Two Poems



we were nineteen and on the phone and he was telling me he
was in love with the blonde and I was telling him the Chinese
character for lamp looked like a small fellow eating fire.
I was watching my aunt place jujube dates atop newspaper
pages, positioning each tart body equidistant from the other.
the windows were open. light tenderizing the fruit to small
shriveled darts. the muscle between my thighs: emptied
of song. we were nineteen and I was in my aunt’s apartment
with my skirt hiked up, reading a Chinese newspaper.
I was lazily tracing my finger over lamp, 灯, 灯, 灯,
trying to get better. pretending I was a fellow
swallowing fire. my aunt slid the dates from the paper
to a red bowl, then boiled a kettle of water.
I asked him to tell me about it: a long blonde
love, even though my ears did not want to hear.
my aunt stirred the dates with star anise, steaming
them with brown sugar. we met on a bus, he said.
the dates were medicinal. drinking them made me feel
crisp and fragrant with hope. some day he would come
around when I stuck my head out the sun roof
of his car and twisted towards the light, begging it
to enter. some day he would cup my face in his hands.
some day I would pull down my pants only to find the blood
sticky, a red wet jelly and say, I can’t, it’s that time of the month
again when the dates trained their eyes on my abdomen
and pulsed out a red muck of stars. for now I raised the phone
to my lip. he was talking about the bus, her hair, thickets.
my aunt placed the bowl in front of me and made a spoon-like
motion with her wrist. what do you think? he asked. of longing. of
hot water firing down a throat. my body hoarding its own
blood. should I go for it? he asked. I’m sick, I said.
and chugged. and chugged. and chugged.

let me begin again.    nineteen,                in love.

I was a small fellow    eating.       jujube dates.

drying out.      a longing. tracing.              my finger

over                  that muscle between   my thighs

and water.                     brown               sugar.

stirring             my body,          begging it     to get

better.               god, what did                         she do

to make the blood       stop coming?

my aunt                         asked to

nobody, her                  eyebrows       creased towards

the sky.                          my ears did not                                   want

to hear. I stuck             them    out the sun

roof of                the car to the               eastern

medicine doctor’s,        where               he read my pulse,

prescribed medicinal dates       and water.       I was creamy

with hope.        red muck            of stars             to line my

underwear.       my abdomen                               thick

with ghosts.      I took                  the spoon

and fired            liquid   down                   a throat.

someday I would                            be older             and still

hold my             breath every time

the blood.                some day           I would

position         myself          equidistant        from

a lamp,           a star,          pretending         I was made

of better        stuff, light and darts     and jelly.

for now, that time       of

the month          again:           spoon-feeding

myself                 dates soaked in water. longing

for the blood to drop out, for the body to

remember itself:           a hot

mammal                                       twisted by

absence                           and sugar.

Carlina Duan