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Song, with Caution Tape

Some kisses make me want to blow up

everything in my satchel—wallet, birth certificate,

checkbooks and all. Headless dolls roll

out. I watch their plastic rib cages melt in starbursts,

drip like watermelons

onto the crater of my lap.

Through my binoculars, I saw a man blowing air

into an inflatable woman,

and she grew tall, and taller

still, until she burst, carbon escaping

until she muttered and wailed, all splayed

on the floor, glued there until he kissed her.

At this point I stopped watching.

Most days I prowl, a piranha

restless in fresh water. Some kisses make me eat holes

through wet kitchen towels until my teeth shine

with detergents. Some kisses

turn my tongue green, so even peppermints

taste like bile. Some kisses are scabs

too bloody to scratch, yet I scratch them.

How can I will the puke not to escape?

How can I stop it before it takes

leave of me, the way it did when I saw that man

kiss my mother in the dark

of their laboratory so many years ago?

Some kisses are not without

cruelty. Some things burn more quickly in the ocean.

Even now, as we stroll through the empty

city at dusk, as you lean in,

and I sand your face between my palms,

my other self is in the mountains

watching you,

where the distance is safe and the tides are calm.

from Mad Honey SymposiumFind more by Sally Wen Mao at the library

Copyright © 2014 Sally Wen Mao
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Poems Sally Wen Mao

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.