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.