
with nothing to read,
and no one to read you.
* * *
Editor’s Note: “Festival of the Hungry Ghost, Hong Kong,” and “Shorts” also appear in the chapbook i would ruby if i could (Factory Hollow Press, 2013).