The Stem, Cut into Fourths

by Vincent Hao

i move in with my father. this is the day i am born. there is an ulcer against

my thigh. he pretends to be a doctor. there is a scar on his side.

all the same, he says. they cut it off of me. we visit his hometown.

i ask him why all the flowers are made of little hands.

the ground forgot itself, he says. that is the last time we speak.

he leaves on a business trip, dressed in a black suit and slacks.

at home i sleep on a burning bed. i dream of a red train, filled

with words. they overflow off the engine. they fall into my lap.

i wonder what it means when i catch crucifix and tongue.

you are too much, i say. no one in particular listens. i find myself

walking down a row of stores shedding yellow light. a woman stops me.

she talks about planned parenthood. misconceptions. she asks for

donations. i can give once or regularly. she asks me for my information.

i have none, i say. i have forgotten my name. when i walk away

i am unsure why i look scared. in my dream i become the woman.

i have black-blonde hair and i hand out crucifixes. jesus loves you, i want

to say to the people walking by. i never do. a boy with black hair

and a scared expression walks by. i hand him myself. take me, i say

to him. he has my eyes. keep me warm. he doesn’t understand, he says he has no money.

keep me safe, please. he has his father’s eyes and he is starting to walk away.

his feet slide on the pavement. it is raining. all around us flowers start blooming

from the earth. i awaken. they are just my hands, wrapping around

his ankle. i am never letting the boy breathe again.