Father

I know the knife is going to enter my child when I feel time slow. I know there will be an accident. The spatula slipping a little under the cutting board, the placing of the pan down on the pot holder, the levering of the spatula, the launching of the blade, Japanese-make, little dimples in the steel, loosed by the dumb circumstance of the world that got all of us to right here.

Nice Twitter

Anyway, around this time I read a story about a professor who got fired for his tweets about Israel. The college world is supposed to be leftist, supposed to be progressive, and I was in the process of applying for jobs in academia. My Twitter feed was just politics, Batman, the Milwaukee Brewers, and jokes.

What An Asshole

You said, “I love scallops but not shrimp,” and I thought what an asshole; I must sleep with him. You wore a blue shirt and pants too tight and those stupid-ass shoes and I drooled, I ached.

The Second Star

Marcus was plugging in our new alarm clock when I noticed his tattoo. He was wearing a thin white T-shirt and I could see the star, small and blue, through it.  

“What’s this?” I asked and swept my hand over his back.

“I’ve had it a week,” he said. He pushed the nightstand back against the wall. The new alarm clock still flashed twelve. 

Derby

Is it possible to unmeet? To miss each other by a second, to not fall into a unified step, your filthy black boots beside mine on a bush-lined street, summer berries falling and rotting at our feet, breath smoke in the crisp autumn cold? Is it possible to become strangers, again? 

Sheena

We had spring rolls and greasy noodles at a Vietnamese restaurant that night with a friend of mine by the name of Tammy who was always trying to seduce my girl. Tammy had a couple of cool blonde femmes in sundresses and heels with her who spent the evening acting like her groupies. Tammy used to own a gay bar in the French Quarter. Now she owns a crummy gift shop there, close to Canal Street, where it always smells like garbage and Daiquiri vomit. 

Guide to Bharatanatyam

Tapping is first. Tapping is always first, from the first infinity to the last. Tapping is the crux of dance and dance is the crux of life. Learn to tap, your guru says, and everything else will follow. 

BRAINDRAIN

Because bodies couldn’t cross the borders—bodies were unwanted. Bodies had disease and sweat and threatening biceps and strange-tongued languages, needed beds and jobs and maybe even women and lives, meant a future of preexisting bodies diluted by the sweat-flesh-stink-color of new bodies. No bodies. But what was okay, they said (they on the right side of the wall), was brains.

Sucker

She wasn't allowed to have candy, so she kept it hidden in her top dresser drawer. Her mother made her dress in church clothes whenever company would come, and each time Connie would sneak a taste. It became her silent sacrament.

A Possession

Menstruate. Watch the blood stain your sari, blooming outwards in a defiant whorl. Grab your hair by the fistfuls and scream expletives until your lungs swell urgently against your ribcage. Demand cigarillos and arrack from your husband, from your neighbors, from the anxious twist of a woman that brings you packets of milk every morning. Give in to convulsions, every three minutes or so. 

The Candle Farmers

We grew candles on our farm. It was always night. I carried embers in a copper bucket and trailed behind my mother. Under the candlelight, the ground was warm. I tucked my plait down the back of my dress. We walked narrow pathways through fields of candles. The glow hurt my eyes, so I looked up at the darkness and star blink. When we reached the empty plain, we dug holes and planted the embers. I didn’t know if my fingers were black with dirt or soot. 

Forecast 2035

They were selling air now? For all of Kai Li’s life, everyone has always worn breath regulators. They filtered out dust and pollution as you inhaled, and your exhaled breath was cycled back into the air. Only Kai Li’s nainai refused to wear one. She was stubborn and would wander the city without even a cheap surgical facemask on days when the smog coated cars in thick, black dust and you couldn’t see past your fingers if you held them out in front of you. “I’ve breathed Chengdu air all my life,” she’d say, “why stop now!”

Mudburgers and Gravy

Fat separating on the warm asphalt, deep-fried, steaming burger-broth glistening, the sugar-popped neon candy crystals from the service counter, just all of it getting under fingernails of sticky hands, sticky cheeks, sticky teeth. Biscuits in concrete-colored gravy. Lots of biscuits in concrete-colored gravy.

Spotted

Moles. Spots, dots, freckles, and beauty marks. I’m covered in constellations of them, enough to trace out a few copies of the entire Roman pantheon. Instead of the spotted camouflage of a leopard whose fur can mimic the fall of dappled sunlight, my spots only draw attention to me through the thicket of evenly stained bodies at a beach in New Zealand. Here, where the pasty skin of Scottish transplants collides with the warm currents flowing south from the tropics, my moles were enough of a distraction to elicit a warning from a stranger.

The Adjustment Period

I woke up one morning with no arms. I don’t mean the kind of waking up where you can’t feel them, where blood has caught somewhere and is now a steady thunder under your skin. I mean my arms weren’t there at all. The down comforter clung to my legs as I kicked at it, frantically rolling out of bed. Standing shakily, I looked at myself in my floor-length mirror, expecting blood, or oozing flesh in danger of gangrene. In place of my arms, however, was nothing. Just smooth nothing.

Mother to Daughter

She gon talk about your skin. And your forehead. Fat girls, they know to go for what’s obvious, round, shining like a bulb of refrigerator light. She’s coming for you like she do for that last slice of cake sitting there at midnight when the house is pregnant with slumber and sweat—say that.