POEM: Kai Xin

The Chinese word kai xin, meaning happy, literally translates to open heart.

Like a piece of tape left face up, collecting dust and crumbs,

like an unwrapped bag of chips that’s gone soft.

This time last year two of my friends dropped out of school.

No one really knows how pungent someone else’s dirty laundry is.

It all worked out though.

Some industrial sized bleach that naturally shoots off in the summer

and everything is fine.

Maybe I’ll dip my hands in it, I already have,

whereas before a single drop from the rice paddle bucket would throw my hands into boiling soap.

Not anymore, I don’t think.

I don’t have to calculate my spendings to know that most of my money

last spring went towards hand soap, body wash, shampoo, dish soap

and now most of it goes towards food, towards going out, towards seeing people.

I’LL JUST PAY FOR IT, it’s my philosophy towards everything.

The Chinese phrase for taking responsibility literally translates to paying responsibility.

Every time I wake up late, every time I forget my wallet,

every time I sleep with someone without protection

it shuts one more lock.

Pay more responsibility my mother says when I forget to make my bed.

Take more responsibility my friend says to me after I get there late.

All I can say is, geez, you’re absolutely right,

like a vat of boiling agains.

It’s as if one thing means a whole thing, but I won’t get into that.

It’d be like treating heart disease with a massage.

April is the cruelest month,

but April showers bring May flowers,

always sprouting in the shape of keys small enough to fit into a standstill fist.

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SHORT STORY: When I Sit with You at the End of the World

Ming closes her eyes and takes a sip of wine. Her red dress hugs her thighs tightly and flares out at her knees. Behind her the sounds from the party ebb and flow, a faint backdrop of laughing, heels stomping, and a remixed track of Janet Jackson’s “If.” Through the flute of her wine glass, she watches the city lights flicker on and off. The wind runs through her hair, which was already undone by the fingers of unrecognizable men and the humidity both inside and outside the party.

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POEM: From Where All Things Grow (For You)

I want to plant seeds in my heart but not just on it.

I want to sew, with the sharpest needle in the world,

piercing individual ticks inside the arteries, the veins, the

tubes of who I am.

Maybe they’ll erupt into flowers

that burst from my mouth every time I speak

and nothing else.

Maybe they’ll bloom into vines that curl around my arms,

that cradle me with their thorned sides and sometimes I forget

that things are three dimensional and in this case rounded.

What I do to myself, I do to others.

Maybe they’ll stay embedded in the bed of my heart,

I want to go to sleep,

they say and I agree, agree to sleep,

I say, but I am already asleep.

Do seeds dream of things outside their pods? Of stems and calyxes?

Because even grown things need protection. Do kittens dream of being lions?

Do I dream of being whole?

There is a Buddhist saying that goes like this:

we are already what we want to become.

Can you imagine a world like this? Filled with fully grown wolves and trees

and connected circles?

I want to believe, because I know deep down I know it to be true.

However, what I want to do and what I do are as similar as a pea and a stalk,

which is to say not at all different

which is to say what I want to believe

and what I do believe

are the same, and it proves that the world consists of fullness,

one circle after another,

as in my heart, as in its tubes, as in the seeds that I have sown.