Poems: MICHAEL CHANG

freedom 18

That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.” — Death, in The Appointment in Samarra

my therapist says i look very tense, i say have you seen the clowns i work with⁠, three stooges⁠, and a GOAT, transcendental oriental. i give up the confederacy for some bubble tea, my comfort, my carnage. verse daily does not mean what i thought it meant, germs of desire, show me the goods, mucinex monster, stop putting boys on pedestals, boys are shit, we’ve heard enough from them, dirty grunts and quick tempers, they need to be quiet for millennia. they compliment my almond eyes, do you know how much water it takes to grow an almond, i am chaste and blushing, cute cute cute, kawaii kawaii kawaii, put this on, they zip me up, they say i can be cool & cute, i say you mean like sweet & sour pork. they don’t know how i live, they short-circuit my time machine, they jinx my rabbit’s foot, they pin me to the wall, they break my skin with their incisors, their vestigial wings twitching, their legs thrashing, they kiss up and kick down, they tinker with my machinery of death, they siphon my humanity like enron, their concern only a hoax, angels dancing on a pin. unmoored from the ground, untethered to reality, they fit in my curved palm, much too young, their seed modest, bitter nectar sloshing in their mouth, they practice their pout, fix their handsome bangs. i turn the tables, for once i ask a whiteboy, can i touch your hair, he leans in and i am in the chapel reciting our vows. orchids remind me of singapore, and sean, he is a financier now, can we pick up where we left off. still, sorry, i wish i could but, these boys build cathedrals, their mouths taste like whiskey and rocky mountain oysters. all is forgiven.

 

the category is . . .

if you wrote a letter to someone living in the future
would it just be a list of swears
if you look away from my poetry
are you looking away from me
if you want my charity
will you pretend i’m married to mika hashizume
my hero is the only one who can quell my hunger
the poem i wrote about you
the one your wife didn’t like
ended up in the new yorker
brah
somebody told me that fish don’t know when to stop eating
so they keep going until their bellies burst
i guess i am like that too
brah
真金不怕洪炉火
(true gold fears no fire)
hand on hot stove
is this love i’m feeling

 

i-81 hamster wheel

soft animals
rat race
badger in a hurry
mole not far behind
declassified dog photo
burn notice an orange peel
simmering pot of chili
tuna melt dreams
fight song
stuff of nightmares
pale bodies of summer
stripped to nothingness
free of worry
training wheels off
wind in my hair
i get a bad rap
shadow-boxing
replicant in repose
inadequate witness
unreliable lover
lese majesty
how was i supposed to know
i’ve been with you all along
unanswered questions
block out the sun

 

between two evils, i always pick the one i’ve never had before
—Mae West

you were an omen afraid to be seen, replete with
disguises, cloak and dagger, master of camouflage,
committed and burning intensity, evading the gaze of
others, prevailing community standards, evolving
standards of decency, nervous around dump-trucks
and landfills, coarse walls and cruel thorns, pushing
yourself off a cliff, never waking up in time to greet
the morning rush, your feet killing you, god’s dice,
squirrels with souls, gross strawberry yogurt, white
girls dying over spring break, whiteboys special,
especially the kind ones, you were a hedgehog and i
was a fox, i the multitalented one, you claimed to do
one thing well, i wondered what you thought your
one skill was, what does the fox say, double
consciousness, nurtured and cultivated, million-dollar
bonsai in a one-light town, lucille clifton said that
everybody needs both windows and mirrors in their
lives, mirrors to see themselves and windows through
which to see the world, miss lucille was talking about
race, you said our house didn’t need windows,
because everything you desired was right there, i
wondered if this revelation meant you were cheating, i
said your best quality was between your legs, distance
frothed into wanting, the first cut is the deepest,
rubbing salt into the wound, deep state totally
invested in our love, all your base are belong to us,
neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night
could keep you from beer, wings, and fully-loaded
skins, religious, you rattled off the rules but broke
them, you possessed a photographic memory but
preferred to forget, sprawled out on my bed, looking
cute and vulnerable, lying through your teeth, you had
performance anxiety, sensitive, curious, and
voyeuristic, usually about my musculature, not sure if
i was more disappointed when you said hillbilly elegy
was a good book, or when you admitted you thought
ayn rand made sense, you said all of our love, could fit
in a tiffany box, you meant this in a good way, i said
so can a turd, you kissed me, fighting for attention,
you said life boiled down to, what have you done for
me lately???, i laughed and laughed, because you were
the most generous person i knew, is the pope
catholic, ten commandments, happy maze, tenderness
and faith, real talk, beautiful misunderstanding, bare
and complete worth, resigning to fate, giving in to
temptation, finally, unabashed, limitless consumption,
rituals surrounding death, elaborate and exhausting,
first, stone fruit, fig and honey, sage and thyme, next,
chrysalis, formaldehyde, dirt, and poison, then,
frosted breath, chalky terrafoam, and the sound of
silence, bad poetry, rupi kaur, empty calories, tainted
water, denial a surprisingly effective coping
mechanism, only, much later, happily ever after

 

MICHAEL CHANG (they/them) hopes to win the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant one day. Michael strongly suspects that they were born in the wrong decade. A recovering vegan, their favorite ice cream flavor was almost renamed due to scandal. 

Their writing has been published or is forthcoming in Q/A Poetry, Yes Poetry, Typo Mag, Wrath-Bearing Tree, Bending Genres, Heavy Feather Review, Cabildo Quarterly, Neon Garden, Yellow Medicine Review, The Conglomerate, Kissing Dynamite, Little Rose, Milk + Beans, and elsewhere.  They are the proud recipient of a Brooklyn Poets fellowship.  

They poet to feel alive.

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