four poems: 3 1/2 Sonnets for 7 Minutes / Size Zero / poem for a Blue Page / ways to harm a seed by Sal Kang
31⁄2 sonnets for 7 minutes
here’s a confessional.
the first time I kissed a girl, it was in front of everyone
I held dear at the time, a few feet from the bathroom
with both calves pressed to the ground. imagine a
bullfight, if you will, except the estoque is my tongue &
there is no marked climax. still, the boys cheered us
on like racehorses. we were all there, semi-aroused in
the semi-light, & there was always someone missing
out. all i tasted was the absence of taste. (if this is what
heaven feels like, I don’t ever want to know hell)
the first time I kissed a boy (not you), it was an airless
summer. we were spinning bottles & inflated stories &
no one yet knew what all the bases were. the girls were
never brave enough to ride their crush’s shoulders. but
more of us were starting to understand—what all the
perverse references meant, where they were looking
when they stared—& I think, at some point, our hands
morphed into broken glowsticks. I remember all the
imprints, how they stuck to skin like chlorine, how
some interactions just couldn’t be washed away. the
girl I kissed got hypothermia, possibly from sticking
her head in the clouds for too long. is going to heaven
really a choice, or is it more mandatory?
let me try again:
she kissed him first, even though she wasn’t single,
how does that work? WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
we’re on the margin of november & on the peak of
adolescence. some say things like I’m a teenage boy,
I can imagine fucking her next to your bed if I want.
we don’t skip scenes in any movie, not anymore. we
skip entire movies to make our own scenes. some guys,
amidst the chaos, have to be categorized as collateral
damage. honestly, I’ve known her for a while now, &
I’m still not sure if she’d go that far-- ah, beauty of
hindsight. what was it about your scentless breath &
effortlessly pretty palms? are our heavens relative?
if so, is hers better than mine?
have you done it yet?
there comes a time when you can’t just brush off that
question. the gossip’s a healthy blend usually, jealousy
disguised as judgement & vice versa--how many times?
—as if this desire were quantifiable. (we still played
truth or dare at this point, just without all the ‘mild
stuff.’) we all wanted to do shit but no one wanted to
be done. they held a contest to see who could colonize
the most bodies & we took it too far, once or twice.
somewhere along the way, I woke up, & she was gone:
probably for the best, that I stopped seeing so much
of her. no more feverish pipe dreams. looking back,
it doesn’t seem so bad, our makeshift heaven in the
semi-light. —I think I miss it, just a little.
Size Zero | Pantoum
Stretch marks are a sign that I don’t belong
in this body I was given. I don’t exist
between the lines; I remain invisible
until I am able to squeeze my thighs
into the crevice of these jeans.
In this body I was given, I don't exist
without emptying myself to feel whole.
Until I am able to squeeze my thighs
into the crevice of these jeans,
I'm just a tsunami that over-floods, crashing
without emptying myself. To feel whole
is to cut a hole in my stomach. Today,
I'm just a tsunami that over-floods, crashing
silently, packed away in the mud.
Today, I cut a hole in my stomach.
It's hard to locate something silent
when it is packed away so thoroughly. Look,
nobody bothers to search for me under
water. Nobody tries to locate something
between the lines, so I remain invisible.
See? There is no hand that bothers to look
under these stretch marks.
poem for a Blue Page
when their daughter first started speaking
to my parents again, she asked for blue
overwhelmed with joy, they said anything
you want, love
and proceeded to let my walls bleed azure
that same year, the girl lost 20 pounds
in the blue room, the girl forgets
how to take mirror selfies: her phone
doesn’t capture her body properly
underneath all the cracks. the girl
buys more baggy clothes to hide
her bruises under. she got them
from a failing immune system (it wasn’t
long before her entire leg started growing
purple), but she doesn’t know that yet
girl starts drinking blue vitamin water: three
bottles a day. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
girl finally learns about anorexia
in health and wellbeing class. they teach
her all the symptoms & all the ‘warning signs’ &
any stressful or traumatic event
could lead to it: abuse, rape, divorce...
how do we seek help? just don’t
have a traumatic experience. girl listens,
laughs as she sucks on a gumball. the
most satisfying meal she’s had in months.
that same year, the girl loses 20 pounds &
everyone congratulates her for the glow-up
the color blue represses your appetite. it’s basic
psychology, her friends said. best weight loss
technique out there, the internet said. we all tried it
together as a joke at first. it wasn’t supposed to be
serious. we didn’t mean to turn an entire girl blue.
forget about it for a while.
that you were supposed to not
forget. try your best to
cough up some guilt. pass it on.
give it water. give it acid. give
it moonlight. overcompensate.
let it germinate, then
give it hormones. approximate
& formularize & repeat. marvel
at how easy & simple life
must be for the seedling.
sever the branches that repel
you & graft new twigs onto the
remains. bestow it a surgically
attached, calculable path
it just has to follow. marvel
at how little it’s grown.
when the tree becomes too big
to raise in the yard,
remind everyone of where it’s
rooted. ingrain the texture of
toxic soil in its veins.
ignore all the bruises &
self-inflicted slashes on it.
gift it a name & a destiny. a
heart & no means to follow it.
I learned of love
as a drought, scavenging
for scraps of light
in a dark room. it wasn’t that I
never knew how
to speak. it was that you didn’t