Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
The Milkmaid's Speech
He has fallen in love with another woman
known in the village for her frequent pregnancy
not long after he taught me passion:
His full cracked lips on my blushing cheeks—
That hateful serpent, ‘concupiscible’: she dances,
sings, draws & quilts. She reads Dante,
whatever or whoever that is.
She knows much about first-rate laces.
She can speak to phantoms, truly;
& she puts on this other-worldly air.
More importantly: she has sizeable breasts.
And I milk cows.
It Could Happen You Know
It could happen you know. Things die.
A fish loses its life to something bigger
in the food chain. A baby’s strangled
for choosing the wrong sex.
Tomorrow the sky may go all dark;
everywhere you look there’s nothing to see.
It could also happen you know. People love.
He loves her she loves him the world turns a blind eye.
When it does look it sees in one tiny corner they
have built their miniature world. No one else can go near.
He loves her she loves him.
In their world his kisses send shivers to every tree limb.
When he enters her, completely, her moans
suspend flying geese, their faces shine
brighter, the future seems to cease.
for Jeff Zroback
Dare I address private words to you
in public? Yes, I do.
I owe you these lines, long overdue.
When we were kids, you had blond hair,
my hair was black. Your skin pale, easily freckled.
Mine was sallow, yellow, they say, in the sun.
But who cares? Now our skin is one,
when you lift your fingers and grease my back
when you pat my shoulders, help me through
an anxiety attack. Even our hair
now blends in the bathtub drain.
You are my editor, difficult words made plain.
You are my oyster sauce and good habits.
You are my occasional Champagne.
You are the doors I squeeze through
before closing, you let me in, I you.
You have asked, millions of times,
and this time, I reply:
From our first meeting,
I saw a future bride.
for Donna Fox
He once sent her a song with a refrain that went like this:
‘November rain is bluest to lying Scorpios.’
That was in the early days
when he wasn’t scared to be mean.
Nothing bonds two
as muchas the willingness to tease
& be teased.
They were each engaged to another.
But in the early days, that didn’t matter.
They were innocent like fat marshmallows
on separate BBQ sticks; and they agreed it was best
to only write poems about rain, about politics,
about Winter months. Others could write passionately
on little games involving fingers & mouths.
Then something happened. He sent more songs:
Tangled up in Blue, Don't be a Slave of Conscience,
Love Me Tender. All the poems
now meant nothing. He could no longer
truly write, write truthfully—too scared to betray
his unbidden thoughts of the recipient.
She listened to the songs often. She knew
the early days had passed & there’s no turning back.
She knew what bonded them, now bonded tighter.
But she remained silent for all the Summer.
Then, fallen petals, brown & wizened, everywhere.
Already, he had found someone else
who praised his choice of songs.
When November came, she said to herself:
I don’t love him. I never did.