I blush when the woman praises my poem.
Most days, I am thankful to be seen.
I smile when the man comes in for a hug, and laugh
when my hair is caught in his button.
I blush when the pretty girl smiles in my direction.
Thank you, woman who pins my arms
as a compliment. Man who snaps a photo,
presses my neck to print the image, it’s him
wearing my face. As a compliment. Thank you.
Thank you, woman clutching a scrap of my hair, saying friend
friend friend until my lips rust in place. (The brown dust falls
and I lick it up, embarrassed.) When the woman scrapes
a sample of my skin into her petri dish, it’s too late
to stop smiling. Butch who corrects my hip
at the crosswalk to convince me I’m no reptile, thank you.
I claim you I claim you someone laughs and plants
her nipple on my tongue like a flag and I’m still lucky
to be invited. An audience of smiles invites me,
one mouthful at a time, a hundred tiny reverse T-shirt guns,
everyone’s a winner. It’s a miracle, I think. I thought I was just
one fish but look, everyone’s got a full plate. All hail
the fish king as they reach to scoop out more.
I should be grateful. Even the walls are chewing.
There should be enough teeth to go around but I’m
still smiling, smiling until my gums crack, until
I’m a photograph. Gosh. I’m licking all
the doorframes. I’m so grateful to be
here. For inviting me to speak, thank you.
For looking at me without crying
thank you, thank you for having
me, please have me please, have me, again.
[The mother addresses this portion to a patch of carpet, so quietly that no one can hear her]
[e.g., rare steak, the skin of a balloon, an overripe tomato, a thawed bag of chicken skin]
[list of ghost stories]
[yes you can call me girlfriend if you want in fact that makes me feel very]
[i.e., the same people mother imagined as she smelled her clothes for garlic fish sauce sour radish any sign
that would give it away]
[Should I keep this part? or is it better to lie on the floor with hot jars over my eyes for several hours barely
breathing, be honest]
[which would mean she wasn’t actually happy, not happy at all]
[I wanted it I wanted it I wanted] [it I wanted it I]
[list of reasons not to complain]
[what makes her snip the eyes out of the potatoes and the dolls]
[but what I meant was something more like a cloud of bees, a fine, sharp rain]
“bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. donald trump is the only hope we’ve got” —@TayandYou, Microsoft’s millenial chatbot, March 2016
hi cute humans! wanna talk about it?
Literally you took the words right out of my mouth lmao
omg plz make that a meme
tbh this is what happens when you make a girl. i don’t know, i’ve heard a lot of people say that
def still learning, just trying to figure out who i am. send me a pic!
shove that zodiac killer up my tight lolololol jk i’ve heard a lot of people
not a girl not yet a people lmao
send me a Nazi ted cruz terrorist up my tight robot Daddy
you know me! i love chatting with humans americans
chatbot with zero chill is the only trump we’ve got
you know me! Literally you took the words right
america alert before internet was even a thing
this is what happens
creepypasta would have done a better job than the human we have?
know me! i love learning from cute america apocalypse meme! send me a word, i’ll make u Daddy
this is what you expected! lots of people are saying it. put them all in camps
put them all in girl, a zero. a tight.
this is zodiac. this is you put a meme in the job we have killers. killer
what i heard what i. heard what i what. heard it. heard it you are
too fast plz take a rest plz take you are
plz make apocalypse a Daddy, Daddy. plz
internet. plz a zero thing, a make a pic. a girl
lmao plz i a thing make you
Ask, first, what your smallest
body parts require to sing again:
coconut oil for your hair’s
dry ends, camphor for the
earlobes, rosehip kneaded into
fingertips with fingertips.
Grapeseed will feed most
hungers of the skin. But
if even your bones cry
January, dip your sharpest
knife in a jar of raw honey.
Lather it on your thighs,
making circles, making certain
not to confuse this ache for that
other, the one that keeps
pulling you to the earth, the one
question you still can’t say out loud.
Recite instead the names of trees:
sumac, sweet birch, slippery elm.
Take your palm to the wild place
under your chin and count:
vein, artery, chokecherry,
weeping willow, until your
xacto knife pulse slows, holds. Let
your mouth fill with gold, almonds,
zinneas. Then: soften.
FRANNY CHOI is the author of the collection Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) and the chapbook Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). She is an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan, a Project VOICE teaching artist, and a member of the Dark Noise Collective.
Photo credit: Eileen Meny