The nightly news clings to the wall like mold.
Spores tumble about the air, headed straight for my mouth.
It is easy to be nice to someone, my mother says.
Like cutting a block of tofu in half.
No gristle, no grit, no fat to chew through.
And yet: this country full of fear, my heart full of fever.
When people walk past me, they spit up their lunch.
I speak to you from this crack in the sidewalk, absorbing the spit.
Maybe I want nice things: napkins instead of toilet paper.
A rat after a soak in a mountain spring.
A glass of honey water in full health.
I lurch forward, a virus blooming in my bones.
Magnolia and marrow.
A fire burns in the rain, miles away.
The embers swim about like bees in the back of our throats.
My mother tosses our secrets into a well.
She lets them rot over with moss and ant shit.
The house is dirty on the second floor.
Why clean what no one cares to see?
In the evening, crows walk along the roofs of cars, deliberating.
In the morning, I pull hair from my mouth: my mother’s and mine.
Thin black snakes in the flour bin.
A storm passes through my hometown like a late parade.
Confetti on a slug is not as welcoming as you would think.
I raise my arms to the sky and begin loitering in the air.
The crows have reached a decision.
They declare: leave any country that has a name.
On the news, the word “enemy” is repeated so many times, it rises to the top of a mountain.
Enemies softly gather in the clouds, cumulus.
What is the use of shouting when no one looks you in the eye?
Today, we can be forgiven for so many things.
Like mistaking my name for another, for vice, and vice versa.
I know it is a luxury to not know what your army looks like.
The army could just be a field of dandelions.
Under which flag do we gather such bouquets?
I think: if only I can find my father’s left lung, my missing family members, that extra ration.
Everything will be whole.
And yet: the fluorescence of hospital trash frightens me.
In kitchens everywhere, potato skins are being thrown away.
Heaps and heaps of starchy blight.
To avoid suspicion, erase your genealogy one branch at a time.
In the evening, wash mud from your feet and pat to dry.
Welcome loneliness like a painting you never intended to look at.
Become an eye sore or a sorry father returning home to find the locks changed.
Keep changing the locks; keep the front door swept clean.
No ants, no beetles, no leaves blown in from enemies.
Countries away, a village drains a lake for carp.
Fish flap about in foggy water, percussive milk.
Tell me: is this my army?
Each day, the sun shaves itself away, sliver by sliver.
Diminishment reminds me that all bones must be removed from memory.
My aunt pulls a fish bone from her throat: no harm, no foul.
It is easy to be nice to someone, I tell myself.
Once, I watched a video of “The Ice Man” sitting in ice water for two hours.
Everyone congratulated this act of defying nature.
Why would anyone welcome danger into their lives?
The heat from a fox’s snarl rises.
At night, the undercarriage of a bridge loosens.
A butterfly crawls into a chip bag.
During a meeting, I overhear someone say: “I’m not that far from a criminal act.”
I pull my sweater over my head and back again just to feel a shift.
When my mother chased the man who tried to take her purse, what was she thinking?
Pure certainty, as tall as wheat we can hide in.
If revenge is an occupation, let our queen know where to go to work.
Light bursts above our heads, a prism of custard yellow.
But really: someone forgot to pay the electric bill.
Was it you? Our reflex: to ignore the knock at the door.
In this part of the country, there is no elm, no magnolia, no pretty, pretty begonia.
Crows kick up dust from the statue of a fat political figure in the square.
The ocean spits back a thousand dead jellyfish, glowing still.
If only I can find my lost language, my brother’s rotten molars, my missing family members.
I hunch over in caution, in wind as white as a wall.
Funeral white as white as a face drawn toward a coffin, a blanched butterfly.
How terrible, to have elegies already prepared.
How terrible, to get up and walk away from a life.
A life neither yours nor mine, and yet this sickness sprouting.
Dirt in the gut: the incomprehensibility of it.
How many people died during the Great Leap Forward?
A woman in the public library hushes me with her eyes.
Cumulous clouds form in the white.
I lob industrialization away from me.
Pots and pans fill the air like cherry blossoms.
I open my mouth as wide as a bridge carrying people carrying lumber.
Today, I read on the news that Chinese people are buying up fresh air from Canada.
I tell myself to breathe through my brain.
When he was little, my brother folded pieces of paper into a boat.
Migration as pulp, as bleached buoyancy.
What is the use of returning and to what?
At night, my mother stirs a pot of broth and her face smells like chicken bones.
I try to get close to her face, snout-close, but she swats me away.
There are some things I know I shouldn’t do.
I have trouble picking things up from the ground without biting them.
Death cap mushrooms, this raving beetle, one hundred dandelions.
Me: gnawing at the air.
My mother arrived in New York in 1983.
A worm rises from a head of cabbage, announcing its presence.
Goodbye oxen, goodbye sugar cane, goodbye dirt under the nails.
When no one looks, she picks up loose change from the sidewalk.
I ate an egg and cheese sandwich today and it fell onto my chest.
Embarrassment lessens when you get older.
No side step from the mud, no turning away from road kill and its soft clumped fur.
These days, I welcome the mere fact of it all.
Yes, there is a bucket full of batteries in the garage.
The truth is, you never know when something might be of use later.
My grandfather tells me he will die soon or: what is wrong with you, why can’t you marry?
In the future, people will say that I was so lonely, I married a phantom limb.
Silver crown, silver crown, silver crown, I sing to myself.
My body, this ever-growing mass: a sea cucumber and its ribbons of guts.
A boat bellows in the Puget Sound and I bellow back.
A bellow like slashing tires with my teeth.
A bellow to say: you think I am too quiet? Speak a little louder?
I snarl the sound into everyone’s face until they say they want no more: uncle, uncle!
My uncle died and no one told my grandmother.
Silence as a long, wandering sigh.
She was pruning a pear tree as the procession drove by.
To carry something you don’t want to carry.
Winter melons balanced on your crown.
It is easy to be nice to someone, my mother tells me.
If they don’t cross you first.
Horseradish held along the tongue is a good test.
Will you pass or fail or fall over trying?
I draw Xs in the air, in the route of bees I know to fear.