Valentines: Two Poems by Michael Chang

Prairie Oyster

You can lie in poems
Lie perfectly still next to Grace Kelly—a woman named after a handbag
God don’t like ugly
I don’t think I had any real concept of college until several years after I got my doctorate
Then the expectations, the dreams, the wishes came
I used to hate the veneration of the basic
It just seemed so fake, so put on
Until I met Pat, who forwarded my mail even after I moved two, no, three, times
The postal worker who toiled for decades & finally died on the job, shitting herself
Everyone is writing a memoir these days
Most ppl don’t have anything interesting to say
So I have relaxed my standards
From today onward I will laud the basic
I won’t foreclose any possibilities for my life or anybody else’s
It’s a Murakami trick—the narrator has a way of living that he thinks is totally normal & that everyone else thinks is strange
Like Budae jjigae, the spicy army stew the Koreans invented after the war
ramen topped—nay, ornamented—with ham, sausage, spam, baked beans, kimchi, & gochujang
mouthwatering broth a colonial legacy
It’s a miracle it’s taken me this long to write a frat boy poem
Consider a gross sticky frat boy
Consider animal noises like blurguhugh
[uninterrupted grunting]
Consider how he uses my photos to catfish
Consider ppl secretly wanting exotic submissive Azns
Consider my playing along—I typed alone so yea alone too
Suppose I pee sitting down
Suppose I make him watch
Suppose he likes it
Report me to the EEOC, too bad fugly isn’t a protected class
It’s funny how professors talk abt redheads to illustrate what isn’t a protected class
Leave gingers alone
I have numbed my senses, I regard all emails with no emotion
When the locks fail & the dams do not hold
I want you posed just like that
One hand on the side of your face
meek & submissive
Like you’re trying to recall Euripides
I read your mind, am comforted by your thoughts
or the thought of you
nestled in my palm
Head thrown back
Throat to the stars
& in a tizzy

Skin in the Game

My summer’s beer in frosted mugs, older boys in high-waisted shorts, so short they require constant rearrangement, my summer’s Meatless Mondays, Jordache jeans, Basquiat on my chest, frozen pizzas in the freezer, my summer’s love, attracted to things that terrify them

Your compliments as infrequent as Manhattanhenge, we down Bloody Marys, watch Lady Liberty on this sizzling marble seat, road-worn trucks slide towards us, your boat slamming into my dock, what are they saying on social media

Your teeth rose gold, you put your lips on me, to the mouth that doesn’t speak, I don’t know how to quit, but why would I, when I’m ahead, tell me, it’s love isn’t it

I was 30 years old when I found out what Pasta Raphael was, Raphael the sarcastic & hot-tempered turtle, the accidental vegetarian, full of tomatoes, artichokes, garlic, & onion

Boy, I like your focaccia thick & generous with olive oil & sea salt, I like your heft, let it drop, hang low from its weight, remind me who you are & why you are here

About Michael Chang

A Lambda Literary fellow, MICHAEL CHANG (they/them) was awarded the Kundiman Scholarship at the Miami Writers Institute. A finalist in contests at the Iowa Review, BOMB, NightBlock, & many others, their poems have been nominated for Best of the Net & the Pushcart Prize. Their full-length collection is forthcoming from Really Serious Literature, & their collection <drakkar noir> won the Bateau Press BOOM Chapbook Contest. Other projects will soon be announced.