Jan/Feb 2001  •   Poetry

Three Poems

by D. Ting Ho

I Only Want To Eat Things Like Me

Clingstone, yielding against teeth
like pores to breeze.
Velvet, all rose and spring green;
the crimson pit
a slash of privacy.

Relish the war with feeding
yourself. Pull the bread
apart slow, the crust unwilling to yield.
When bitten, soft-hard-soft, it is like
gnawing through your ankle:
slippery tissue to bone to marrow.



One May morning I discovered,
while Daddy watered the nailpolish-colored roses,
a curled rat. Whisker-down and napping,
petal pink embryo torn out, she was a wet mass
in the speckleshade of our walkway.
I crouched, confused
frenzied ants with the enormous blocks of my feet.
Daddy hosed it away, shaking his head, saying nothing,
it's nothing, Daughter. A mistake.

My toes wiggled beneath me: Grass
and ant-flecked, pinkly dirty.
The last toe on each side, plump and satisfying,
is missing its nail.
My mother has the same soft pink
toes, Shandong toes. The baby
rat, unborn, curled with the same
genetic arc as its mother. Daddy's
hose water swirled around both
pinks: my toes, and the gray backs
of mother rat and child.


Phrasing Saigon 1973

I see through your mapping hands, eyes held back to say blind. You double me-or is it halve. You in green army cloth and skin pink with tonic's tight glow. Beneath our scarred table, a child hides small and fiercely smart. Her scope is a lesson in contingent clothes and feet cut off from torso.

How do we answer for the killed? The creeping ivy strung up dries yellow and veined leaf shrivels like old hands. Our idea to bind them to the hot kitchen sill. Thick-bottomed glass in our clutch, we get drunk, forget the child. She becomes the blurred word which arrives too late, morning floor creaking its complaint of weight. Your sad lips are more brilliant now in their grizzled plane.

Bite tongues, the child whispers, stay back from the steel of my collarbone and its crosspiece intuition. I see you but don't wear you. Aren't there always easy names on the roadsigns near home?

So stop kicking.