Animals: Two Poems by Ellen Huang

what I’d give for this to be a warm and fuzzy memory

-or-

reparenting enchantment

Someday I’ll hold a tea party for my adopted child, prince(ss), 
and talk of historical affairs like the present I am in. 
I wonder how affectionate I’d be, how safe

I’d hope it’d make them feel. In present time, 
I don’t mind being patted on the head, 
and then I wonder what’s wrong with me. 

It wasn’t always so: I used to feel like a cornered cat, 
a shrinking violet, or like a spider had landed on my head.
Somewhere along the way, it flipped, and my heart skips

if I just think about how starved I am. I want touch so bad
that you’d probably think this poem is about a creep, or a romantic,
but I am neither; I am a dog person reluctantly using the metaphor of a cat,

a fairytale persona trapped in adult human transformation, 
having to dress all the time. I’m cold I’m cold I’m cold
please blanket me warm me embrace me. I know 

we’re just now talking openly about trauma, 
but I am getting numb; it’s almost too normal. 
I’m tired of the same old trope and yawn 

at the plot twist of bad fathers. I’m thinking 
I should get a full-length mirror. Maybe
I’d love myself even more if I could see

the full dress, dance, costume. I haven’t
gotten a new dress in a year. I had forgotten 
what it’s like to say I can’t wait for an outing tomorrow.

When the time for festivals comes like fresh air, it’d be like earth 
is holding a grand ball, and I’d like to take myself out.

I’d love her so much, I’d treat her so well, the self.

I’ve taken her out before to restaurants, in the olden young days, 
and loved it so much, with the bands outside playing smooth music. 

And when it’s time to go, fully satisfied, I’d take her home.
I wonder if that would be enough, if I could be enough for me
until I can adopt and begin my own family. Sometimes

I want to be animal, allowed to act feral and then generously
held close, touched, protected, without worry. I haven’t dreamed
of getting a pet in almost a year. To care for another, 

in just the hopes that putting love out into the world 
means now the entire atmosphere of the world 
has more love to go around, more love that can return to you.

I stroke my stuffed animal’s cotton candy-scented fur, the corner of his ears, 
and my heart skips again, stabbed like a toothpick into a strawberry.

Gently, through merely a childlike state of hold,
the plush and polyester are now bonded with me, 
sympathetic magic. Let me feel what they feel let me feel

what they feel, I incant. Wonder how over time the objects
in our home will change, rearrange, make room 
for other new objects from the market. You know the saying

about the ship of Theseus, the shuffling of pieces, 
but because I always grounded myself in my soul
all of those changes just feel like outfits. Or tattoos. I lay there 

remembering just two years ago I slept in a college dorm
by the soothing sound of the sea, so alive, rhythmic, motherly, 
soothing. I haven’t seen the ocean in almost a year. No wonder.

I get some pleasure from pulling anxious seafoam-white hairs
out at the root, removing age and worry like barnacles 
from the washed [up] child that needs reparenting.

Regenerating, re-enchanting, slow burn & no harm. 
Feel, how warm, it’s okay. Taste, how sweet, it’s allowed. 
I teach myself pyrography while still bad with fire. 

THERE IS A TERMITE MAN AT OUR HOUSE AND I AM STILL SICK AND
EATING ICE CREAM

my student tells me first thing as the Zoom classroom opens, exclaiming with animated eyes and mouth full of frozen sugary spoonful, dessert treated as medicine. One would hardly believe she were sick, her eyes still saucers, glowing wide moons bouncing back light. There is a termite man, and the house has funny rules for now, and the air conditioning roars like a mechanical beast stuck to the wall. So you’re going to have to be louder, she insists. The air conditioning monster won’t let us hear. The creepy termite man is stomping around upstairs and I can’t go to another room. I am in this room. Tell me a story. There is still plague outside, a VBS that left her the only child wearing a mask, the coughs her burden to carry, despite doing everything right. There are still gremlins, and their little monstrous pet bugs glitching the web between us at any time. She types makeshift runes with emoticons into the chat. NO GREMLINS ALLOWED, every time we get stuck. Swiper no swiping, glitches no glitching. There are still pests of the universe, chaos on a multicellular level, versus microscopic work to make life win. The house is being taken care of while we are sick and straining, and for now we are here and the story I read to her of the princess turned frog must survive. What happens next? Does the snake mean to eat them? Does the witch ever find them? Do they go to the castle or stay frogs? Is the prince who he says he is? As a little frog it takes so long to hop into the castle. Her side of the world is rumbling, and her excited eyes are waiting. You’re going to have to be louder.

About Ellen Huang

Author photo of Ellen Huang smiling as she is taking a photo on her phone of the photographer.

Ellen Huang (she/her) is an aroace Taiwanese American writer of fantasy, currently working on a fairytale chapbook and an asexual horror anthology. She is also an introverted festivalgoer who loves finding more to celebrate. She reads for Whale Road Review and is published in From the Farther Trees, miniskirt magazine, Not Deer Magazine, Lumiere Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Sword & Kettle Press, horse egg literary, The Rising Phoenix Review, and more. Follow her web: worrydollsandfloatinglights.wordpress.com