Sunday, March 1, 2009

Felix Cheong

Chronicle of a Tattoo of a Typewriter

Father, I have branded myself as
yours, on a Sunday,
a day of rest. The ink,
welling too long in capillaries,
has poured out of membrane,
memories, found its own pen, finally,
a striking expression on skin,
stigma, stamp, keys that deliver
and open your letters, every stroke
like a keyhole to your face,
a typeface I can apprehend,
where my fingertips move to seize it
permanent, as do these lines,
image imperfect. I am as
you have meant me to be.

Middling Age

Some easy day, time in mid-
act between holding
and taking you, rearview distance
as frightening as wheels yet
to spin out miles, the weight
of one teardrop before
you break down, up, out, away;

look yourself in the eye,
draw in your life’s breath.
See the house, spouse, spices
in the Sichuan soup steaming,
dinner table for four seating
three. Not a speck
out of place. Nothing is absent.
Absence is nothing.

Everything under one roof,
under the table, under the rug.
Understand yourself, for a moment,
as you slurp it up, gingerly,
with a fierce, porcelain face:
To mistake happiness
for boredom is human,
but boredom for happiness,

Daddy’s Not Home
for Ryan

Son, when a father leaves,
what he left behind
he remembers, still loves,

like that familiar spot by the afternoon
window, or night bed, where he read,
you on his lap, frequent times
and faraways, a pair of runaways
riding roughshod, word-back,
daring to bring home
laughing songs, sudden sleep.

It’s not right, no, not his right
to go, come what may
it be, by choice or lack
of commitment.

How his guilt takes a beating,
feeds into its own, old wounds,
any way to absolve him
of absence, cowardice, words
heavy with duty and use, every
day of the weak.

Son, forgive him; no just cause
but only just because
walking out is not walking away.
He may never know
the point of no return
the point of no returns.

The Word

I’ve lived the word, by
the word, taken it to heart,
put this old heart to test
the line. Not so hard
when you could hear it crack the safe
often enough, for a click
of love, rush of air,
by will or willfulness, I can’t say.

Maybe there’s no difference
but in degree, this wanting
that measures out need. I’ve crossed
the line, lined crosses up
like roads I have to be lost
to, drawn to the wick, naked
bulb of low lives flickering red
at the corner of my eyes.

I’ve given my self up
to the word made flesh, wine
as water, two vices forward,
no hold back, learned what it means
to be lighter, adrift, like fire,
this slow reveal of ash
when I burnt off my years,
all I built with my hands.

I’ve become who I’m capable
of, a shadow writ large
over a heart now unlocked, unhinged.
But these lines have no leverage
to forgive, redeem, add nothing
to the knowledge I’m a stranger,
a ghost, to those I love. I’ve kept
the word, but not outlived its sentence.

-all poems previously published in Softblow

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