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Mary Jean Chan

A poem by Mary Jean Chan

My mother lays the table with chopsticks & ceramic 
spoons, expects you to fail at dinner. To the Chinese,

you and I are chopsticks: lovers with the same anatomies.
My mother tells you that chopsticks in Cantonese sounds

like the swift arrival of sons. My mother-tongue rejoices 
in its dumbness before you as expletives detonate: [two

women] [two men] [disgrace]. Tonight, I forget that I am 
bilingual. I lose my voice in your mouth, kiss till blood

comes so sorry does not slip on an avalanche of syllables 
into sorrow. I tell you that as long as we hold each other,

nothing will ever be enough. Tonight, I am dreaming again 
of tomorrow: another chance to eat at the feast of the living

with chopsticks balanced across the bridges of our hands 
as we imbibe each yes, spit out every no among scraps of

shell or bone. Father says: kids these days are not as tough 
as we used to be. So many suicides in one week.
 How many

times have you and I wondered about leaving our bodies 
behind, the way many of us have already left? My friend’s

sister loved a woman for ten years and each word she says 
to her mother stings like a papercut. Each word she does

not say burns like the lines she etches carefully into skin.
I have stopped believing that secrets are a beautiful way to

die. You came home with me for three hundred days – 
to show my family that dinner together won’t kill us all


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