I blush when the woman praises my speech.
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 mollusk, thank you.
I claim you I claim you, someone laughs and plants
his 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’m so 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.
Copyright © 2019 Franny Choi
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.