Some things you never know until
an immigrant tells you, like how his ghost
means an owl in your language &
a cockatoo means an older sibling
in his. The sun is the eye of the day,
a seahorse is forever a seahorse.
The rest is untranslatable: some people
we want to kiss & others we want their tongues
wrapped with an embalmed animal skin.
How quickly a harmless joke
can turn into rotting flesh, a headless
cow that follows me to sleep. Soon,
the carrion insects claim my bedroom
as their feeding ground, Yes,
when it comes to quiet remarks
about our women’s slender thighs &
tiny, seductive lips, only one of us will forget.
Whether or not those who say it meant it
as a compliment does not erase their fingerprints.
They’ve suspended those women’s bodies
to become a hallway of mirrors.
When my friend says I want to lose myself
between her thighs, he is pointing to that woman over there
whose ancestors arrived in the same boat as mine,
who brought the same foreign gods of bolts & fortune.
Who can blame my friend, who can judge him for clawing
the tomb that holds me? I’m only alive
because I promised the worms I’ll be silent.
There should be a father or a gravedigger
among all this, someone I can blame.