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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.

from Soft ScienceFind more by Franny Choi at the library

Copyright © 2019 Franny Choi
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Franny Choi Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.