“our next nominee should remember”: A Six-Poem Suite by Michael Chang

our next nominee should remember

ne-VAD-da
always moisturize
hand sanitizer is your friend
and clorox, for when you get to the oval office
check what city you’re in
never wrestle with pigs. you both get dirty and the pig likes it.
look out for numero uno
avoid kitchens
lose the friends from back home
fail often
the opposite of armor is curiosity
if you do the team of rivals thing, go all in
leave the gun, take the cannoli
if you do not ask, you will not receive
squeaky wheel gets the grease
two women on the ticket is a good thing
whatever you do in life, do it well
no one else can create the art you can
if someone says “would you rather i lie,” say yes
stop living other people’s dreams
don’t go to law school
play your opponent’s cards instead of your own
you come into this world alone and leave it the same way
time heals all
trust but verify
some things stick
when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time
the real applicants never fill out an application
kill your darlings
i really don’t care, do u?

 

in re promiscuous owl and black-hearted pussycat

you (the bullshit artist)
(dam) nice limbs
cheekbones for days / ruin my life
pls hold
i shot my load (can you say that in polite company)
papito
funhouse mirror to the soul
black girls code / don’t write about nature / because one day we won’t have that
and the work will be dated / god forbid
love insistent like my quest for a waffle / we do sex / we make fuck
american dream                       (average) neighborhood / (normal) house / (plain) meals / (regular) friends / (basic) clothes
the briefcase in pulp fiction / my secrets / do you know about the band called the slants
where were you / the first time / you heard lady gaga
six flags fright fest
(yes) homo        titular ferocity / like vocal adrenaline
whereas / be it resolved / power anthems / there is much to celebrate
the woman in target who just wanted to be seen / say excuse me / why won’t you apologize
i wake / i write / i wake / i write / i realize i am at the age / my mother had me
i see color / your (brown) eyes
a forgiving bear with donuts and no pants
i live for this content / this is it
(love)
on trial
(people say)       i build whiteboys up / to tear them down
dats good poetry right dere         (or is it justice)

 

in the multitude of counselors there is safety

on my way to see you               i watch names like broad street            and mlk boulevard
give way to those like   franklin corner             cedar lane        and cresthill road
is it pretty, my friends ask                    hear it’s beautiful, others chime in
it’s okay, i reply all modest like
i wonder if i laugh at your jokes too hard         or if i listen too closely
face scrunched up with intensity
i wish i had the confidence to wear a ruffled shirt        i am the next c
we are not interchangeable                  you tell me you were in the park with her
pants down                  red down vest like marty mcfly
but you were interrupted and she stopped                   you want to know
if i would have stopped                        no, i say, with certainty
you smile, dimples showing                 you lean in to kiss my forehead
can you kiss me like a stranger             i am vulnerable
i promise myself that this year             i will finally get a real, live christmas tree
you cannot say yes       you cannot say sure
you must say certainly             you must say with pleasure
you are treated as mice             no, even mice are treated with more dignity and humanity
i call you a mensch       you quote elie wiesel back to me
you with the bright future        your shuffling wakes me up in the middle of the night
what is it, i say             just checking to see if you were still here, you say sleepily
you throw a possessive            no, protective
arm around me            you smell faintly of vanilla       are you wearing underwear, i ask
i think about how         i want to be 40             so i can finally fuck boys half my age
i think about how         one day                        i will lie alone at midnight
i fortify myself for when you leave
your tongue smooth like pork belly     we trade superlatives
most likely to succeed              most likely to be in porn
self-portrait as untouched chianti        self-portrait as empty bottle of rose
lips licked, teeth clashing         you question if you really         truly
like yourself

 

mister colin snyder is big in japan

i take the podium for the first time in weeks                two truths and a lie
you were in distress     i walked so you could run
i think about the ex                  i put poison in your cologne
all good artists traffick in surprise                    we are happy to serve you
i know your eyes will roll back when i eat you out
two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree
will the nerds at the genius bar teach me how to feel
i’ve never been to a movie by myself               sitting around looking at photos of you
i can be your anti-hero, your harley quinn                    do you read like nobody’s watching
do you just eat wings and work out all the time           do you sleep in your jersey
are you still pouty-lipped when you dream       tinfoil hat to keep you out of my brain
sample your pico          hug me like your clyde frog      what if heaven is a diner
whatever gets you through the night    spit it out like coinstar
do you really want to hurt me              gather up the remnants to burn            disco inferno
les jeux sont faits             love the sinner, hate the sin                 you remind me of
woodland critters on your pants          you smell like chlorine             3-sport athlete
or is it 4                       mornings cloaked in mist         you take me on a drive
blueberry pancakes at pj’s                    the sensible sort
the kind of whiteboy called in to                      i thought a lot about you that summer
the lime seltzer you like crackling in the can    the dosas we shared at hampton chutney co.
so pure, so good you could rehabilitate charlie rose
your shirt, blue butcher’s stripe                        your still-damp hair      grapefruit brûlée for breakfast
in my head you were pepé le pew         dip apple slices in peanut butter like the white people do
you loved gas stations, provided they didn’t stink
rutter’s             sheetz              wawa
you feeding me french fries                 am i the type of person who could live out of a suitcase
i hate people who write poems about moons and stars and seasons
nobody wants to read about your frost and snowflakes and fall leaves
and faeries, spelled like so, can’t forget those
you told me your deepest, darkest secret         your dirty little secret   you were a chris brown fan
i will come to you, sneak quietly under the covers
when you said you loved beautiful things
i thought you meant nice pottery                     i didn’t know you meant boys
i did not talk to boys who looked like you                   that just wasn’t a thing

 

eli manning v. six unknown named agents

gideon’s trumpet called for meit is certain
it was real loudit is decidedly so
piercing even                                                   without a doubt
pop rocks in my foie gras world                       yes, definitely
you have a mouth i want to bless                     you may rely on it
pussy riot                                                         as i see it, yes
bloodhound for your boysweat                       most likely
it’s my birthday                                                   outlook good
should i tell you what i wished for                   yes
i forget how it works                                        signs point to yes
i want my whole mouth around your              reply hazy, try again
so cute you stupid                                            ask again later
love-blind whiteboy                                         better not tell you now
flush with blood                                               cannot predict now
sticky fingers, skin growing warm                  concentrate and ask again
sink into me                                                     don’t count on it
keep me entertained                                        my reply is no
can i see you again                                           my sources say no
it’s a small town                                               outlook not so good
fuck you                                                           very doubtful

 

schoolhouse karaoke

If you want proof that this country is going to shit, look no further than Twitter, where teachers beg. I never did that. I mean, we weren’t flush, but we weren’t scrounging for crayons and paper clips. I taught in the days when overcrowding and underfunding were less extreme. I remember neat rows of desks, checkered floors, tiles haphazard as if laid in a hurry. My colleagues cynical and jaded, but they never stopped caring about the kids.

//

It comes back to me in snippets.
Plumes of pot smoke rolling across the room.
Red Solo cups strewn about.
Your obsession with Point Break, quoting it all the time.
You said: If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price. It’s not tragic to die doing what you love.
I looked back at you, thinking how adult you sounded, how mature you appeared, until I remembered.
I quoted the movie back to you: You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing. If you knew that you knew nothing, then that would be something, but you don’t.
I turned away.

//

I called you Encyclopedia Brown, because you were so smart.
Your mom told me to take care of you.
In broken English, she said: no other teacher has cared this much.
I looked down, afraid.
I remember your blue oxford shirt, the one with the pony. You saved up for it.
The first time you wore it, I thought, no shirt has ever looked this good.
That Christmas I bought you a plaid pajama set.
You told me you were too afraid to wear it, didn’t want to mess it up.
That time you made me a fried sandwich.

1 small ripe banana
2 slices white bread
2 scant tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter

Elvis ate this, you said.
You are my king, you said.
I swear the peanut butter still lingers in my mouth.
You had a swallow tattoo on your leg, would joke about seamen.
You held me and told me you knew, but didn’t care.
You kissed me gently.
We breathed in and out together.
One day you asked: why is it so hard to find something I’m good at.
You tried the sports thing. You were okay, you thought, but not good enough to keep playing.
I bought you your first guitar, signed you up for lessons. You took to it like a fish to water.
I saw a future for you in music. Your writing got better and better, and you had incredible lyrical ability, words leaping off the page.
You channeled your anxieties and hopes and dreams into your music. I was so proud of you.

//

You stayed behind after the bell rang, feet shuffling like some exotic dance.
Your expression searching and uncertain.
Finally you said: don’t you think there is this tension between us?
Tension?
Yeah.
Is that a bad thing?
I guess tension has such a negative connotation.
If it matters that much to you, I said, I love your hair. It’s beautiful.
Face beaming, you turned to leave, almost skipping.

//

At some point I decided that things had gone too far.
I figured you would be fine without me telling you that you were talented, that you would go places so long as you kept working.
I thought, even without me egging you on, you would never give up.
This was before I learned that men are just walking sacks of insecurities.
When I told you I was leaving the district, you reacted poorly.
You started pacing listlessly, deflated.
I watched your Adam’s apple bob up and down.
I wanted to kiss it so badly.
You took your shirt off, softly, shyly, insisted I would miss you.
Your body lithe, steely like cables bound together.
I soaked up every tender molecule, thinking: I can’t take my eyes off you. I can’t take my eyes off you.
You asked: How do I make you care. How do I make you care.
The last thing you ever said to me was: what if I never see you again.

//

I thought you were lost, gone forever.
I pushed you out of my mind.
Then one day you reappeared.
What I saw first: the solitary guitar pick, gleaming, mother-of-pearl.
Then the words:

U changed my life
U really did
Thank u
Thank u
Thank u
I miss u
I miss u
I miss u

 

 

***

Michael Chang hopes to win the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant one day. Michael strongly suspects that they were born in the wrong decade. A recovering vegan, their favorite ice cream flavor was almost renamed due to scandal.

Image: iconfinder.com

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