May 21, 2021

Baba, the basement is cold and water from our pipes

has made this cardboard box an ocean

where your past life is swimming. I’ll fish it for you

and dry it on the porch by tomorrow morning.

In this one, you smile with a cigarette hanging

from your mustached lip while the red flags behind you drip

become black dots blending together

like burnt tobacco leaves. I almost didn’t believe you

when you said you marched at Tiananmen.

Is this my grandfather? His skin is thick and dark brown

like the leather covers of the album that holds him.

You told me after the Revolution he was chained

in a camp to cut lumber under the Beijing sun.

You told me not to cry when those girls said my skin looked

like dirty woodchips. I thought you were being cruel

but you saw him living inside me. Here, you are a duke

in front of your first Beemer. Here is a happy one

with Mother before the Tennessee highways.

ripped you away. Here, me and sister smile

as your greasy monkey suit swallows our sides because

we missed you. Baba, why’d you leave me here

like a tchotchke among your memories? Your pockets

are not warm enough for me to grow up in.

When you unfold me from your tweed coat,

I wait for you to send me a boat back to land.