by Tien Taylor
from the people
at the temple
& onyx hair
yet she finds me
outside the house
so I can brown
in a pan of oil.
she cuts the corners
of my eyes
and sews them up;
we are a family
of me falling
down the stairs
over & over
on my skin,
on a map.
inquiries are made,
that the bruises
are born with.
they ask mother
why she cuts
& dresses me
like my brothers.
she spits at them,
at least she’s not
Tug of War
Mother turned off Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,
And threw an outdated algebra book at me.
I studied for hours, while brother was upstairs,
Masturbating to the new invention of dial-up.
When mother questioned the A- in English class
The word— what? catapulted from my mouth.
She swung a metal pole against my legs,
Reminding me to speak Vietnamese in her house.
Mother was fixing a hole in a pair of overalls,
Handed down by the white neighbor’s nephew,
When she saw my new hairstyle— yellow and black
Like the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. Fabric scissors
Snipped my hair like father’s face from family photos.
—Why are you so American? asked mother,
The woman who never returned to the home
That’s covered with spider holes and bombs,
As she irons out any wrinkles or creases
From her certificate of citizenship.
Ready or Not, Here I Come
my hiding spot, wedged between mother’s ribs, discovered. its laughing face emerged between curtains of hands. a game that bound us like the cover and pages of a book. my turn, i pressed my face against lead paint, counted to a hundred as it packed a suitcase. impatient, i skipped numbers like it did with birthdays. for ten years i checked holes, corners & frames, but i couldn’t find it— a master at hiding, too. forfeited, i tried to replace it. no matter how many boys, the bound wasn’t the same. finally, it pitied my failure. a phone call on my birthday revealed its hiding spot— a house across the country. i pulled the door open to find a new player in the game— a girl identical to me at age ten. she cheated, showed me where it was hiding by the liquor cabinet. i cried— you’re it, dad.