Mama, I don’t pick fights with anyone
but if my telos as Master’s disciple is to be a megaphone
for others, don’t you wonder what happens
if when I speak all I hear are echoes?
In high school, running all the way to Chambers
I laughed as I caught the train back home to Papa.
I did not know behind his smile was rage, which like Isaiah’s
was rooted in the wrongness of the World.
One day, a man with tanned elbows swirled
his knuckle in my waist through the down jacket.
I looked at the man across from me to say something.
I walked to the other side of the train at Queensboro.
Later, when a man pressed my neck
against the wall, twisting my arms like rubber,
I knew better than to look around for sympathy.
I struggled to get loose from his hands.
Slowly I jumped through rocks with scraped knees,
learning why the Spartans left their young out.
When I learned those eyes went after
my dear friend too, I felt relief before rage.
I learned to play with the coins in my hand.
The enemies I slay are not dragons but scarecrows I burn
for every girl I ever was, every girl who thought
maybe she had wronged the world by existing.
Sunday mornings Master and I go to Bagel Oasis in Fresh Meadows. Un sancoho de cola grande y un sándwich de tuna for lunch from Latin Bakery. Lobster and white-flowered gourd with glass noodles for dinner. The day of rest Master pats my head and tells me to sleep tight. Sunday is the day when everything seems so possible. Oasis means Eden amidst the desert, Bell Boulevard where we get six toasts in one bagel, with two eggs, and bacon and scallion cream cheese, enough to carry a bull through the day.
Nowadays, when three bakeries on the same block have closed, I run my fun run in nightmares. Today, though, I rejoice in that golden hue in my warm milk tea.
On the way back, Master feeds me at the red lights. I happily drive away from my all-American sedentary lifestyle, a whole world carried behind wheels.
My Mother as Wallpaper
I see your grey hair underneath dye as clearly as our last embrace,
that Sunday afternoon before I left home
that softness of your breasts as you clasped my belly
between your thighs.
I wonder about the next time you’ll visit,
to see me all grown up, your age when you first came.
I wonder if the iPad wallpaper of you frying rice with a smile
will be my clearest image of you.
Can you see me chasing my dream
in this hellish landscape,
where people look down on me because I am not—
I cannot—become who they want me to be?
While Red Chopsticks has shuttered its doors
I revisit the home of my childhood, no longer as tall, and grand,
with strands of white hair driven mad
by the ho-hum of faith.
Even then I recognized the businesswoman inside you
which foreshadowed my departure
I knew I would have to leave you for Master
to be loved in a new home away from home.
As I lay with my legs
open with want,
burrowing my head in the nook
of his left shoulder blade
my nose nuzzling
the soft cotton of his white shirt
I thought of how I covet touching but loathe
I desire to be filled,
but my bodily needs are bottomless
with desire to be weighed down
St. Augustine struggled with this
as did Buddha and JC and Gandhi.
The body, however,
comes only during the day,
when what I want
is to stop him at night,
to let out a snort
of delight as I salivate and lick my tongue
to lap his face with a thousand kisses,
to swallow him live.
Tiffany Troy is a critic, translator, and poet. She is the author of Dominus (BlazeVOX) and the chapbook When Ilium Burns (Bottlecap Press), as well as co-translator of Santiago Acosta’s The Coming Desert / El próximo desierto (Alliteration Publishing House), in collaboration with Acosta and the Women in Translation project at the University of Wisconsin. Her reviews and interviews are published in The Adroit Journal, The Cortland Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Laurel Review, EcoTheo Review, Rain Taxi, New World Writing, the Hong Kong Review of Books, and Tupelo Quarterly, where she is Managing Editor.