oko

A collection of flaws (that aren’t really flaws)

EYES

 

Brown eyes shaped like teardrops

He tells me I resemble a fox,

cunning and sly

 

He says that looking into my “cat eyes”

is a lot like looking into nothing,

a black hole in a galaxy of blues and greens

and specks of yellow gold

 

He calls to me,

persona non grata,

your brown eyes don’t belong here

Too deep and too kind

for this fearful place

 

A reflection of brewing tea, chestnut, and fall

Crunching leaves in the autumn

and endless possibility

 

Like drinking whiskey or rum,

her head will spin when she looks into

your brown eyes

Too otherworldly,

too heavenly

for this fearful place

 

BODY

 

A girl fashioned from paper falls over

Limbs fold into herself

A glimmer of what she’s supposed to be fades in

It leaves a bitter taste in her mouth.

 

She’s supposed to be petite and docile

Small enough to be held close

Picked up

And dragged around.

 

Grandma says, “Con nhìn rất nhỏ, rất đẹp.”

You look small, you look pretty.

Her brain correlates the two,

Somehow small is now equivalent to pretty.

 

So she cuts away parts of herself

Removes wires and washers and nails

Makes herself lighter

To achieve someone else’s kind of beautiful.

 

SOUL

 

Her culture emphasizes a hushed resilience

So she lends her voice only when asked

A sign of respect mistaken for weakness

 

Young, quiet girl

Your silence will fool them

Men of ghosts will expect you to kneel

They will say, “Worship what we have given you,

A land of freedom and liberation

From your men, who held you in chains.”

 

And when you open your mouth to argue

A hurricane hits instead

Wild vines of poison ivy grow from within you

And slither out from your mouth

A mountain oceans away will tremble in your wake

 

Your soul defies nature

Made not from porcelain or rare china sets

Or green tea

But crafted from a history of pain

Calloused hands and gentle lullabies

Incense burned at the alter

A prayer to survive the hardships

Of a promised land—

 

A force to be reckoned with.