In the dream of a little life,
I held your hand in a new city—
lifted a balloon into the air,
chewed through food and sipped
on the tea in the blue apartment
where we would continue to fall
in love. Love is a cold river pulling
my legs forward. I wore a gown
to a ball and spied you across
the room with your glasses, shoulders,
and long, slim torso. The sun spreads
light across my face, and I breathe in
your human scent. Love is a basket
at my door saying, take a hard, crisp
apple as the fall bites back my ankles.
Or coronas my lips with color. Or, speaks
in sparks. You painted my nails Red Carpet
with gold flecked and summoned
the poison out, like a salve. The river, sun,
park, rain, the morning rising
in dark splashes, rinsed clean.
Family seemed penitentiary
& I wanted to be free.
I remembered the voice
echoing down the halls
and went running. Away from
Your face was a mirror
I couldn’t bear to see.
I risked losing myself
in the wilderness of a life
of another’s choosing.
The analogs broke down.
The spaces played like song.
The wildness I couldn’t
conquer. There I hid,
in my own body,
the gem of the self
lodged inside the self.
CATHY LINH CHE is the author of the poetry collection Split (Alice James Books, 2014), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies.
Photo credit: Jess X. Chen