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Tag: Sally Wen Mao

Lessons on Lessening

In the rigmarole of lucky living, you tire

of the daily lessons: Sewing, Yoga, Captivity.

Push the lesson inside the microwave.

Watch it plump and pop and grow larval

with losses. Watch it shrink like shrikes

when they dodge out of this palatial

doom. On the sky’s torn hemline, this horizon,

make a wish on Buddha’s foot. How to halve,

but not to have—how to spare someone

of suffering, how to throw away the spare

key saved for a lover that you don’t

have, save yourself from the burning turret

with the wind of your own smitten hip.

Do you remember how girlhood was—a bore

born inside you, powerless? How you made

yourself winner by capturing grasshoppers

and skewering them? You washed a family

of newts in the dry husked summer, wetted

them with cotton swabs before the vivisection.

That’s playing God: to spare or not to spare.

In the end you chose mercy, and dropped

each live body into the slime-dark moat.

Today is a study in being a loser. The boyfriend

you carved out of lard and left in the refrigerator

overnight between the milk and chicken breasts.

Butcher a bed, sleep in its wet suet for a night.

Joke with a strumpet, save the watermelon

rinds for the maids to fry in their hot saucepans.

Open your blouse and find the ladybugs

sleeping in your navel. Open your novel

to the chapter where the floe cracks and kills

the cygnet. Study hard, refute your slayer.

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.

Yellow Fever

Dirty is yellow.

—Gertrude Stein

You are the kind of person who would frame a print of Hokusai’s

Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife and stroke the airplane

at night, imagining yourself as monster, tentacular

lady-killer. I am the eavesdropper sitting in your ear listening

to everything you whisper—I am smaller than milkweed bug,

and you can’t kill me. With the smugness of a man who has

just caught a trout, you say, I love those Asian women.

I will fuck you up with the spastic ember of a Puccini opera.

I know what you crave. It is larger than me. It is the pretty

face on the library book—the fallow field, the woman

with a comb in her hair, a grin about her like so many

hives. It is squalid peonies, murderous silk. It is febrile butterflies

and it is slave. It is shedding its clothes and it’s shredding your pants

and you are the thing in the plastic bidet. Don’t try to musk the malodor—

anyone can smell. You love the feel of socket on tongue? Strip

the pork rind. Shoot the waif. See that smile? Simulacrum.

Tiny waist in jade—you sweat, you slaver. What is this body

to you? Body you subsume—body you misconsume? To have

and to hurt—utter the word Orient, I dare you. She may spit

or she may nod. Who’s to say the hornbeam awakens to blight.

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.

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.

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.