Susan Nguyen

First I dropped torn-up bits of stale bread, mushed slices

pocked with my thumb prints, and in the absence of my parents,

geese tried to eat the whole of me, fingers caught between a saw

of razor-sharp teeth, bruised pink, emerald-headed ducks glistening

in sun as I pressed my small nails into the end slices, opened

my palm and watched the ripples, the fast pedaling of webbed

feet, like a god, and then there were the winged maple seeds spun

over the balcony, helicoptering, my toes gripping the railing

while my mother sewed, and my father slept off the 4 am shift,

and I counted the floors over which I stood and tipped my bowl

of unfinished food into the bushes, dreaming of being carried, always,

from car door to front door, limbs limp with sleep, and later when we moved

from this apartment with the beaded kitchen curtain, its rainbow

beams I loved, where I could not leave the table until my plate

was cleared, where I rocked my chair ferociously until it tipped

backwards, hit the floor, the thud of getting the air knocked out

of my small lungs, it was everything, and it was in this apartment

with our beds pushed together where I snuck out from under the covers

in the early dawn, watched my mother bring out breakfast for my father

under the hanging plastic light, through the cracked door, found the safety

scissors and cut my hair, returned to bed, where I invited the shiny

blonde-headed neighbor girl who dumped too much salt in the popcorn

and colored outside the lines, smeared blue marker onto my parents’

bedsheets and they weren’t upset, but I was, I was, and still

I couldn’t finish my plate when we moved to the basement

kitchen, I threw slices of meat, tendon, behind the humming

refrigerator, tried to ignore its electric pull, buried gristle, buried

dark meat beneath trashcan debris, poured cough syrup down

the sink, and when we moved, I was scared of what I’d created,

but there was nothing there, only the sound of needle and thread,

the sound of my mother unsewing the beads from velvet slippers

I quickly outgrew, saving them in old film canisters because,

once, I said I loved them.

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